Staff and volunteers at St James City Farm are celebrating a double after completing the first year of the Riding School based in Tredworth, Gloucester and gaining BHS approval following a rigorous inspection process to ensure safety and welfare for both students and ponies are up to a high standard.
The Riding School was formally launched by BBC ‘Countryfile’ presenter Adam Henson a year ago, but the establishment of the school itself was the result of many years of groundwork beforehand by volunteers who wanted to use interaction with horses as a means of personal and career development for young people, something out of reach for most children from the inner-city.
The Friendship Café, a registered charity established for many years, and who manage the St James City Farm & Riding School, had been taking children on pony treks on an ad-hoc basis but there was always the desire by children to learn more.
With the help of Gloucestershire County Council and the charity ‘Wooden Spoon’, there was a concerted team effort to build a riding arena and stables in the inner-city, the first of it’s kind in the South West, which saw fruition and the first batch of students in January 2015. Over the course of 12 months, over 150 children have had a chance to learn about riding and care, most of them for the very first time. Local schools are also sending their children and the venue has seen demonstrations by mounted police officers amongst others.
The project is overseen by British Horse Society Registered Instructor, Sam Goss BHSI, who has many years of training people in the UK and overseas, from beginners to international competitors. At the centre she manages a team of volunteers and staff who work a rota throughout the week.
The project is now also making links with Hartpury College and established riding schools, as a means of career, volunteer and training development for young people and this year has seen financial support by the Police Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire and the Gloucestershire Community Foundation as well as organisations and businesses such as Countrywide Stores and Gloucester City Homes.