The Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, South London, is a community riding centre in one of the country’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Pioneered by Ros Spearing, who for a number of years, had been taking an after school club of children for riding and horse care lessons at stables across London. She realised that a more permanent solution was required to help local children with difficult family backgrounds or who were in care. The ideal solution would be to establish a permanent riding school where the young people could, in total safety, learn to relate to others by caring for, and understanding horses.
They identified a disused bomb site and prevailed upon Lambeth Council to grant them a lease after clearing the detritus left by drug users over the years. Ros was later awarded an MBE for her work in the community.
Shadowed by tower blocks and a railway embankment it would seem to be the most unlikely setting for a riding school and yet it has been hugely successful since it was opened in 2011 by their Royal President, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. The riding club not only allows access for nearly 200 inner city children but also for young people with special needs and disabilities many of whom will have had little or no positive contact with animals, especially horses
In August 2011 Fieldguard were asked to install stable mats and wall mats in the nine stables at the Ebony Horse Club. First we installed the M6 EVA wall mats and that included covering a tricky piece of trunking up one corner of each stable. The floor mats were the M4 EVA mats, each one of which we numbered on the underside to aid the children re-lay the mats after the mats had been taken out for their annual clean. The wall mats needing over a 1000 holes drilled in to the concrete block walls for the plastic fixings! And nearly 100 holes very carefully drilled in to the hardwood doors to install to the wall mats to prevent the noise made by the horses kicking the doors in anticipation of feed time!
Leaving Brixton late in the evening of Saturday 7th August we had a rather lucky escape as this was the eve of the London wide riots that followed the shooting of Mark Duggan. Had we chosen to do the installation on the Sunday, we may not have been so lucky!