No takers yet for St Albans’ Olympic equestrian centre

ST ALBANS’ sole officially designated London 2012 Paralympic training camp has yet to be booked by a team, despite there being just six months before the Games begin.

Oaklands College’s recently built state-of-the-art equestrian centre was one of just 17 key venues in Herts to be approved as a pre-Games Olympic or Paralympic training camp.

However, Sarah Moreland, a senior advanced skills practitioner at the college, said the centre has yet to be booked by a visiting Paralympic equestrian team.

The equestrian facility is an established British Horse Society exam centre, a national competition venue and nationally approved Riding for the Disabled (RDA) training venue.

It has also hosted national and regional qualifiers for British dressage and the Riding for the Disabled Association.

Facilities include an international-size indoor and outdoor arenas, a solarium, over eight hectares of training cross-country course and stabling for up to 40 horses.

Sarah, who was involved in the bid to have the college chosen as an official Paralympic training ground, said that with just five venues selected as equestrian venues in the UK, “we are on standby”.

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She added: “A lot of venues haven’t been booked up, but that may come later.”

Sarah, 42, of Harpenden, is a third generation equestrian who received an MBE last year for services to further education, such as establishing the Oaklands Riding for the Disabled group.

She said: “I enjoy it. It probably comes from my grandma. She was a remarkable woman who went on to work with horses, and she rode in races, illegally, dressed as a boy.”

The RDA is a springboard for some riders who go on to represent Great Britain, and compete in the Paralympics.

The likes of Lee Pearson and Sophie Christianson, both of whom are Paralympic gold winners and have competed at Oaklands, are serious contenders to ride in this year’s Games. They started honing their equestrian skills in a RDA group about 15 years ago.

The college has a waiting list of people with learning or physical disabilities hoping to ride eight specially trained horses at Oaklands. Sarah said the college would like to hear from volunteers who could help lead the horses.