Horse-lovers throughout the isles are delighted this week that a serious gap has been filled with the opening of a new riding school.
Clare Williamson from Stromfirth opened Shetland Equestrian Services on Sunday in a low-key ceremony with family and friends. Now she is open for bookings from individuals and groups, offering tuition to all ages and abilities.
Clare, 28, intends to provide riding lessons on safe horses and to teach stable management as well. Her equestrian service is definitely not a club, but is “open to the public, open to everybody”. It will also offer horsebox hire, horse transport, clipping, trimming, schooling, horse exercise and holiday cover.
For Clare there was never much doubt about about a career choice. She was in the saddle almost before she could walk – her mother, horse enthusiast Annette Shewan, took her in a basket in a saddle at the tender age of 15 months. Mrs Shewan worked with horses at the Whiteness and Weisdale pony club and Clare went along too. “I grew up with it,” she said.
Now, with 11 very different horses to look after (seven are used for the riding school), Clare is realising her dream. The riding school horses range from Sox, a 15-hand Irish cob and 12-year-old Highland mare Isla, both highly trained and referred to as a “schoolmaster” and “schoolmistress” respectively thanks to their suitability for learning on, to the gentle grey Bluey and smaller Shetland and Welsh ponies. Tally is “sensible” and good with younger riders and Romeo is a “bombproof” Welsh pony suitable for children learning to canter and jump. Another Welsh pony, 11-year-old Ben, will arrive next week. All have different temperaments but all are, she promises, of a placid disposition.
Clare said she was “very excited” about her new venture. Another centre in Shetland stopped riding tuition several years ago and now concentrates on carriage driving tuition – meaning that Shetland Equestrian Services will provide a very important function as the only riding school in Shetland (although there are various junior clubs and an indoor riding arena at Girlsta).
Her school will be especially welcomed by adults who do not own or have the use of a horse. This will enable them to enjoy a sport (and a hobby) as much as their children.
Although there is no indoor school at the new centre at present, Clare already has ideas for expansion and an indoor school will “hopefully” be available next year.
Hacking is being offered and at present a one-hour trek on the quiet Stromfirth road is possible. Future plans include creating a track through the hills and back in a circular route. Fortunately Clare, who works night shift at a supermarket as well as looking after the horses, has help from her mother who does all the paperwork.
The school will be open “all week and all year” – no stopping for the winter – and is fully licensed and insured. People can have lessons on their own ponies if preferred and can be taught to tack up and clean out, for example.
Clare will also continue to be available for freelance teaching.
More information is available on the website www.shetlandequestrian centre.co.uk