Park Lane Stables in Teddington has been saved after a campaign to raise £1million won the hearts of the nation.
The much-loved stables, renowned for its provisions for disabled people and for its ‘pay what you can’ system for disadvantaged children, faced the loss of its Teddington base after receiving notice that the lease would not be renewed.
On New Year’s Eve, a Crowdfunder to buy the historic property was launched.
Less than two months later, the campaign exceeded it’s target, accumulating a hefty £1,302,902, plus a potential £237,094.25 in gift aid.
The campaign attracted the attention of the Queen, who has invited volunteers to visit the Royal Mews, home to Her Majesty’s horses, once lockdown restrictions allow.
Stables manager Natalie O’Rourke described feeling overwhelmed by the support, which at its core came from people of all ages, and of all walks of life.
She said: “We’ve been in shock, myself and the trustees. I would say it was genuine, true shock, it was a physical reaction.”
“I always believed the stables could be saved in some way, but I could never in a million years have guessed this would be the outcome.
“It was truly the power of the people. Our ordinary was what people found extraordinary.”
Word of the campaign spread like wildfire locally, and early coverage was propelled by Clare Balding, who took to Twitter to highlight the case.
By the end of January, Park Lane Stables had hit the £200,000 milestone.
But it was appearances on primetime breakfast programmes, BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain, which catapulted the Crowdfunder to success.
The public response was rapid and emotionally charged, and since their television debut, Park Lane Stables has been inundated with letters of support from across the UK.
“It’s just really nice that people felt that connection. That even if they don’t live with a disability, they saw what we did on TV and it resonated,” Natalie said.
“There have been many tears. Happy tears of course but also just reading what people write to us. We’re handwriting back to every single person, we don’t care if it takes the rest of the year.”
With many people struggling through the pandemic alone, the stables have been a crutch for locals, despite being closed to the public.
When the country went into lockdown last March, the #tinyponyatyourwindow scheme was launched.
The team spread smiles around Teddington taking the ponies to visit people self isolating, as well as to the hospital to cheer up children having cancer treatment.
Caroline Ward, Head of Communication & Insight at Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) UK, emphasised: “The importance of RDA groups like Park Lane in supporting their local communities cannot be underestimated.”
And since the first wave, the horses and staff’s therapeutic roles have only expanded.
Natalie described the often-overlooked mental health benefits of simply being around horses.
She said: “It’s magical. The horses create the magic. They do have a sixth sense, an empathy for those that need the support.
“A lady was bereaved very recently and she just wanted to come and spend time with the horses. She never rode actually.
“There were days that she couldn’t leave her house, she felt so desperately sad, so we would take the horse and stand outside so she could see the horse from her window.
“It’s so much more than just the riding, what we do here. It’s holistic.”
Natalie hopes that the attention raised by the fight for survival can propel further awareness of the benefits of being around horses.
She added: “The perception is that posh people ride horses. We want to get a message out to say anybody can ride a horse, or you don’t have to ride, just come and see them, get down to your local stables.
“I would love it if we got more children off screens and riding.”
Featured image credit: Max Ellis and Park Lane Stables