The Ebony Horse Club is one of British equestrian sport’s great success stories.
Based in Brixton’s Coldharbour — one of the most disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods in the country — it provides young people with the opportunity to gain new experiences and to benefit from the powerful, life-changing influence that contact with horses can bring.
Through the support and experiences members have at Ebony, all are encouraged to exceed their own expectations, and many are inspired to go on to college, university or horse-related careers.
So it was another red-letter day in the South London-based club’s history this week when London 2012 Olympic showjumping team gold medallist and Land Rover ambassador Ben Maher took time out from his London Global Champions Tour preparations to offer riding tuition and horse-care advice to some of the club’s younger members.
“I remember starting riding on a Shetland pony called Dougal. I got the riding bug, and it started from there,” said former world number one Maher, who won gold at Greenwich Park three years ago alongside Scott Brash, Nick Skelton and Peter Charles.
“Horses always bring you back down to earth — I am learning something new about them every day — and it is a nice way of life. I get to do the job I love to do, and I think they really enjoy their job too.
“To have the Ebony stables is a fantastic idea, and it was a real privilege for me to visit. I met some wonderful young people, some of which have great riding skills and horsemanship. You can’t underestimate the effect that horses can have on people, and so for these kids to be able to regularly partake in this sport right in the heart of their inner-city community is brilliant.”
Among the facilities at Ebony Horse Club are stabling, a floodlit manège, turn-out paddock and classroom facilities, all sandwiched between tower blocks and a railway line in the corner of a small park. By 2010, the club — a registered charity — had grown from five to 46 members, and that figure continues to rise.
Susan Collins, Chair of Trustees at Ebony Horse Club, said: “One of our aims is to encourage involvement in sport, especially for teenagers, where the drop-off rate is the greatest — young people living in this area are most at risk from gang culture, drugs and other negative influences.
“It is inspiration for them to have an athlete of Ben’s calibre to visit.
“Within the three years that we have had our centre, 10 of our members have moved on in to further education, nine of them in equine studies. This is quite an achievement for kids growing up in Brixton.”
As well as giving some riding lessons, Maher presented some much-needed new horse equipment to Ebony Horse Club, donated by Land Rover, including horse rugs and saddle pads for the 10 horses and ponies that are stabled in Brixton.
The club relies entirely on donations, grant-giving trusts, foundations and corporate organisations, so for more information on how to donate visit www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk