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Coronavirus: Uncertainty for charity’s future

horse jumping at unicorn center
horse jumping at unicorn center Image credit: thenorthernecho.co.uk

A riding school for disabled people is struggling to stay in service because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Unicorn Centre in Hemlington, Middlesbrough needs to raise an annual sum of £300,000 to carry on the support it provides to its riders, but the outbreak has forced them to cancel or postpone fundraising activities.

Usual events such as training, stopping lessons and competitions have ceased, as a result some staff have had no option but to step down.

The horse’s wellbeing is being looked after by a small team of existing employees who are providing remote delivery and assessment of the Centre’s Diplomas in Horse Care and Management.

Unicorn Centre manager Claire Pitt told the Northern Echo: “We were on a high in February when the Centre celebrated the visit of HRH The Princess Royal. Now that lovely day seems a lifetime away. Lockdown has had a profound effect on our participants who rely heavily on their weekly riding session, on our supported volunteers, our Diploma Learners and on our staff and volunteers who always go above and beyond to support everyone here.

“The cost of paying the core staff, feed, bedding, farrier and vet bills for the 18 horses on site and utility bills amounts to almost £6,000 per month. We don’t know when we are going to be able to re-open so we’re going to need more than a little luck to raise enough money to keep us going.”

To raise vital funding the centre has launched their “Feed and Feet” campaign.

The centre has 19 horses and ponies which provide riding and therapy to around 200 disabled riders on a weekly basis, assisted by 16 staff and 100 volunteers.

The Unicorn Centre is part of the Riding for the Disabled Association.