Park Palace Ponies is a unique horse riding school in inner-city Liverpool.
Located in the Dingle, only a mile from Liverpool’s city centre, it is where they offer free introductory riding lessons and a learn-to-ride course to any child aged between 4 and 12 who lives within the city of Liverpool.
Run as a social enterprise by a group of Liverpool volunteers with a passion for all things horses, Park Palace Ponies first opened in May 2017 as a six-month pilot and action research project in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation supported by the Mayor of Liverpool. Their aim was, and still is, to make horses more accessible to all so that the benefits, both physically and mentally, that spending time with horses brings can be felt by all.
The riding school is based on the corner of Mill Street and Park Street, in the Dingle, on a patch of grass previously used as a dumping site. The riding lessons take place in the old Park Palace of Varieties building, a theatre opened in 1893 which boasts many of its original features, including an ornate ceiling. You may also spot the ponies trotting down Mill Street every morning to their grazing field on the Park Hill Allotment site.
Following the success of the pilot, they decided to extend the project for a further five months, and during this first year of being open, Park Palace Ponies has collected the data and information generated by their activities. In April, they decided to close temporarily in order to take stock, give the ponies a breather, and to assess our achievements.
In their first year of operation, 395 riders have ridden on their free taster lessons; 92 riders have joined and ridden on their 16 hour learn-to-ride course; and another 14-young people have volunteered with them regularly as ride leaders, and stable hands. All together this means that a total of 431 children aged between 4 and 12 have ridden at Park Palace Ponies, almost all of which have never ridden before.
In addition to riding lessons at Park Palace they have also offered additional events and activities including birthday parties and community days that they estimate have involved a further 400 children in pony-focused activities, through these events. Consequently, they calculate that over the twelve months since their opening, their ponies have made genuine contact with around 830 children from Liverpool, mostly from the South-Central areas of the City (post-codes L8, L17 & L18).