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A HORSE lover who achieved her childhood dream of having her own riding school says there is enormous demand for the pastime.

Dorset has seen the closure of at least three riding schools in as many years, but Tayah Birkett opened her own at St Leonards earlier this year and says it is proving very popular.

Tayah,30, had previously been manager of a riding school in Brockenhurst which closed after the site was sold for development.

“The site was sold to a property developer and we had to sell the horses and close down. It took a long time to find another premises that would enable us to have a commercial use running a business. We spent four years looking for another yard,” she said.

After finding a site operating as a livery yard, providing horse care and boarding, she worked 100-hour weeks for two months to turn it into a riding school. The site has direct access to woodland and has floodlighting.

Eastmoors Riding School and Livery was granted a licence in May after inspection by a vet. It has 12 horses and ponies for riding, with the liveried animals bringing the total to 43.

Tayah said the recent riding school closures did not mean the activity was less popular.

“The demand for it is enormous. The closing down is not to do with demand, it’s more to do with insurance costs, which average about £4,000 a year and if your yard has an accident, the premium can cripple you,” she said.

“That can put people out of business. And a couple of local yards are closing down because they’ve lost the premises.”

As well as lessons, the school offers hacking rides in the nearby woodland, which have proved popular with holiday-makers. “They don’t have to have ridden at all. If they’re young or anxious we will hold the horse for them, and they’re all guided,” she said.

Tayah, who grew up in Christchurch and Bransgore and now lives in Ringwood, had her first horse when she was 12 and dreamed of making her living from horses.

“Even when I was 12-13, there was nothing I wanted to do more than have my own yard,” she said.

Eastmoors plans new activities including ladies’ mornings and pony parties for children.

Tayah said riding still appealed to children, with slightly more boys than girls riding.

“They absolutely love it. It’s a nice outdoor activity to do instead of sitting inside on the Xbox,” she said.