Park Lane Stables RDA (Riding for the Disabled), a registered charity based in Teddington, south-west London, has until 25 February 2021 to raise £1 million to secure its future.
The stables have been a key part of the Teddington community for many years, providing much-needed therapy and happiness every year to hundreds of local children and adults with (and without) disabilities and mental health challenges. Opened 12 years ago, Park Lane Stables is home to 23 horses and ponies and offers horse riding sessions in Bushy Park for people with disabilities and learning difficulties as part of the RDA.
The historic building which is home to the riding school has a long equestrian history and has been at the heart of the Teddington community for nearly two centuries. The striking black and white brick building dates back to 1830, when it was a fire station with a horse-drawn engine. The building has been a riding school since the 1950s.
The lease on the stables is set to expire on 21 May 2021 and the charity has been informed that it will not be renewed as the landlord wishes to sell the property.
Park Lane Stables RDA urgently needs to raise £1 million so it can buy the stables. It would then be 100% owned by the registered charity Park Lane Stables RDA (charity number 1161306) and part of the wider RDA family. This will secure our future in the long-term. With the money we save from the cost of the lease we will be able to provide more lessons at a subsidised rate and invest in vital therapy equipment. The stables has a cottage which will become assisted living for those with additional needs so they will be on-site, living next to the horses.
In a normal (non Covid-19) year the stables provide over 3,000 sessions of therapeutic riding, including hippotherapy* and carriage driving. There is a long waiting list of adults and children with disabilities in need of its services.
Research commissioned by the RDA highlights the benefits horses bring to those with disabilities: participants show huge improvements in their ability to communicate, a marked physical improvement as well as an increased ability to build relationships.
Stable staff and ponies have been cheering up the local community through the lockdowns by visiting those shielding or self-isolating in their homes, so they can wave to the ponies through their windows.
Park Lane Stables employs six disabled people, who would lose their jobs if it were forced to close.
The ‘Save Our Stables’ fundraising campaign was launched by Stables Manager Natalie O’Rourke on New Year’s Eve and has already raised £335,378 (33%) of its £1 million target, but there are just two weeks left to raise the rest of the vital money needed to secure the stables so that its valuable work can continue and future generations can benefit from the myriad mental and physical health benefits which horses provide.
The site has recently been listed as an asset of community value (ACV) - a significant step towards securing its future in London. “ACV status is really important as it really strengthens our cause,” stables manager Natalie O’Rourke says.
Stables Manager Natalie O’Rourke says: “I would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to the ‘Save Our Stables’ fundraising campaign so far. The generosity and community strength at this tough time in our history has been truly heartening. The stables provide a lifeline for many families that will be devastated to lose the horses from the community”.
Stables worker Hannah Collard-Grey, who is visually impaired (registered blind) and epileptic, says: “Working at Park Lane Stables has allowed me to find my niche and is a place where I’m accepted for being me. Being a part of the Park Lane family has significantly improved my self-esteem and self-confidence because it is a place that has enabled me to grow and to find myself. It may be my occupation, but it’s so much more than that”.
Case study: Louis, aged 14, thrives following regular horse interaction at Park Lane Stables RDA
Gary and Thea Woolf are parents to two children and their youngest child Louis, 14, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome aged seven. Louis struggled to understand the world around him and to control his emotions.
Gary and Thea took Louis to a Park Lane Stables run horse club in Hampton, after reading about how animals can help to calm anxious children down. Louis has attended the pony club at Park Lane Stables every weekend for the past five years. His confidence has grown enormously and he has even started to help lead other RDA riders.
Thea said: “It has transformed our lives and transformed his life. He went from being a child who would say regularly ‘I’ve got no friends, no one really understands me’, who now has a group of friends and they just talk about horses. Yes it’s changed his life, but actually it’s changed our life as a family because I think we were reaching a breaking point, we just didn’t know how we were going to cope as a family.
Gary added: “The key thing is Louis’ independence. “He can just get on his bike and cycle down there and come back when he’s done.”
How you can help the ‘Save our Stables’ crowdfunder campaign:
- Make a cash donation of any amount on the crowdfunder page
- Purchase a Pony Positivity Postcard painted by a local artist (minimum donation £10)
- Purchase a Pony Cuddle, Covid-19 restrictions permitting (minimum donation £20)
- Sponsor a brick (minimum donation £100)
- Commission a Watercolour by resident artist Joy Cuff. Joy will paint a scene of your choice, a much-loved pet, family member or even your home (minimum donation £200)
- Name a Stable Door. Have your name (or your company’s name) on one of our stable doors and become a fixture of stable life (minimum donation £5,000)
- Name a Pony. A Park Lane pony can take your name of choice for formal appearances and competitions (minimum donation £10,000)
Share the crowdfunding campaign when talking to friends, family and colleagues - and via social media
To donate: visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-our-stables
If the campaign is successful, each person who has pledged support will be thanked with an invitation to a pony meet and greet at the stables.