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'Council out of step with riding schools' New licence rules spark anger.

Byline: LINDA WHITWAM

TOUGHER rules are set to prove costly for Huddersfield's riding schools.

Kirklees Council's Licensing and Safety Committee has agreed new conditions for the licences for local riding stables.

It will mean fully-qualified instructors must be at the stables at all times when lessons are being given.

Previously, staff trained to a lesser extent could help with riding lessons.

The new rule insists that a riding instructor qualified to the rigorous British Horse Society Assistant Instructor (BHSAI) level should be present at all riding schools during teaching hours.

The condition has been considerably watered down from the original proposal, which received objections from two Kirklees riding schools and was described as "unworkable" by one owner.

To be successful in the qualification, candidates first have to pass the BHS Horse Knowledge, Care and Riding Stage 3 - the Preliminary Teacher's Certificate - and submit a fully completed Coaching Portfolio or log 500 hours of teaching.

There is currently a shortage of assistant instructors nationally.

Riding school owners agree that safety, welfare and good practice are essential.

However, the general consensus is that there is no need to impose the necessity for these high level qualifications as long as staff are well-trained and capable.

They claim that by introducing them, Kirklees is out of step with other licensing authorities.

Dewsbury's Northern Riding Centre at Water Lane is the largest riding school in West Yorkshire with some 40 horses and 12 staff.

A spokesman said: "The condition is flawed and is not in line with the equine industry.

"The BHSAI qualification does not mean that the person is capable of ensuring welfare and safety at a riding centre, which are the things that Kirklees should be concerned about in their role as licensing authority.

"Look at the numbers of instructors on licence - there are simply not enough to go round. We have spoken with the British Horse Society. They are the key to this and they are now in consultation with Kirklees on our behalf."

Sam Falck is the owner of Lee Hill Riding School in Outlane and took over as manager of Westwyns Riding School between Slaithwaite and Marsden in August.

She is a qualified BHSAI and currently divides her time between the two riding schools.

The new rules mean that Sam, who has six staff, will have to employ another assistant instructor.

She said: "We understand what Kirklees is doing. You need a certain knowledge and to be able to teach safely, but it will be expensive for us.

"You can't expect everyone to be an AI as it is a seven-day-a-week job."

Sam already runs weekly training sessions with her staff. Many are qualified to NVQ2 level, covering such subjects as teaching practice, group riding lessons and stable management.

She added: "It is important to have one person training and overseeing staff. It is a fine balance."

A Kirklees spokesman said: "This condition is being introduced to ensure there is a consistent level of teaching and so consumers can be confident that the person teaching them has the appropriate knowledge and skills to safeguard the health and welfare of both the horse and rider."

Kirklees' animal health and welfare officers will be working with riding schools over the next year to help them comply.

. ? Riding schools currently licensed by Kirklees are: Northern Riding Centre, Dewsbury; Westwyns, Riding School Slaithwaite; Low Fold, Lepton; Netherhall Farm, Rawthorpe and Cliff Hollins Riding School at East Bierley near Bradford. Lee Hill is licensed by Calderdale Council.

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* TOUGH RIDE: Riding lessons such as this one at Westwyns Riding School, Slaithwaite, will prove more costly
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 28, 2011
Words:601
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