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28 October 2021

‘Enjoy, Aspire, Achieve’ – the motto for the thriving Newmarket Pony Academy that within a few brief months is providing a unique and inspirational leg-up for many of the town’s young people.

Reducing to tears a minibus of Year 6 Primary School children may not be the most obvious indicator of a successful programme, but in the case of the Newmarket Pony Academy (NPA) graduates, it’s fast becoming the norm when they say farewell to their ponies at the end of a week of discovery, learning and fun.

NPA Manager, Anna Sylvester speaks with infectious passion about the impact this impressive set-up is having on its beneficiaries, with life-changing being a description she uses more than once. So far, 100% of parents who’ve provided feedback have reported that the experience has had a positive effect on their child.

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New facilities on the way

Mucking in as a small team of 8-10 involves plenty of mucking out for these young equestrians, which comes alongside tuition on tacking up their new best friends plus an insight into their care and how to feed them. Bespoke teaching materials are provided to ensure academic learning threads throughout the week, which for the moment is housed in an empty stable box. The nearby drilling and banging gave notice that adjacent classrooms and kitchen facilities will soon be at the pupils’ disposal – just in time for winter.

As Andrew Braithwaite of the BRS explained: “We’ve got the indoor school already here on site and these new facilities will allow us to offer even more within the project. This is a great example of collaboration – between ourselves, Godolphin, the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust and West Suffolk Council, all in support of the region’s young people. We can’t wait to add the options of a breakfast club and after-school facility that this new building will allow.”

Pupils’ confidence soaring

The Academy started at the end of the last academic year in June and has now engaged almost 100 pupils, even allowing for some Covid absentees. Each of the town’s Primary Schools has been invited to attend and the offer of support will be taken up by the Newmarket Academy on an ongoing basis;  the Riding a Dream Academy riders are also beneficiaries and the potential to establish links with Riding for the Disabled is prominent on the to-do list.

Mr Knapp, Assistant Head at Laureate Primary School Newmarket commented: “It is so well organised and really inspirational, offering hands-on opportunities and wider learning skills. It’s been great to see the confidence among our pupils.

“We’ll revisit these themes back at school as a way of measuring impact. There’s no doubt that this non-classroom experience helps with some pupils’ behaviour issues.”

Don’t’ stop me now

With most weeks of this academic year already booked up for the weekly schools’ programme and other projects planned in support of young people, the NPA is seeking to provide a positive constant in some vulnerable young lives where this is otherwise absent.

It is hoped that the ponies, described by Godolphin’s Penny Taylor as ‘gold dust’ have as much fun as the pupils when they let loose at the Friday gymkhana. The finale celebrates the end of course and their graduation, complete with certificate. When asked how the group reacts to their last bit of lead rein riding, Penny laughed: “All you hear is ‘faster, faster’!”

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