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Urban Cowboys turn to Study

Thursday 14th December saw the official opening of a unique humanitarian and equine welfare project in the heart of a large Dublin housing estate.

Fettercairn Trainee and Minister The Fettercairn Youth Horse Project in Tallaght was conceived in 1995 by a group of adults and young people. The initial aims were to help channel interest and respect for horses into a constructive community activity that would provide local youths with opportunities to develop personal, social and vocational skills. By September of that year the group was catering for 40 young people between the ages of 10 and 25 years.

The project is situated on a 7 acre area of previously disused land, owned by South Dublin County Council, beside the Fettercairn Community Centre and the Markets.

From its humble beginnings of a few ramshackle stables the project has grown into a large, well run enterprise with funding coming from the Department of Agriculture, South Dublin County Council, and the Urban Iinitative to name but a few.

The International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) has been involved with the Project from the outset offering advice and support and funding to the tune of £45,000 over the next 5 years towards the salary of the Stable Training and Education Manager.

Says David Mountford, Head of Equine Operations at the ILPH, “Before this scheme started there were considerable equine welfare problems in the area as a result of horses and ponies, owned by kids with little or no horsecare knowledge, being allowed to wander loose in built up areas.

“This project provides a perfect opportunity for the ILPH to promote equine welfare through education.”
Fettercairn Sam and Peggy

Tony Schorman, ILPH Field Officer, who is a member of the Board and Steering Committee, says “The completion of this project gives me great personal satisfaction not only because the future welfare and safety of the horses involved in the scheme is now assured, but also because the young people are being educated to a standard that will give them the opportunity for employment in the horse world.”

The drive and enthusiasm generated at the Centre has to be seen to be believed. With the official opening barely behind them they are already talking about how they can find sponsorship for the next phase of the project, a covered riding arena.

Fettercairn Darren and Thunder But the last word has to go to Darren White, 14, who has been attending the centre from the beginning, “Instead of getting into trouble out on the streets we come here and learn to care for the horses. I would like to work in a racing yard when I’m older,” he added.

Editor’s note: Horses have had a key role in Dublin commercial activities and were traditionally kept on open spaces long before Fettercain Housing Estate was developed. They still hold an important place in the hearts of many inner city and suburban adults and young people. Until 1997 when the Government introduced the Control of Horses Act Dublin was overcrowded with Urban Cowboys, youths and young children riding their ponies bitless and bareback through the urban streets. These unfortunate animals were allowed to wander free, resulting in many accidents both to man and beast. The Act outlawed minors from owning horses and ponies, and all the animals were rounded up by local authorities and impounded.

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