Filsket is an established riding club that offers affordable riding lessons to the community of Shetland. For the past few years we have been based in Lerwick, in the midst of our largest housing schemes where many of the residents are the more vulnerable members of our society, single parents and on benefits. But our membership has folk from Foula to Sumburgh. Due to limited facilities and short summers, lessons are only delivered for 16 weeks between May and September. Our current outdoor riding arena is on a long term lease from the local authority, unfortunately, due to the weather and its location, it is not conducive to providing an all-year round service. Our group are keen to install an adequate surface to increase the riding year and the opportunities we can provide. All our club and horses we loan have the perfect temperament for a riding school and a fit for purpose arena would improve their experience too.
We currently have 47 members, mostly girls. We cater for the beginner to the experienced rider providing limited opportunities for less abled and vulnerable members of our community. This has until now been on a ‘request’ and ‘word of mouth’ basis. Discussions with local community groups such as Disability Shetland, ASN Schools, Social Work, Mind Your Head has shown that we would increase diversity in our membership if a fit for purpose arena was installed. This facility will be of benefit to all of those with an interest in equestrian activities and will take us to a position where we can apply for the Riding for the Disabled Association Accessibility Mark, ensuring we are an accredited centre.
We actively encourage our members to register with the local Volunteering Services. Several of our members have received certificates over the years. Volunteering is an important process during membership of the club. Spending time with the younger members promotes inclusive learning and peer participation. Many of our older members who no longer ride commit what time they can to volunteering for the club and helping with fundraising – once a member always a member!
With the limited funds the club has, over the last few years we have fixed fencing, gates and walls, installed some extra drainage and a small hard standing area. These small improvements have improved health and safety for both horses and rider. We have a number of smashing little ponies that either belong to the club or are donated as summer loans.
Community involvement is very important to the club. We support the local Lerwick Gala Day, run by the Lerwick Scouts. This is usually the longest queue of the day and is a great way to meet your enthusiasts and the next income of members! In the past we have been invited to join in with Shetland Sports Week, it was fantastic to see all members of the family joining in.
We also take part in the Voar Redd Up, a Shetland Wide initiative run the Shetland Amenity Trust which cleans up local beaches and other beauty spots. This is a great way to give a little back to the community and raise some funds too. We use the Sandveien Neighbourhood Centre and other local halls and venues for fundraising events - sunday teas, pet shows, quiz days, prizegivings, AGM’s. We are in contact with other riding groups, local vets, SSPCA officers, local crofters, councillors and suppliers who always show support.
We were also delighted that the newly formed British Horse Society Shetland Committee invited us to join their committee and look forward to helping spread the word and signing up for their ‘Changing Lives Through Horses Programme’. Changing Lives through Horses aims to improve the lives of young people who, for various reasons, are disengaged and at risk of becoming excluded. Using horses as the inspiration for change, the programme provides an alternative learning environment to mainstream education. The skills developed through the programme meet the requirements of ongoing education and training, employers and participants.