Horses and courses

There can’t be many state schools that have their own stables but one such school is the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate. This state boarding school is situated within 260 acres of parkland and has 20 horses for pupils to ride.

The School is able to offer riding lessons to pupils at a much lower cost than other local stables, and it even offers lessons free of charge to some of its ‘Foundationer’ boarders.

Stables Manager, Irini Economou stretches her riding budget to its limit to ensure that as many pupils as possible have riding lessons. One of her strategies is literally ‘horse-trading’. She buys horses that are suitable for the varying abilities of her students, trains them to be even more marketable, and then is able to sell them at a profit a few years later. This way the students get good riding ponies as well as new horses to keep up with their changing needs. For example, in the last few years the school had introduced Horse Management BTEC for Sixth Form students and bigger, more skilled horses are required for students on this course.

A recent visit to the brand new stable block found nine new horses and these vary in size and skill. Some are good at show jumping, some are good for eventing and others are good for pupils who are just learning to ride. The full complement of 20 horses can now meet the needs of pupils ranging in age from 7 to 18 and of a wide range of abilities.

Irini Economou commented “The horses we acquired recently come from the best Irish stock and they are perfect for the children to ride. I want to give pupils more opportunities to develop their jumping skills and the new ponies will do this. I run ‘Jumping Clinics’ which give pupils, including beginners, training in jumping and then they go to local Show Centres like Felbridge to compete with other children at their level.

“Whilst we manage to keep costs as low as possible, there are clearly costs associated with these events and I am launching an appeal to help fund Jumping Clinics for our Foundation pupils. The cost is £50 per pupil and for this they get a full course of jumping lessons and the experience of competitive show jumping. For Foundationers, participation in this kind of event would normally be out of reach but enabling them to have these opportunities can make a huge difference to them.”

There have been many success stories for pupils who have developed their riding skills at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School. Some have gone on to forge successful careers in the horse riding industry, starting with apprenticeships in stables or going to the British Racing School. Riding is particularly valuable for Foundation pupils who often form strong bonds with the horses. They get great pleasure from caring for the horses as well as riding them.

6th February 2013

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