Ebony Horse Club is a charity based in south London that supports young people growing up in some of England’s most disadvantaged communities. Our work gives them access to horses, horse riding and youth work support to help them reach their potential and provide new opportunities. Whilst our work takes place in our centre in Brixton during the school holidays we take our riders on trips away from London, and for the last two years we have visited the wonderful surroundings of Hurlands, here are some highlights from our 2019 trip…
Four teenage boys leave London full of excitement and bags packed for four days of riding and fun in the countryside. For the our youngsters it is just as important for them to have time away from their hectic lives in London as it is to take on new riding challenges. Andrew, O’Shane, Hez and Maxim talked about hacking in the woods, how fast they would ride round the countryside and how they would play with the famous Flynn the labrador.
The boys waste no time in getting to know their new home, sleeping in a tent the night before they were up bright and early, checking on the horses and running around playing football with Flynn. They had the best time testing their horses round the cross country jumps and comparing stories of who was the bravest over a bbq cooked by our generous hosts, Bob and Mia. These boys don’t have the luxury of a garden or balcony in their London homes so it is a real treat to eat dinner al fresco looking out over the beautiful garden and with our horses grazing in the background.
A mini bus arrives from London with 12 novice riders who will ride outside an arena for the first time today. It is so important for them to overcome challenges like nerves in their riding, testing different skills and helping them really encourage each other. Despite the soggy weather there were smiles all round and new friendships made as the children ate lunch together and kept warm in front of the cozy fire in the barn. This is the first of three of these day trips this week meaning that around 40 kids altogether will benefit from the Hurlands experience this year.
Today brings sunshine and more seasonal warmth to be enjoyed by the resident boys. Hacking, structured field riding and poo picking with the kioti is the order of the day. Then some relaxation with garden games, table tennis and an evening bbq as the sun goes down.
The boys are comparing highlights from their time here, they can’t decide if it is the riding, the food, the play that they have enjoyed most. All four were gently persuaded to cool off from the sun on a slip and slide in the garden. Seeing these boys play freely is a world away from the mean streets they have to tackle in Brixton. There are hugs and a few tears as they say good bye and we welcome four teenage girls who will now take up the residential for the next few days.
The girls are coping with some unseasonable cold and wet weather very well, still enjoying long hacks in the woods and driving round the fields in the Kioti to poo pick and check their horses. Wrapped in blankets they talk about impending GCSE results and what life holds after the summer, the cold weather doesn’t put them off from tucking into ice cream!
Our horses are now becoming experts over cross country jumps and scary fillers in the large arena. The girls have jumped things they never have before, learnt how to look after horses living in paddocks and are keeping the barn and tidy too. This experience helps them to see what living away from home could be like as everyone chips in with cooking, loading the dishwasher, making sure wet clothes are hung out on the line. We welcome another group of teenagers from London, some of whom will take part in their first competition at a local show tomorrow.
Our Hurlands experience ends with four riders from London taking part in a horse show in Hampshire. They clean their tack, bath their horses and get up early to polish boots and plait up so that their turn out is impeccable. They are rewarded with a rossette each in their showing class and Maxim and Splash win “Best Young Rider”. It is a fitting end to a week where horses and young people have learnt so much, had fun and really pushed themselves beyond their normal limits.
2019 is year two of our Hurlands experience and so far around 65 young people have come and spent at least a day here in the beautiful Surrey countryside. We are so thankful to Mia, Bob and Joey who host us so generously and make sure that every young person goes away with a smile on their face. We are looking forward to this now, annual, trip in 2020 with lots of ideas to enhance the experience even further. Hurlands is a very special place and I am sure all those who choose to marry here will experience just as much joy as our youngsters from London.