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Following a blog I wrote on the subject of horse-riding, enthusiasm was renewed for a campaign headed by Lydia Rivlin to try and get land for an equestrian centre in Ally Pally. Below is an extract from the Friends of Alexandra Palace website outlining the campaign.
Equestrian Centre in Alexandra Park?
Gordon Hutchinson and Nick Bryant of the Friends committee met one of the group’s members, Lydia Rivlin, to find out what was being proposed. Lydia explained that the plan is just conceptual at present, as a commercial operator has not yet been identified. However the main elements of the proposal have been thought through.
The idea is to take over the Upper Field, sometimes referred to as the Football Field, which lies between the boating pond and the deer enclosure. In that area stables would be constructed for 30 to 40 horses, together with a barn to store feed, a tack room, toilets, staff facilities and four sand covered arenas where most of the riding would actually take place. There would be a track for riding round the perimeter of the Upper Field, but there would be no riding in the rest of the Park. An indication of how the Upper Field could be utilised by an Equestrian Centre can be seen in the attached document (see Equestrian Centre Map at the end of this web page).
It is envisaged that the centre would provide riding lessons, livery for individuals who wanted to keep a horse at the centre, and opportunities for school children and disabled children and adults to experience riding. Horse boxes and feed delivery vehicles would have to access the field. Horse manure would have to be removed.
Clearly local horse riders would appreciate the opportunity to ride without travelling to the likes of Trent Park, Mill Hill and Arkley. Also riding for the disabled and children has many benefits. However, a development of this nature would destroy an open and peaceful area of the Park, and may not be acceptable within the Metropolitan Open Land and Conservation Area designations of the Park.What do YOU think about this proposal?
My recollection of Metropolitan Open Land is based on living in Glasslyn Road which backs onto the playing fields that strecth all the way to Cranley Gardens and which are designated MOL. The rule was that the only building allowed was to serve the purpose of sport, i.e. a pavilion, changing room or scorer's hut. Two exceptions were made. One for View Crescent, a gated development at the end of Tivoli Road, on the basis that that corner of the MOL was derelict and no longer usable for sport and therefore could be put to other use - as spurious an argument as that is, the sale of the land did fund the building of new tennis courts. The other exception was for any extension Haringey wanted to build at Highgate Wood School - obviously being both the applicant and the authority enabled any development they wanted.
Given that dressage, eventing and show jumping count as Olympic Sports there should no MOL objection to an equestrian centre where you propose. Riding horses should fit in nicely with pitching and putting and riding on giant swan pedalos. As for the charity's constitution you are right it used to include a horse racing track. The nearby public house is called the Victoria Stakes, named after a horse race. Maybe you should propose the new buildings be called The Queen Mother Memorial Stables and include a gin optic. Perhaps the young horse riders could be taught the rudiments of permutations, combinations and odds at an integrated betting office.
A riding centre at Ally Pally would be a welcome and important contribution to the area for children and adults alike. However, the welfare of the horses comes first.
Pleasure horses should not live in stables full-time, they should be out at pasture mostly. As a rough estimate you need 2 acres per horse. During the riding school day many will be in, in preparation for lessons, but the grazing is vital for the rest of the time and at night. Even in winter if you ask a horse he'll tell you he'd rather be out with his mates grazing and socialising.
So where is the 40-80 acres of grazing going to come from? If that's already in the plans then I applaud the proposer and would offer my help. If it isn't then I'm afraid the proposer of the scheme has failed to follow Horsemen's law - The horse must come first.
Horses are grazing, social animals who (unless they are Olympic dressage prospects!) need to be out at pasture to retain their sanity and avoid an array of veterinary and psychological issues which arise if horses are permanently stabled.
Needless to say using purely stabled horses for novices to ride is extremely dangerous for the riders too, as the horses tend to be more excitable when they finally leave their confinement.
London has a glorious history of inner city stables, but this was in the days when grazing was available in suburbs etc. Before every inch became a new-build block of flats. The reason why Londoners have to head to the Greenbelt for riding is that is where some open grazing land still exists!
Without the grazing this scheme won't get off the ground, nor should it.
Respect the horse and their ways! If you don't understand the basics, then ask the experts.
A reply from one of the campaigners.
"Absolutely NOT. Horses do not require full-time grazing and 2 acres. For centuries, horses in London have lived in and worked hard and stayed healthy. Indeed, stabled horses don't get mud fever, sweet itch, kicked by others in the field, bitten by other horses, rarely get colic. They do get thrush if their feet are not picked out but then so do horses in fields. Horses are domesticated creatures and most rather like a warm, dry stable over a wet, windy field. Most racing stables have no turn out. Continental Europe considers the UK rather odd about the idea of putting fit horses out into a pasture to damage themselves. Just visit a London riding stables and observe happy, relaxed horses dozing over the stable door or in their boxes head down and hipshot, waiting for their next hay. They socialise when next door to other horses, when working, turned out for a run around in the arena. Busy horses are sane horses, not overfed ones that work once a week for an hour - the situation for too many 'pleasure' horses.
And on this I do consider myself something of an expert having ridden all around the world over the past 46 years and riding weekly at an inner-city stable that wins prizes for their horses at national level. Yup, horses that live under a flyover."
Another reply from one of the campaigners
Thanks for the notes Cupcake.
With respect the first reply (I shall call it #1 to save confusion) is from someone with limited experience. Btw I know the establishment #1 mentioned (as I know many of the others mentioned earlier in the thread) and it is a fine establishment, but it remains that full-time stabling is not optimum for healthy horses in a riding school vocation. However, where a social need is being met for the humans of an inner city area, I concede one has to find a balance.
#1 mentions centuries of horses living indoors in London - yes there weren't any cars then. But last time I looked we were no longer living in Victorian times and the public's expectations for care of working animals is much higher than it was then (Thanks Anna Sewell) as is our understanding of animals' needs.
I will counter just one point. Do you prevent your children from playing with others in case they fight? Why stop horses being with their fellows in case they get kicked? Horses in a static group organise themselves into a pecking order in the field and once established very little fighting goes on - much more fun, play and mutual grooming, in between the serious business of grazing.
It's only when newbies are introduced to the group that problems can arise as there is jostling for position until the pecking order is re-calibrated - this can take minutes in some cases.
But it is job for an experienced horse person to manage the introduction of new members of the group. There are long-established ways to foresee and prevent a bad match. Indeed this is just one fragment of the original "horse sense".
In fact most of the note #1 is not relevant to anything I said as the writer has misunderstood/has little practical understanding of correct horse care. Stabled horses don't get colic? Oh dear. I could rebut each point but I expect I've bored several N8ers to death already. Suffice to say a little knowledge can be particularly dangerous in this sphere.
The writer directly above (note #2) knows their onions and the project will be in safe hands with this sensible, evidently knowledgeable and thoughtful person.
The project will need stables for sure, but it will also need grazing.
To take the issues forward in a more constructive way, the biggest challenge facing this project is money. Both the cost of running a good establishment and the prices which need to be charged to the customers to make it a viable concern.
Riding schools throughout Britain have been suffering for a good 20 years with massive costs from business rates to the cost of forage and properly-trained staff. In addition in recent years, the rise of personal injury claims when people fall off (a normal part of the riding experience) or get hurt in one of hundreds of other possible ways, have shut down or at least put the fear of God into the hearts of the brave souls who run riding schools.
On top of that, establishing a well-run stables in this part of London will put the cost of lessons out of the reach of many of its target audience.
Providing for horses properly is hideously expensive and that will be reflected in lesson/hack prices. In addition, establishing a stables in N22 will bring all sorts of extra London costs - the cost of farriery could be higher than in the home counties, staff will need a London living wage, meeting legislation around waste disposal etc etc will all come at a premium.
None of this is unsurmountable, but as I'm sure the campaigners realise, once the figures are crunched, the lessons will be expensive, which is heart-breaking if the idea is to reach out to the average (North) Londoner.
There is some money available, I believe, for Olympic legacy projects and while its worth investigating I doubt it would be enough to make much of a dent.
Charitable status is also worth considering, but I think I read something earlier on about a commercial operator for the stables.
Apologies I have delighted you for too long. I wish the project the very best for all involved, but especially for the ones with hooves.