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A RIDING for the Disabled centre at Upper Beeding may be forced to close after heartless thieves stole all its specialist tack and equipment. THE owners of a charity centre that offers horse riding to disabled children are devastated after thieves stole all their riding equipment. The South Downs Riding for the Disabled Association in Upper Beeding had its entire tack, worth more than £10,000, stolen during the burglary over Friday night/Saturday morning (Feb 9/10). The centre, run by couple Jill and Rupert Blake for the past 25 years, could now be forced to close.

Disheartened Jill said: "Some of the saddles were one-offs and made specially for children with specific disabilities. We'll never be able to replace them.

"They've taken everything we had. They've stripped us of everything."
Her husband, Rupert, said: "We're just one of many struggling charities - this makes me very angry."

One little girl, who raised money to buy a saddle through sponsored activities, was devastated to hear her saddle had been stolen less than a week after she proudly handed it over.

The police said the theft was "a despicable burglary" that would affect a lot of people, leaving children who were already disadvantaged at an even greater disadvantage.

Horse riding helps with balance, co-ordination and muscle control and helps disabled children to build trusting relationships. It is the only way some children can experience outdoor activity.

Jill is now embarking on a heart-felt plea to the public for any spare tack to keep the centre going at New Brook Farm in Pound Lane. She also needs donations to help replace some of the uninsured saddles. And hope is on the horizon. Nine kind-hearted people have already come forward with saddles and equipment after extensive press, radio and television coverage touched people's hearts, on Wednesday (Feb 14) someone offered to buy the centre a saddle and another person donated £200. Jill had insured only £10,000 of her £15,000 tack because of high premiums which the charity could not afford.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to call 0845 6070 999 and are eager to speak to anyone who saw a suspicious vehicle near the village centre. They would also like an anonymous woman caller who claimed to have information about the theft to get back in touch.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to the centre can call 01903 815 924.

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