Urgent appeal as Avon Centre hoist failure leaves some people with disabilities unable to ride

  • Watch Graham Lewis' report

A charity that helps disabled people learn to ride has started an urgent appeal to help replace two hoists that have come to the end of their working life.

One of the hoists at the Avon Centre in Bristol helps people who are unable to mount horses from the ground. The other offers access to the horse simulator. 

Both hoists are more than 20 years old and have now failed with parts no longer available.

The centre has launched an appeal to help fund replacements.

Instructor Cat McCartney Kitson said: “None of my riders today needed to use the hoist.

"But we have many other riders across the week that are wheelchair users, or can stand but not easily transfer themselves to a horse, which is quite a difficult task for anybody, let alone if you've got motor challenges.

"So without that hoist, there are riders that simply wouldn't be able to access all services and as an inclusive disability service, that's key, that everybody can access us."

ITV News West Country visited the centre during a session where Ms MaCartney Kitson was teaching young people with disabilities techniques to improve their riding.

Riders at the Avon Centre in Bristol. Credit: ITV West Country

Lauren White, 19, has been riding horses at the Avon Centre since she was seven.

She said: “They listen to what you're feeling, they listen to your emotions, they understand when you're stressed because they get stressed or they can calm down a bit.

"You have to learn to be aware of your emotions and how it affects them.

"Like when Hercules was a bit scared of the camera, I was like, I got it. Deep breaths, I’ve got to tell him he's fine.”

Joe Murley, 18, said: “I've not been here that long, only for a few months. But even in that time I’ve found so many friends, I’ve found a social life here and it's been amazing.

"And being able to ride here and just make the friends that I have, it just feels amazing to me.”

Gaelle Rochrgneux, 13, said: “Without horses, I don't know what I would do.

"It's like literally the reason I go outside on the weekends and honestly, it's so worth it because it takes a lot of effort.

"But there's so much you get out of it and also you get a bunch of new friends, both horses and humans.”

Trustees at the Avon Centre say riding helps people’s physical and mental health and they’re determined to replace the hoists so they can remain fully inclusive.