It’s horse play for town farm

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THE WORLD of horse-riding will soon be opened up to people with disabilities in Hartlepool – thanks to one woman’s hard work and vision.

Julie Richards has spent the last 10 years organising riding and jumping events, most recently at South Durham Saddle Club.

But she realised disabled riders were struggling to find a place to enjoy the thrills of being on horseback, so decided to revamp an arena that had fallen into disrepair on a Hartlepool farm.

The farm – Southbrooke Farm in Summerhill Lane – is run by ADDvance into Nature, a charity that helps 10 to 25-year-olds with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.

Julie’s plan involves refurbishing a horse-riding arena so that horse-riding and jumping can be added to the charity’s activities list.

All riders will be welcome, but for people with disabilities, this will offer them opportunities not available elsewhere in the area.

Mum-of-two Julie, from the Brierton area, started to ride at a very young age. Her gymkhana business, Trot ‘n’ Pop, runs up to 12 classes a day in the busy summer season.

The 38-year-old – who has a four-year-old daughter, Ashley, and a 20-year-old, Amy – said: “We wanted to open up the riding community to people from all walks of life.

“To do that we really needed our own premises.”

Her determination will see two fully refurbished arenas at Southbrooke Farm – one indoor and one outdoor – open to the public in the coming weeks.

Firms refurbishing the site have carried out work for free in recognition of her commitment.

C & D construction waived their bill for building disabled facilities and a spectator stand at the new site.

Company boss Carl Jeffries said: “It is for a good cause.

“I’ve designed the whole thing with wheelchair access.

“It will be somewhere for the kids to go – especially disabled kids.”

Hartlepool-based GeeDee Plants have lent equipment for the building work.

GeeDee owner Evan Edwards, 34, said: “When Julie came and asked how much the equipment would cost, I said ‘Just take it’.

“It’s a great idea and I hope it is a success.”