“Other kids at my school when I tell them that I go horse riding, they don’t really believe me, because they think it will be in a posher area, they don’t believe that Brixton can have horses” Xavier, 12.
Horse riding in Brixton?! Yes, most definitely. For 19 years Ebony Horse Club (EHC) has reached out to young people experiencing the tough challenges that living in one of the top 10% most deprived communities in the UK brings. EHC’s mission is to use horses to improve the education, life skills and aspirations of young people facing significant challenges that can ultimately cast a shadow on future ambitions. Over the years the project has worked with young people experiencing parental drug and alcohol abuse, overcrowding, online bullying, delayed diagnosis of special needs, family breakdown, bereavement, neglect, sexual exploitation, abuse, and threat from gang violence.
EHC’s community riding centre, officially opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in October 2011, is a refuge where young people forget about their problems and learn and achieve in a sport that they would otherwise never experience. Some have innate horsemanship others, through sheer grit and determination, will become exceptional riders. EHC builds self-esteem and confidence in their young people, stretching their abilities and supporting them at home, school and into further education and employment. Everyday at EHC, young people build trust, work as a team, and demonstrate resilience, supported by the most natural and patient of teachers, the horses.
Letty Porter, Funding and Engagement Manager, who has witnessed the development of the charity and its work with young people over the past seven years says “When they come to EHC, our young people find peace and a refuge from whatever problems they experience outside. Belonging to EHC is transformational. Our kids fully understand that their contact with horses opens new doors and gives them the confidence to broaden their horizons and try new things. We don’t do donkey rides here. Every member has to be committed and once we get to know them it means that they have trust in us to support them in other areas, whether home, school or when seeking out new education or employment opportunities. I’d like to think that in a few years time we could see our riders compete at top level or take on high profile roles in the equine industry. They have the potential and the talent, so why shouldn’t they?”
EHC has recently produced a short film which powerfully demonstrates the importance of EHC to young lives in Brixton https://vimeo.com/128859998
As a charity, EHC relies predominantly on grants from charitable trusts and donations. A small percentage of income is raised from riding fees, charged at significantly reduced rates as a reflection of the surrounding neighbourhood which has the highest rate of unemployment and, subsequently, the highest proportion of dependent children in out-of-work households in the borough of Lambeth.
To find out more and to support EHC go to www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk