A NORTH Wales riding school that offers offers riding opportunities for people with disabilities is working hard to weather lockdown and prepare for the future.

The pandemic has hit Clwyd Special Riding Centre (CSRC) in Llanfynydd, near Flintshire's border with Wrexham, hard.

Acting on the latest guidance, the centre has stopped all of the sessions, which provide invaluable physical and mental benefits to children and adults with disabilities.

During this time, the centre's 26 horses of all shapes and sizes still need to be fed and cared for and any donations towards their welfare are welcome at this difficult time.

The Leader: Clwyd Special Riding Centre.Clwyd Special Riding Centre.

Clwyd Special Riding Centre

Ann Lambert, Chair of Trustees, said she wanted people to know that the centre was still there and preparing to welcome them back when it is safe to do so.

She said: "On the 21st of March we had no alternative other than to temporarily close the centre due to social distancing requirements. All of our 130 RDA participants have additional needs and many have underlying health issues. Added to this many of our 150 volunteers are more mature. All participants have to be physically helped on and off a horse and many have leaders and side walkers that cannot operate at a distance of one metre.

"This decision taken by the Trustees was not taken lightly as without riding and vaulting sessions there would be no income at all plus the opportunity to hold any of the planned fundraising events could not proceed.

"With no government funding we rely on grants, donations and fundraising.

"Arrangements had to be made for our equine workforce. In order to cut costs two horses were retired and went to live with our manager. Several horses were temporarily taken off site to be cared for. We are so grateful and want to say a huge thank you to those people who are caring for our wonderful horses.The remainder had their shoes removed and are having a lovely holiday at the centre.They are being cared for by the staff.

"Regrettably we have had to lose some of our hard working and loyal staff despite taking advantage of the furlough scheme. Six staff were made redundant. We now have a leaner look with a reduced team of five on reduced hours.

"We recognise that participants will be missing the centre, staff, volunteers and horses and we are most definitely missing them. We can’t wait to see our volunteers again too, we so want to have them back."

The Leader: Celtos has moved on to a lovely "stable new home"Celtos has moved on to a lovely "stable new home"

Celtos is enjoying his retirement

Ann added that it was hoped that horse care sessions would be possible at the centre, but this has proved not to be the case,

Some fundraising efforts have been held, but the centre is reliant on pubic support and donations more than ever.

The Leader: Poem by Owen Silvester, of Pentre Broughton, about his favourite horse EddiePoem by Owen Silvester, of Pentre Broughton, about his favourite horse Eddie

Poem by Owen Silvester about Eddie, hit favourite horse

Ann added: "Several horse care sessions (grooming and patting a pony but no riding) were planned for December for those participants that wished take advantage of the offer and with strict social distancing in place. Unfortunately only one session took place due to lockdowns. One little boy was so excited about seeing his pony again that he wrote a lovely poem. Further sessions were planned for January. Sadly these are on hold or the time being. It was a successful session involving six participants and 12 volunteers. A huge thank you to those that made that session possible.

"We have been fortunate that we have continued to receive very generous donations and we were able to hold three fundraising events which included a virtual Sopwith Memorial Run, a Scarecrow Competition organised by a local company based in Llanfynydd and an Adopt a Pony for Christmas. Thanks to all who helped raise funds."

Set in more than 30 acres, the aim of CSRC is to provide a beneficial experience to all persons through riding, carriage driving, equestrian vaulting, equine learning and therapy and hippotherapy.

Now the focus at the centre, in addition to caring for the horses, is to plan for a time when sessions can be held again, whenever that should be.

The Leader: A scarecrow festival was one of the fundraising events held to support CSRCA scarecrow festival was one of the fundraising events held to support CSRC

A scarecrow festival raised funds for the centre in 2020

Many of those missing the sessions are members of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) who have seen their opportunities for socialising and therapy curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ann said: "RDA Group holidays have been a major casualty. Normally every week from March to October RDA Groups from all over the British Isles spend a holiday at the Centre. Not only have those groups missed their holiday but it has represented a huge financial loss to us.

"Trustee meetings have continued to take place regularly since last March and with prudent management we remain in a financially sustainable position to take up the reins as soon as is safely possible.

"When we made the decision to close back in March 2020 we were hopeful that we would be able to open at Easter. We are working towards that goal. Realistically we think it highly unlikely that we will fully reopen then but we maybe in a position to continue our work with participants in some small way. Our present situation is known, our future is not.

"However, everyone connected with the centre is upbeat and positive and cannot wait to continue in our 40th year to offer a service to those in the area with additional needs."

To contact CRSC or for updates on the situation visit the centre's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/clwydspecialridingcentre/