Appeal to help riding school after lockdown rule change delays reopening

A horse riding school has been dealt another blow after finding out it is unable to open next week, its owner says.

TDS Riding School in Tong, near Shifnal, launched an online fundraiser in January to raise money to help feed and care for its horses during the lockdown.

Its monthly outgoing costs amount to thousands of pounds.

Owner Denise O'Reilly says she was looking forward to reopening on Monday, as the lockdown rules ease, but a change in guidance means she will have to wait.

She was initially planning to open her 'indoor arena' as work is currently taking place on the one outdoors.

She said: "There's been a change in the guidance. It has three sides that are closed and one is open, but it's classed as an indoor arena so we won't be able to open it until April 12.

"That extra two weeks will cost us £6,000."

Denise has had to keep her staff on at the riding school as the horses still need to be cared for and exercised, so furlough is not an option.

She says the riding school's JustGiving fundraising page remains open if anyone is able to help by offering a donation.

Thanks have been given by Denise to those who have already shown their support.

The centre has 30 horses and ponies – 20 of its own and 10 which are stabled there by their owners.

Denise says it has been a difficult time, particularly during the current lockdown.

"It's been really tough especially because of the winter," she said.

Denise O'Reilly with one of the horses

"We have had help from grants but it hasn't been enough; we've had to take out a loan.

"The estate has also given us time to pay the rent so that's taken some of the pressure off.

"We moved here from Stafford in May last year and when we took it over it needed a lot of refurbishment.

"Having to invest at the same time as having to survive is very difficult."

She says measures have been taken to make sure the centre is Covid safe, with hand sanitiser stations put out, strict cleaning protocols and temperature checks in place.

Denise added: "We've been really busy during the lockdown with training the horses and ponies.

"We are looking forward to opening again when we can.

"Looking forward to the future we would like to do more courses where people come and stay for a long weekend.

"We're also launching a dressage club for adults for summer. Riders will be able to work towards awards."

Alexander Newport, managing director of Bradford Estates, said: "TDS Riding School's story is one I'm sure many charities across the region can relate to, this particular industry has been hit incredibly hard throughout the pandemic.

Denise O'Reilly, owner of TDS Riding Centre, with horses George and Dave, and Danielle Thomas and Jess Jennings

"Bradford Estates is a community and we always try to support our tenants wherever possible.

“We were incredibly proud to see so many people from the local community step in to help Denise and her animals – and we know this support was a real lifeline for the school.

"There is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel now for Denise and her family as restrictions begin to ease and we can't wait to see TDS Riding School back open soon."

Anyone who wants to offer a donation to the horse riding school can visit the fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-our-tds-ponies

More than £2,400 has been given so far.

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