Straight from the horse's mouth

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
A pound;900,000 boost this month gave Oatridge College, near Edinburgh, full rein to become a national equestrian performance centre for Scotland.

The 283-hectare estate with its dairy and beef herds, sheep and pigs will get an international standard indoor riding arena, seating for 600 and commentary box, plus a new cross-country course, farriery workshops and extra stabling (three yards already accommodate up to 44 horses).

The Scottish Sports Minister Patricia Ferguson announced the investment during a visit to the pound;3 million centre at Ecclesmachan in West Lothian three weeks ago. In addition to providing a base for developing Scotland's equestrian athletes, it would, she said, be used to encourage more participation in the sport, particularly for people with disabilities.

The new centre will provide training for jobs in the equine industry which - excluding horse racing - is worth pound;500 million a year to the Scottish economy and supports an estimated 1,700 jobs.

Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian and SportScotland have each pledged pound;450,000 towards the centre, on top of support from the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.

David James, college principal, said: "It is our ambition to become the national centre for excellence for equine education and training. With the equestrian centre we have a fantastic new resource that will be able to mount international competitions and provide hands-on experience of running courses and cross-country events.

"We'll bring in experts to build jumps and fences, and our mainstream students will work with them, plus get an understanding of the business side of the industry."

The college was a lead partner in the development of the Scottish Racing Academy, along with the Northern Racing College in Doncaster and East Lothian Council.

"If students are undertaking the Racing Academy course, they will have 13 weeks at college getting hands-on experience working with horses - kids who have never worked in the equine industry," says Mr James. "They will be working with horses and experiencing life in the country. This is a social inclusion project as well, seeing a different side of life."

Students can also pursue equine management courses, national certificate courses through to Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas, giving background in business studies and accounts.

The centre will host a range of events and competitions, including national and regional training sessions, riding club, pony club and riding for the disabled.

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