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TV and radio presenter Gilly Fraser’s monthly column, exclusively for cumbria24.com on her favourite subject – horses. A passionate horsewoman, Gilly talks about her life in the saddle.
There seems to be something of a boom in horse-riding centres in Cumbria right now. Several new places have opened, while others have expanded existing facilities. It’s a total reversal to the trend of recent years which saw so many places nationwide close their doors – sometimes because of hefty business rates, sometimes because of crippling insurance premiums and often because the demands of health and safety legislation simply became too draconian.
Blackdyke and Greenlands near Carlisle have done sterling work serving the county’s riders for some years along with Inglewood at Penrith and Bigland in the south of the county. Kingwater near Brampton was another great favourite and much missed since it closed. Now though, others have joined the equestrian family. Nord Vue at Armathwaite, Murray Yard Livery at Cumwhinton, Rookin House Activity Centre at Troutbeck, and Cumberland Lodge near Workington have all come on board.
The former Lakeland Heavy Horse Centre at Dearham closed when its owners retired, but was swiftly reborn as the Lakeland Equestrian Centre and was faring well until it was dealt a cruel blow in the form of an outbreak of Strangles. This equine disease isn’t usually a killer, but it can lay horses low for several weeks and it’s horribly contagious, so horse owners tend to go pale at the mention of the name. Happily, after its owners went well above and beyond the call of duty to rid the centre of the disease, they’ve been given the official all-clear by Vets, plus a well-deserved pat on the back for coping with a difficult situation so well. The yard’s now up and running again as Lakeland Hhc under new management as both a livery and competition yard and looking forward to a bright future.
Newton Rigg is also increasing its equestrian activities – recently it’s been staging affiliated and unaffiliated dressage days, drawing competitors from far afield. It’s running teaching clinics with top-class coaches like Jeanette Brakewell and Jo Graham and workshops on topics like the Alexander Technique. The centre is also to hold British Showjumping Club days where shows are run under BS rules but competitors don’t have to be members.
Eventers and cross-country fans have also lost several excellent venues in the county in recent years including Brougham, Armathwaite, Greystoke, Borrans Hill and Westward, but the affiliated calendar has been boosted with the addition of Cumwhinton, Eden Valley at Nord Vue, more fixtures at Hutton In The Forest and over the border into Northumberland there’s now Burgham as well.
All in all, things seem to be on the up and up for Cumbrian riders with the prospects brighter than they have been for some time. However the centres can’t succeed without customers and there have already been calls for greater support from local competitors. ‘Use it or lose it’ indeed.
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