Horse riding school appealing for donations to look after horses

A horse riding school near Shifnal is appealing for donations in a plea to help feed and care for its 20 horses during another uncertain lockdown.

TDS Riding School in Tong, near Shifnal, is appealing for donations to keep their horses fed and looked after while the school is closed. Pictured with 6year old Shire cross Ellie is Denise O'Reilly
TDS Riding School in Tong, near Shifnal, is appealing for donations to keep their horses fed and looked after while the school is closed. Pictured with 6year old Shire cross Ellie is Denise O'Reilly

The average cost of keeping one horse for a single week is £100 at TDS Riding School in Tong, near Shifnal.

Owner Denise O'Reilly said that the horses in their care are more friends than a job, and they value each and every one of them.

Denise said government grants have been useful but not nearly enough for them to survive on, with monthly outgoing costs reaching between £12,000 and £15,000.

"It costs around £100 a week to look after one horse, we have 20 horses," Denise said.

"From foals to retired horses, all who need care. For example, Jet is 21 now and retired, but we still look after her the same we do the others.

"These horses are not just a job, they are our friends. I teach with them all the time and they look to me as their person in the middle. The bond is something that is beyond words sometimes."

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 said: "It's tough times for every business that has got livestock right now, because they have not been taken into account by the government.

"The Association of British Riding Schools has written to the Prime Minister about the lack of support –who knows if anything will happen. Zoos and aquariums at the start of the first lockdown realised they were a special case as usual grants wouldn't cover the costs. They got additional grants to help them.

"Riding schools have somehow slipped through the net, maybe we are a bit niche.

"We are struggling at the moment with outgoing costs – around 50 per cent of outgoings goes on staff. Everybody thinks you can furlough staff but we can't because who is going to look after the animals.

"The other big cost is insurance, as well as food, bedding and vets bills. We can't let the horses care suffer. Our horses are really well looked after and we strive for a high standard of care."

The uncertainty of when lockdown will end means they cannot plan far into the future.

Denise added: "Everything is uncertain at the moment. The grants are helpful, but nowhere near enough.

"My staff work so hard and we all love and care for each and every one of the horses at the school."

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