Earlier this week, I swapped PR for ponies when I joined Ebony Horse Club on its annual outing with the Hampshire Hunt Pony Club. At Nelson Bostock Unlimited, staff receive a volunteer day to get involved in a charity of our choice. Thanks to this opportunity I was able to spend more time with the young riders, youth workers and other volunteers to find out more about Ebony and its initiatives.
I’ve been volunteering at Ebony Horse Club over the past couple of months after reading about it on the BBC (PR works!). The club was founded in 1996 by Ros Spearing, the former television researcher who is a keen rider himself. He didn’t see why equestrian activities should be the preserve of well-off children and wanted to provide access for more kids.
Ten years on, the charity has grown to 79 active members with up to 140 young people visiting the centre per week. In 2011, The Duchess of Cornwall became its President. Located in the heart of Coldharbour Ward, Brixton, one of London’s most deprived inner city areas, Ebony provides the chance for its young riders to learn new skills and explore equine or veterinary careers. Having this opportunity can in some cases provide a lifeline for children who are facing significant challenges, both at school and home.
In an area which is still rife with gang violence, drug related crimes, underage pregnancy and high underperformance at school, it is a safe haven. Young people here can experience positive contact with animals and in turn strive towards a sense of achievement and community which can set them up for later life.
Beyond riding lessons, stable management, team work, discipline and learning to care for others as well as horses are part of Ebony’s day-to-day life. All of which can have a profound effect on young people in the area, who are often victims of unfair negative stereotyping.
For most of the riders at Ebony, the day out with Hampshire Hunt was a chance to be in the countryside and experience horse riding in surroundings they wouldn’t normally have access to. The day itself was filled with riding lessons, exploring the countryside on horseback, a BBQ, adorable Shetlands and plenty of dogs. Managing all of this with over 30 children on 30 ponies was a huge effort from both sides – parents, instructors and volunteers alike. Overall, it was a great success and a fantastic kick-off to the summer holidays.
It was truly inspiring to get to know the kids better as everyone bonded through their love of all things equestrian. Find out more about the charity or donate through its Virgin Money fundraiser!