Teesside and the rest of the North East could benefit from horse clubs being set up in inner city areas to help disadvantaged communities.
That’s the few members of Teesside University’s Equestrian Society members who have praised the work of a horse riding club in London.
In the inner city of London lies a sports facility you wouldn’t ever expect to see, surrounded by concrete high rises and busy roads lies an equestrian facility called Ebony Horse Club.
Ebony Horse club is a charity based in Brixton, South London. Its aim is to help young people living in disadvantaged communities.
Brixton is home to some of London’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and has high rates of gang violence, drug related crime, teen pregnancy and underachievement in schools.
The charity helps young people through teaching riding and horse care along with outdoor events and trips away.
This helps them learn new skills and responsibilities which in turn helps them raise their aspirations and break away from the negative stereotypes that follow them everywhere.
Alongside this the charity also mentors young people and gives them key support with many becoming inspired to go to college, university or into horse- related careers.
Coldharbour Ward, where EHC is situated has the highest number of families living in social housing in Lambeth and the highest percentage of unemployed people.
The children and young people in these families are growing in disadvantaged circumstances including overcrowded housing or minimal play areas.
Susan Collins has been working for Ebony Horse Club ever since it first opened its doors in 2011.
Having previously volunteered for the charity she is now a Chair of Trustees.
She said: “Horse riding is an individual sport and can therefore appeal to children who may not flourish in team sport.”
“We often find it appeals to children who believe they ‘are not good at sport.”
“It also has advantages for children with mental or physical disabilities and the bonds that they form with the horses helps them overcome low self-esteem, anger issues and other behavioural issues that they may have.”
Horse riding has many benefits from learning responsibility to physical health benefits.
Susan said: “If children have anger issues or are failing at school, being around horses is a tremendous outlet. Horses only judge you by the way you treat them.”
Even local head teachers have recognised the impact on children attending the centre and the positive effects it has on their behaviour and achievement.
It can often be extremely difficult for people on low incomes to participate in horse riding especially if you are living in an inner city but EHC make it accessible by offering subsided riding.
60% of their riders are heavily subsided and 20% pay nothing.
No young person is turned away because they cannot pay.
The effect that horse riding has is clear.
Susan said: “We have over 25 young people who in the last six years have gone on to equine studies at college or university, into apprenticeships or are working in the industry.”
“This is a considerable achievement for young people, for who finding a job or accessing further education of any kind would have been difficult.”
Hannah Allen is head of The Equestrian Society at Teesside University and spoke about how horse riding has benefited her.
She said: “Horse riding has helped hugely with my mental health, it’s also allowed me to meet new people and become much more confident in myself and my abilities.”
She had heard of ECH through TV and social media.
She said: “Their work is brilliant. It’s really good to see kids getting out and learning new skills that they potentially wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise.”
She also spoke about how a similar club could benefit the North East.
She said: “It would allow them to do something they might not have thought about doing before. It also would allow them to develop skills that could be used in everyday life along with making new friends!”
Jo Cook, a member of The Equestrian Society, also thinks young people in the North East would gain from a centre like EHC.
She said: “Horses are great for therapy and time out, it would take them away from their problems, if only for a short while, which may be all it takes to make a huge difference to their lives, including in the long term.”
Abigail Downes, another member also thinks the work the charity does is amazing and that there should be more places like it in the country.
She said: ” It would benefit young people by giving them a goal and a sense of achievement from learning a sport.”
She also spoke about the options Teesside offers for those who want to get into horse riding.
She said: “There should be more opportunities to ride horses and help at yards especially for those who have had to sell or loan their horse to come to university. Public transport links also need to improve to allow more people to access yards.”
To learn more about Ebony Horse Centre you can visit their website.
The centre is funded by donations, grants and fundraising events and you can donate here.
You can learn more about the Teesside University Equestrian Centre via the Teesside clubs site.
Trainee Journalist at Teesside University