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Park Palace Ponies in L8 have doubled their number of ponies so lessons can take place at the home of the Grand National as well as their regular base on Mill Street.
Park Palace’s original six residents have been joined by Cole, who is on loan, to move into their new temporary home in Aintree’s stables.
And a further six ponies, including two on loan, will be keeping lessons going right the way through the holidays in Dingle.
Bridget Griffin, director of Park Palace Ponies, says it’s a great chance for young budding riders and their team of volunteer helpers to experience the iconic course.
“We’re doing our riding lessons at the parade ring in Aintree Racecourse which is pretty cool considering the stars that have ridden on this course, horses and jockeys,” she says.
“For children to have the opportunity to ride here, where the greats have been, is just incredible
“We’re using The Weighing Room as our reception and the ponies are in the stables which for our ponies, who are usually in the middle of the Dingle, are a bit of luxury! There are solariums, and hot and cold water showers which we definitely can’t afford so it’s nice for them to have a pamper!”
Bridget says the summer sessions are happening as a result of the school’s ongoing links with Aintree and the Jockey Club, backed by funding which they’ve received from Merseyside Play Action Council and LCVS (Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services).
It’s Park Palace Ponies latest initiative to open up riding and pony care to young people who may not normally be able to have lessons, or who might think it isn’t for them.
While Covid restrictions were in place, the ponies even went out and about around Dingle, making doorstep visits and cheering up their neighbours in lockdown.
“The ethos we have with everything we do is to make horses accessible for everyone,” says Bridget, “and that’s something Aintree and the Jockey Club share with us.”
The summer programme at Aintree will involve three-hour daily sessions which are totally free and available for children aged 5-10 who have never ridden before.
Each session includes a one-hour ride, an hour of pony care and an hour’s tour of Aintree.
Bridget estimates that they will be able to book in up to 200 youngsters a week there as well as a further 80-100 each week in Dingle.
Volunteers aged 11-17 can also get involved and gain valuable skills, especially if they’re planning a career related to animals.
“We’ve got a core of volunteers across both sites, they get a healthy breakfast and lunch while they’re here, and then they get involved in a really intensive volunteer programme. They don’t need any previous experience, we teach as we go, and it gives them great hands-on work experience.
“A lot of our volunteers want to go into a career with animals in the future, maybe as vets or physios, so to be able to say they’ve helped run a riding school at Aintree is amazing.”
Park Palace Ponies has a total of 13 ponies covering summer sessions – including two on loan from a young supporter on Wirral called Gracie. They ride each day except Thursday which they get off to chill out!
“Horse riding is sometimes seen as an elite sport and we hope we’ve challenged that and proved it isn’t by having our Dingle site,” explains Bridget.
“We also see all the mental health and physical health benefits that come with riding the ponies, because it really brings children out of their shell and gives them more self-belief.
“That’s what we’re continuing to do over summer, at Aintree and Dingle. We want to find the next Grand National winner or Olympic horse rider. We want to give them the chance to try it, fall in love with the sport and then go ahead and succeed in it.”
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