New Equestrian Centre....need help

Joined
13 February 2012
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6
Many of you will have heard that a number of equestrian centres across Herts have been closed pending sale to housing developers, claiming they are just not profitable anymore for the owners. I'm just a bit sick of people thinking the only answer is to sell out and so the equestrian community loses out yet again. Don't get me wrong, if someone waived a few million quid at me i might just do the same. But life isn't all about money is it? Why do these people not ask for help sooner or do something to stop the business going broke? So here's a thought and i know it's a far reach.....how about we try and get something done ourselves?

I propose that we approach one of these centres, and see if we can reach an agreement with them to either purchase the site or rent it off them. The centre should then be run as some sort of charitable trust or something where all funds earned go straight back into keeping the centre going. BUT and here's the key....the centre cannot just be for equestrian use. The general public in their infinite wisdom deem equestrian sports as elite sports, therefore we need to open or convert the centre / site open to other community groups. There are enough community groups etc that are struggling to find a home or decent facilities and so by bringing more groups in to use the centre, this should help keep the revenue coming in.

I realise this is a completely mad idea and god only knows if we can achieve it, but unless we do something we will have nothing left. My other half enjoys dressage and now our nearest centre is probably Wing or Addington which is just a ball ache and well over an hour travel time with the horse box. I work full time and we currently have 3 horses to attend to, however, i have also run my own business aside to my full time job whilst assisting my other half with her horses and even the dog so anything is possible if we are organised enough.

Would be great if people could help me at least sound this idea out, let me know of any potential sites or give me some honest feedback. We're all adults here who are passionate about the sports we love, so let's see if we can do it. If any of you are near St. Albans you will have heard of James Hannaway and The Odyssey Cinema that has opened recently, almost an entirely public funding project thanks to local businesses and the general public.

Thanks

H
 

Orca

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Fanatic idea. I was just thinking about a communal centre the other day, vaguely. I don't have personal need of one as you do.

There are lots of pots of cash available for community based projects, along with sports. Have a search for grants and their criteria. Good luck ��
 

Divasmum

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I will follow your post with interest. The major competition centre that shut was reputed to be changing hands for many millions of pounds. I don't know how we can raise enough funding to save it. The first planning application for housing was withdrawn but I don't think it will be long until a revised application is put forward. It would certainly be worth contacting the owner of the centre to see what the current situation is.
 

Sealine

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The cynical part of me wonders if these centres really are that unprofitable or if they are poorly run and selling land for housing in the commuter belt is too tempting due to the value of the land. The owners of Bury Farm in Slapton, Bucks have invested huge amounts of money in the last few years and I don't believe they would be doing it if they didn't think they could get a return on their money. It is well run and the facilities are in use nearly every daily which I guess they need to do to make money.

I'm near you and I'm aware of the successful Odyssey Cinema project. It would be great to think your idea would work but I have to be honest I've no idea where you'd start with it and it is a huge project to take on.

I recently heard that Flamstead Pony Club have lost the use of their facilities due to the estate owners wanting to maximize the profit they are getting from their land. Very sad as I believe the pony club have had use of the land for 30 years or more. They are now looking for suitable alternatives but as you say equestrian facilities in the area are disappearing fast.

I was very sad when Carlton XC was closed recently as it was a great venue and I've had some very happy times there. On a more positive note I was pleased to see Great Westwood XC reopen this year and is planning to install an arena and to run BE events.
 

Booboos

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What kind of community activities do you envisage running along side the equestrian side of things? I can't even imagine what you have in mind. What would people do in paddocks and outdoor arenas when they were not used by horses? Indoor arenas may have a tiny potential but from the general public's point of view they are unseated, dusty and smell of horses and horse poo!


In addition you'd need to find activities that attract public funding at a time of economic austerity, right after you had crowd sourced a few million to buy the unprofitable business in the first place.
 
Joined
13 February 2012
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thanks for your replies all. I think what needs to happen is that the equestrian part of this needs to have a decent indoor arena so that it can function all year round and a warm up arena. Decent seating and catering facilities, similar to Bury Farm. However, i think a dog competition centre might work, possibly a rehab centre for animals and also a therapy centre for humans! items that are easy to install / maintain like tennis courts / squash courts (Gym & Pool maintenance costs are too high) If we can get schools involved somehow that would be a bonus. Like you say this is likely to cost quite a bit but if we get the structure right, put a plan together, get a rough idea of costs and then look at avenues of funding we might just have a chance. There are now no competition centres in Hertfordshire would you believe (Oaklands College does hold the occasional competition but that is not it's main focus)
 

Orca

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Our EC is also a dog agility centre. A viewing room could also be a meeting room for hire. Offering horse courses/ lessons to children (or rent part of the property to someone else to run them), could be considered a community effort and would probably secure funding. A petting farm type aspect could also work. You might have to think outside of the box a little but the potential is there. Sports in well maintained indoor and outdoor schools are a viable option.
 

ester

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A lot of indoors do dog agility too though most feel it is not good for the surface. Viewing rooms IME are usually very small and obviously any further development would cost more money/take up valuable lorry parking space.
 

Booboos

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thanks for your replies all. I think what needs to happen is that the equestrian part of this needs to have a decent indoor arena so that it can function all year round and a warm up arena. Decent seating and catering facilities, similar to Bury Farm. However, i think a dog competition centre might work, possibly a rehab centre for animals and also a therapy centre for humans! items that are easy to install / maintain like tennis courts / squash courts (Gym & Pool maintenance costs are too high) If we can get schools involved somehow that would be a bonus. Like you say this is likely to cost quite a bit but if we get the structure right, put a plan together, get a rough idea of costs and then look at avenues of funding we might just have a chance. There are now no competition centres in Hertfordshire would you believe (Oaklands College does hold the occasional competition but that is not it's main focus)
Some of these activities like human rehab require heating, easy to clean surfaces, specialist equipment etc not be mention qualified staff. Others, like tennis courts, would be miracles of engineering to install and uninstall on a daily basis and even if you got over this problem what do you expect people to pay for access to a tennis court? Schools are only interested in school hours so when would you exercise the horses?

I have three competition centres within an hour's drive of my house and each runs ONE dressage competition a year - that's France which is quite a horsey country. That's life when you have a really expensive hobby in the middle of the world's worst recession.
 
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Not entirely sure i've explained this properly, the idea is to install permanent facilities, not removable ones. As i say this is only a sounding out of the idea so all comments are welcome. The facilities available won't necessarily be run by the centre (the rehab centre for instance could be privately outsourced or even NHS outsourced) but are there to bring revenue to the site and make it sustainable. The facilities need to be charged at affordable rates but it will also need to cover it's costs so a balance must be found. Whether we have on-site livery is another questions, or is it too costly? Just because has equestrian facilities doesn't mean they have to live there. A conference centre / training room could be a revenue source as could an on-site resteraunt or something along those lines? All very hypothetical at the moment to be honest, thanks for the ongoing comments. All of these things have to be addressed regardless of whether we like the thought of it not being a success, if it won't work, it wont happen.
 

OWLIE185

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It is fantastically expensive to run a competition equine centre as unlike any other sport it is so labour intensive and requires a massive amount of capital to purchase the land and set it up.
Also the local authorities charge rates on indoor arenas which also pushes up the costs.
 
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i can appreciate anything in the equine industry can be expensive, other venues are making it work so it is possible. Obviously we won't have huge amounts of capital to plough into it so it's got to be self sustaining as best as possible. The site is possibly the most important thing and the biggest cost, so until we get an idea of that we can't even begin to consider other issues.....i have started a facebook group for anyone that wants to join it.....

https://www.facebook.com/groups/811482562293773/
 

ester

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If you don't have the capital I don't see how you can implement and set up the things you are suggesting, also these places- because of the need for land are usually some way off the beaten track for much passing trade and many don't actually have much of a local community around them to use stuff.
It's £6 per hour to hire our local tennis court if you aren't a member, not really a money spinner.
 

keysoe

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How about paying higher entry fees, or competing at existing centres more often.

It is not an easy thing to run at a profit; and if you are not making a profit, you are making a loss
 
Joined
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there aren't any existing centres in hertfordshire....the main crux of this post. I'm just sounded out the possibility, many people on here have said it can't be done but no-one has even tried. I have returned quite a lot of information quite quickly and as people have said it's not going to be cheap, but if we can put a man into space, surely this is possible?
 

Booboos

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If these facilities are permanent where are you going to hold the horse competitions? Also who wants conferences or medical rehab next to animals and manure?

Whether something is technically possible on an unlimited budget is a different question to whether it makes financial sense. If you get all the capital to make these huge investments just spend it directly on the equestrian centre!
 

Mooseontheloose

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A local indoor school has charitable status and avoids business rates on the grounds that it runs the odd dressage clinic and lets a couple of organisations rent it occasionaly to use for clinics. Rest of the time it's used privately by the owner. Perhaps other schools should apply for charitable status to keep their costs down.
 

Pinkvboots

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I have heard on the grapevine that a new yard is being set up in Essendon for the purpose of a competing venue not sure how accurate the information is but could be good if it happens, it's only a twenty minute drive from me I will try and find out some more.
 
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I think you have a really good idea and herts definitely has seen a big reduction in facilities but I also think you need to have a clear idea of additional purpose use for the facility.

If you aim to run it as charity/not for profit you need to be able to define your objectives. Take advice from an expert as to how best to structure it; grant funding site and the like offer a great knowledge base.

Running a community centre of any sorts can be incredibly complex and time consuming so id say be certain before you commit yourself.

Also look at potential Competition for aspects...for example if you were looking at a petting farm you have willows farm that is very well used.

I think that if you offered reduced cost lessons to people within a certain postcode, had an educational centre, dog agility, maybe something like an off road bike trail,climbing'go ape' type stuff on site ...an Outdoor activity centre where the equestrian side is the main Focus'.
 
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