The newly formed Friends of Aldersbrook Riding School is seeking community support to help the much-loved venue jump the lockdown hurdle. Tracey Adebowale-Jones reports
Nestled among the woodlands of Wanstead Park, in an unlikely corner of east London, you will find Aldersbrook Riding School and Livery Stables. Founded in 1973 as a way to engage children with the joy of horses, the school has grown over the years into a place where young and old alike can learn or improve their horse-riding skills.
From beginner to professional, the stables offer a range of activities. The large indoor school provides all-weather provision and owners Steven Kiley and Jack Seager offer instruction for all levels.
Many in the local community have learned to ride there, as have the children and grandchildren of those horse riders, and there are many tales of adventure and fun to be told. Sara remembers: “I absolutely loved being at Aldersbrook in the late 1970s… my favourite was Tzar, but Rusty was adorable too. Fantastic memories… my daughter has the horse bug now… wonder how that happened!”
But, of course, like all businesses, the current pandemic meant the stables had to close its doors to the public. Staff (and horses) were furloughed and the stables ran on fresh air and determination. So, as a way of supporting the school, a group of volunteers set up Friends of Aldersbrook Riding School as both a way of advertising the venue and raising funds. To keep people, especially children, engaged with the horses, we ran a painting competition and placed information posters around the perimeter fences. So many people were visiting the horses that ‘Do Not Feed’ signs were needed to stop the horses growing too fat from carrots!
As we enter the new phase of lockdown, the school has been able to reopen in a small way, offering individual private lessons as opposed to the many group lessons that keep it going.
The school is a much-loved fixture of the community of Aldersbrook and Lakehouse residents. It offers access not only to riding skills but also to nature. But all of these are on hold until we are fully out of lockdown, so can you help?
We would like to invite businesses or individuals to sponsor a horse or buy a bag of feed. You could also support children in poverty to ride by ‘paying it forward’. Donations of plants, buckets, wheelbarrows or timber will help us to keep the stables well maintained. There is also a large indoor arena where we can display advertising banners. And as we head into 2021, the stables will be running small shows and sponsors will be able to appear on rosettes and trophies.