A horsey addiction2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
For a group of lucky children, the school holiday break was a chance to spend time around horses. They were part of the Ambury Park Centre’s school holiday programme, where they spent a week learning to ride. The programme starts with basic instructions on how to behave around horses, to groom and care for them, eventually going on to assisted, then solo, riding lessons.
Office and community engagement manager, Debra Moore, says they have no problem filling the places for the holiday programme. She says she warns parents that “Unfortunately we are fostering a love for horses and as a result starting an addiction!”
Learning to groom the horses includes the opportunity to dress them up with plaits, bows and ribbons. Debra says the centre is very particular about the horses they choose, making sure they only use patient and tolerant animals.
The holiday programme is just one of the many initiatives the centre runs. Starting in 1983 as a riding centre for the disabled, they have gradually expanded their activities to the point where Ambury Park Centre is now a high school for youth who have struggled to fit in at traditional schools, and fallen through the gaps. Around 30 pupils receive standard NCEA school lessons, but also spend time every day working with the horses.
Debra says “You can see the changes that happen with the pupils.” She says the great thing about the horses is they are non-judgemental, and for children that may have personal or emotional issues, taking responsibility for caring for them can have huge benefits. Something as simple as just talking to the horses about your day can prove therapeutic, help the students develop life skills to build better relationships with people, and bring structure and routine into the lives of those who may not have that structure at home.
Debra says they always need volunteers, and anyone keen to help out can contact them via amburyparkcentre.org.nz/.