03 May 2021
Usually in school or in clubs, children are told not to horse around – horsing around means to act badly. But in south London, there is a club that loves it when students horse around.
The Ebony Horse Club is a riding school for children from poor families. General Manager Naomi Howgate runs the team that operates the school. With the help of volunteers, they give about 140 rides each week to children. They teach not only horseback riding but also important life skills.
The club recently reopened its stables. They were closed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The program's eight horses have returned to their home after a long rest outside London in East Surrey. Across the road from housing for the poor, young people are again learning how to ride.
They begin by learning how get on the horse, or how to mount. Then, they learn how to walk, trot, and finally canter the horses. These are specialized terms for how a horse walks or runs.
One of the club's youngest riders is Shaddai Mcleod. The 9-year-old was very excited to be back in the saddle. He rides after school. But he joins the team on Sundays to help in the yard. He said he gets great satisfaction taking care of the horses: cleaning out the stables, grooming the horses, and measuring out their evening meals.
Shaddai recently received his first award for grooming.
His sister Zion is 13 and works just as hard as her brother. As she saddles up her favorite horse, Eddie, for her lesson, she says how lucky she is to be a member of the club.
"You would never think this was here in the middle of Brixton," she said. Brixton is in a London neighborhood once known for racial tension, crime, and violence.
Along with riding close to home, Ebony Horse Club members take day trips to pony clubs in the English countryside. Before the pandemic, groups of children from the club had wonderful experiences. They also have traveled as far away as Sweden to ride horses. Several students who finished the program have found jobs in the horse industry.
Ebony's senior youth worker is Radikha Nagar. She played an important part in keeping children and their families connected to the club during the pandemic.
The club has experienced an increase in children wanting to join. But it needs donations to survive. The cost of riding is based on the riders' situation at home.
Donors have continued to support the club during the COVID-19 pandemic. But like other organizations, Ebony may experience money problems as the British economy recovers from the health crisis.
However, Howgate told the Associated Press that the horse club plans to continue to raise money "to not just maintain" but grow their activities.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Reuters reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
club –n. a group of people who meet to take part in an activity such as a sport or hobby
stable –n. a building where horses are kept, fed and cared for
saddle –n. a seat that is put on the back of horses
groom –v. to clean and care for an animal
maintain –v. to keep in good condition; to care for