Teddington community fights to keep horse stables for disabled people

A campaign to save a horse riding stables in Teddington aims to raise £1m to buy the site from the landlord before their lease expires.

Park Lane stables in Teddington is a registered charity, opened 12 years ago, which offers horse riding sessions in Bushy Park for people with disabilities and learning difficulties as part of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

However, the lease on the Teddington stables is set to expire at the end of May, and the charity have been informed that it will not be renewed, as the landlord wishes to sell the property.

The fundraiser ‘Save Our Stables’ has already raised over £68,000 of the target and they have less than 50 days to raise the rest of the money needed.

Stables manager Natalie O’Rourke, 45, said: “It’s just heart breaking if we had to close, because we’ve sweat blood over it and put our heart and soul into it, started from nothing and created this safe haven for all these people and horses.

“The horses create magic, they filter into people’s family lives and have such a positive impact.”

HORSING AROUND: A Park Lane horse playing in mud
Picture credit: Natalie O’Rourke

Another service Park Lane provides is hippotherapy, a treatment where the horse helps to improve posture and balance for adults and children with physical disabilities.

If the landlord refuses to halt the plans to sell the site, then a vital service will be ripped away from disabled members of the community in particular.

Gary and Thea Woolf are parents to two children and their youngest child Louis, 14, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was seven.

They described how he struggled to understand the world around him and to control his emotions.

Gary and Thea decided to take Louis to a Park Lane Stables run horse club in Hampton, when they read about how animals can help to calm anxious children down.

A YOUNG MAN AND HIS HORSE: Louis at Park Lane Stables
Picture credit: Gary and Thea Woolf

Louis grew in confidence and has been attending the pony club at Park Lane Stables every weekend for the past five years, even starting to help lead other RDA riders.

Thea said: “It has transformed our lives and transformed his life.

“He went from being a child who would say regularly ‘I’ve got no friends, no one really understands me’, who now has a group of friends and they just talk about horses.

“Yes it’s changed his life, but actually it’s changed our life as a family because I think we were reaching a breaking point, we just didn’t know how we were going to cope as a family.”

Gary added: “The key thing is Louis’ independence.

“He can just get on his bike and cycle down there and come back when he’s done.”

O’Rourke has put in an application to make Park Lane Stables an ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV), which would protect it from additional development and buy more time to raise funds to save the stables.

The horse hasn’t bolted just yet, as Twickenham MP Munira Wilson has written to the landlord urging them to reconsider the decision to sell the stables, asking them to renew the lease instead.

Wilson said: “The stables provide a lifeline to many families that will be devastated to lose them from this site and within the community.

“We’re also working with the council to find opportunities and other ways through if the landlord doesn’t wish to extend the lease.”

Park Lane Stables has been given the royal seal of approval, with Princess Anne visiting them in 2016 after they raised £40,000 for a renovation.

O’Rourke said that children who use the stables have written to Princess Anne for help, who affectionately called their ponies ‘the pavement ponies’ because the stables go straight out into the street.

For families like the Woolfs, Park Lane is more than a just a horse stables, it’s a lifeline.

Click here to donate.

Featured picture credit: Gary and Thea Woolf

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Reply to  Lou
16 January 2021 7:35 pm

Don’t worry, I know the facts alright 😁 (maybe you might try taking your own advice 😜).

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam
Reply to  Sam
15 January 2021 2:34 pm

Different managers and different use, the stables was actually shut for many years before Natalie got there reopened it as livery and the grew it into the school. Please fact check first.

Sabrina Griffith
Sabrina Griffith
11 January 2021 8:13 pm

We need everyone to get behind this campaign and do what they can to support such an important service. Good luck to Natalie and all the Team x x

11 January 2021 8:07 pm

I question the assertion that Park Lane Stables was “started from nothing”. It has been a fully thriving riding establishment since the 1950s when, under the ownership of John Quinn my Mum rode there regularly as a child. I too rode there in the 90s. Indeed a lot of work has been undertaken in recent years with regards to the RDA, however what has gone before is worthy of due consideration.

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam
11 January 2021 12:15 pm

This stables is a life line, often for those who find life more complex. It would be a crying shame to lose a service that should be absolutely valued and protected.

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