A riding school in Braydon is jumping for joy after learning it was won £68,000 of National Lottery funding so it can expand its work to help autistic and special needs children.
The Hoof Club, which is based at Buryhill Farm and run by John and Johanna McDonald, will use the cash from Sport England's Inspired Facilities Fund to turn a disused farm building into a training centre with a disabled-friendly classroom, clubroom, office and better restroom facilities.
The club teaches riding and horse care to anyone from the age of four upwards, but its main focus is on providing horse riding and care training in an alternative learning environment for children with special needs or on the autistic spectrum. It also provides training towards British Horse Society qualifications for 16 to 18-year-olds from schools such as Nylands, Uplands and Wiltshire College.
It is already offering free tester sessions to Wiltshire schools for their special educational needs (SEN) pupils.
Mr McDonald, 55, said: "Our Hoof Club has been widely embraced by the local community and we have attracted over 100 members in the last two years. However, limited facilities have restricted any further growth. There is a large untapped demand for equine training which has been evidenced via local councillors, special needs school advisers and the local community. The initiative has also gained support from our local MP, partly due to the planned increase in employment this facility will generate.
"We first put in our application at the end of 2015 and it does take them a long time to evaluate but we worked well with Sport England and they were really supportive."
Mr McDonald runs the Hoof Club with his wife Johanna, 36, a riding instructor, as a community interest not-for-profit company and wants to continue to provide lessons and training to the whole community.
He added: "It is great that we will have a permanent facility that will benefit the whole community and those who are interested in riding. We have also been offering schools that have SEN children free taster sessions because they often benefit and interact well with animals and horses in particular. We offer the free taster sessions in groups up to five and teachers can bring them along to see if it has an impact on their interaction, education and behaviour."
The McDonalds hope work on the centre will begin at the start of the new year.
Sport England property director Charles Johnston, said: "The Inspired Facilities Fund has had a huge impact on grassroots sport across the country. Since 2011, we’ve invested £102 million into more than 1,920 projects to improve and refurbish sports clubs and transform non-sporting venues into vibrant community sports clubs. It’s great to see Hoof Club CIC join the long list of successful clubs to benefit from this fund."