WHAT have you done today to make you feel proud? So goes the oft-played lyric to the Heather Small anthem.
The small band of employees and workers at the charity Ride High, based at Bryerley Spring Farm, Great Brickhill, can already claim a stunning amount, despite the organisation being less than two years old.
Ride High gives children from Milton Keynes with disadvantaged, abused or troubled backgrounds the opportunity to learn to ride and look after horses and ponies. The charity claims there is evidence that for children who are angry, hurt, upset, lonely or underprivileged, contact with horses can have highly beneficial effects.
Riding, they say, can be an absorbing new challenge which can take the place of disruptive activities and for others it builds confidence and self esteem which the children do not see at school or home.
Centre manager Alison Head, who confessed that she used to be scared of horses, said the youngsters often choose animals with similar temperaments to themselves. They then become like friends to the children.
But it is not all about riding. Club sessions include projects to improve literacy and numeracy such as working out the costs of feeding a pony for a year or writing a riding diary or blog.
Ride High also takes the children on horse-related trips, like to the Household Cavalry, to broaden their horizons. And they are asked for their ideas on developing the charity.
The registered charity already has a number of big-name corporate backers and high profile supporters, including broadcaster Jeremy Vine, who is the organisation’s patron. And there is a growing number of commendations, not least from children themselves, about how much it adds to the lives of the city’s most vulnerable.
Ride High won the supporting community award, sponsored by Milton Keynes Shopping Centre Association, at last year’s Milton Keynes and North Bucks Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards. It was praised for the way it engages with the local business community.
Ride High was the brainchild of chair of Trustees, Rachel Medill, herself a former international competitor at three-day eventing and a director of the British Equestrian Federation. She was inspired by the work of the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, which has, amazingly, experienced not one instance of disruptive behaviour around the horses in 12 years.
Ride High now provides access for more than 50 children each week and needs more volunteers - including drivers - to help provide the necessary support. There are about a dozen ‘core volunteers’ whose activities include raising some of the £160,000 running costs of the charity.
The charity uses the facilities of Bryerley Spring Farm and benefits from the support of its owners, Brian and Beverley Rumbold.
Each child, who must be referred by a professional, attends Ride High for three hours a week for up to three months and volunteers say they can see a difference in them within weeks. Now that’s something to make anyone feel proud.
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