If you think horse riding is purely enjoyed through the rural counties of the UK, then think again. The Urban Equestrian Academy is a super initiative set up recently to encourage children living in an urban environment to encourage the love of riding and working with horses and ponies.
Haynet recently interviewed the founder of Azeezah’s Pony Club, Freedom Zampaladus who gave an insight on how this equestrian project was set up among the streets of Leicester:
This is a great initiative to promote equestrian sport to young children, especially those who have not had contact with horses and ponies before. How did this idea come about?
My story in relation to how I got into the ‘Equestrian World’ is extremely unique, so much so that 2 years ago I decided to write my autobiography about it. It’s called ‘From the Hood 2 Horses’ and is available on Amazon.com or through my website www.hood2horses.co.uk. Today I work in partnership with a number of ‘Equestrian Centres/ Riding Schools’.
The idea for ‘Azeezah’s Junior Pony Club’ came after my daughter’s observation of my involvement/ history with horses. Having heard my stories being aware of my book and being active working with these animals, one day she said she wanted a pony. Not being in a position to buy her a pony but being on a mission to set up my equestrian business I thought if I can’t buy her a pony, I will develop a ‘Pony Club’ as one of our services in her name for all socially excluded disadvantaged young peoples. The Pony Club is named after my daughter.
How have the children reacted to spending time with the horses and ponies?
They have absolutely loved it!! We have overachieved in all departments and received support from right across the country. We have over 50 registered young people all extremely enthusiastic and grateful for the opportunity we have given them. We haven’t even promoted the service in a major way due to the nature of the funding we received, as the terms and conditions linked to it mean we have to work within a specific locality. We aim to expand on this in the coming months.
Have any of the children changed their outlook on life in the country and taking part in equestrian activities?
Yes absolutely! The age range we work with regards the ‘Pony Club’ is 6 years of age to 12 years of age and so I wouldn’t say they have changed their outlook on life in the country as they don’t know much about living in the country, but I can say they have taken to being out in the country extremely well. I believe the freedom experienced being out of the ‘Concrete Jungle’ has meant happier children; our sessions run weekly on a Thursday evening term time and we get a full house of young people every week (15 – 20). Our Pony Play Schemes and Camps have been equally popular and successful which run during the half terms.
Has any aspiring equestrian talent come to light with the children that have been riding through Azeezah’s Pony Playscheme?
Our youngsters have only ridden during the May half term. Which entailed six rides over 3 intensive days as the Club is non–riding and the Playscheme is riding. They’ve had a limited time riding; however what has been astonishing is the desire shown to want to ride and want to improve their riding ability as most of these youngsters had never ever ridden before. The feedback from the equestrian world has been amazing in that they too are astonished at the ability of these young people in relation to these youngsters riding ability, with a number of individuals displaying a natural balance when it comes to riding. Our aim is to now develop the club further by seeking further support/ funding to allow the young people involved a more consistent level of riding.
How can people help with supporting this super equestrian initiative?
Well, all and any help/ support is more than welcome; one way you can support us is by donating to our crowdfunding campaign which was launched last October. We are aiming to raise £8.3k for own 17 seater minibus which will allow us to deliver not only on a more consistent basis but will allow us to generate an income and deliver more ‘Pony Club’ sessions and develop and deliver other sessions we have in the pipeline. For further information on how you can donate please visit our website www.urbanequestrian.co.uk , my website www.hood2horses.co.uk where you can find out about my personal journey as well as my other business activities or go directly to www.spacehive.com/urban-equestrian.
Equally, if you believe you can assist us in other capacities we would absolutely love to hear from you as our ultimate goal is to have our own land base for the ‘Urban Equestrian Academy’ to be able to deliver our philosophy through ‘Equine Assisted Learning’ programmes on a full-time basis.