Cross-posted from The Times (UK)
By CHARLENE SWEENEY
AN EMERGENCY OPERATION STARTED LAST NIGHT to rescue scores of horses left without food when the biggest riding school in Scotland went into administration.
Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre, near Falkirk, called in the administrators Tenon yesterday after days of problems at the £10 million facility, which opened two years ago.
Feed merchants removed recent deliveries at the weekend when cheques made out to them were not honoured, and one company seized the centre’s machinery in lieu of payment. Staff said that they had had no warning that the centre was in trouble and were said to be deeply shocked.
A local branch of the British Horse Society (BHS), the national charity, released funding yesterday to ensure that the centre’s animals would continue to be fed as supplies are due to run out today. There are no fields at the centre, so the horses cannot be put out to graze.
The Scottish Equestrian Association said that it would work with other horse charities to see if it could provide help.
Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre, which combines a riding school and livery yard, was opened by the local businessman Stuart Aitken in January 2007, with plans to become a centre for excellence.
It has 75 indoor stables and 90 outdoor stables as well as two of the biggest arenas in Britain, showers and solariums for the horses, and a lecture theatre. According to the centre’s website, there were plans to add a restaurant, bar, shop, accommodation and a children’s play area.
A year ago, the centre dismissed its manager, Ernest Dillon, the showjumper and a fellow of the BHS. Mr Dillon claimed unfair dismissal against his former employer. An industrial tribunal has heard the case but is yet to issue a judgment.
It is thought that there were 85 horses at the centre – 38 belonging to the riding school and 47 liveries – before news of its financial difficulties emerged. Some owners using the livery service are believed to have taken away their animals over the weekend.
Owners paid from £65 per week for a pony to £129 per week for full livery for a large horse. The centre was known to have a waiting list for liveries, and riding lessons were also booked in advance.
Irene Whitson, the chairwoman of British Horse Society’s Central Region, said yesterday that they were deeply concerned about the welfare of the horses at Kingsbarn.
“We understand that the centre only has sufficient horse feed left for [one more day] and the immediate priority for the administrators must be to ensure that supplies are brought as soon as possible,” she said.
“Staff must also be kept on to care for the animals. To this end BHS Central Region committee has offered some funds for the purchases of emergency supplies of feed and haylage.” Read more >>, TimesOnline.co.uk