The nags' head count

20th August 2004 at 01:00
There are no horses for courses at Oatridge College in West Lothian - or at least not enough of them.

The college, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, has been chosen as the home of Scotland's pound;3 million racing academy and equestrian centre.

Unfortunately, it does not have enough horses and has been forced to put out an appeal for more to meet the demands of the new intake of students who start this month.

Oatridge managers say it is 25 horses short of what it needs for the 100 students it is expecting.

Richard Negus, course tutor, says they are happy to take no-hopers from the racing world, so long as they are well-behaved. "What we need are horses with a nice temperament," he says. "They need to be safe and know what is expected of them on the gallops."

In return, the college is offering to provide "bed and board" for the horses which can cost owners more than pound;200 a month. "It's a great semi-retirement job for the horses," Mr Negus added.

Karen Murray, head of equine and animal care at Oatridge, says it has had to appeal for help because students coming to the college for equestrian studies no longer have their own horses. The college offers a "get ready for racing" residential course for 16 and 17-year-olds, lasting 26 weeks.

Mr Negus said that the ban on hunting in Scotland means that "a lot of horsey kids have had nothing to do and this offers them an 'in' to the industry."

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