Riding centres are seeing workforce shortages and increased operational costs.
Horse-riding centres are being faced with a ‘supply and demand dilemma’, as they see workforce shortages and increasing operational costs across the country.
British Equestrian (BEF) revealed that the sector saw little change since its Spring 2022 survey, which revealed that most centres were operating at an average operational capacity of 75 per cent. A follow-up survey in Spring 2023 showed similar statistics.
In the 2023 ‘Health of Riding Establishments’ survey, 70 per cent of centres said that they wanted to improve their capacity, but were having difficulty. Half of the centres which responded held a waitlist with an average of 20 names.
One factor contributing to this is believed to be a significant shortfall in workforce, including coaches, volunteers and horses. 44 per cent of centres said they didn’t have sufficient paid staff, due to availability and cost.
Approximately 46 per cent of centres felt they had a shortage of volunteers and, of these, 71 per cent wanted one to five more volunteers. The issue with horsepower appears to have eased since last year, however 56 per cent of centres said they ideally would like more horses.
Horse-riding centres also struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, as they see increases to operational costs. 55 per cent of centres reported that the increasing costs of insurance, feed and energy were worsening their capacity issues.
Earlier this year, the British Horse Society (BHS) launched their ‘Keep Britain Riding’ campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of the struggling horse-riding sector. BHS’s research revealed that 15 per cent of Britain’s riding schools had closed since 2018– equating to 1.5 million horse-riding lessons lost per year.
In response to this, the British Grooms Association and Equestrian Employers Association joined the BHS’ working group to help tackle the issue.
Following their 2023 survey results, BEF have committed to supporting riding centres with:
Business development and growth– including maintaining the interest of those on riding school waiting lists
Fundraising– analysing the use of a £250,000 grant from Sport England as well as raising awareness of funding opportunities
Marketing– providing marketing support, educational webinars and promotional support to riding centres, as well as a listing on their ‘find a centre’ service.
Staff management– identifying tangible actions into recruitment issues, while supporting existing staff
Volunteer management– developing clear guidelines on volunteering, including how to reward volunteers
Mandana Mehran Pour, head of participation for BEF, said: “There is a great deal of existing resource and information, which we can pool to help in the short-term while we continue to lobby, plan and build a better long-term outlook. This can only be achieved by working together and I’m grateful to all who have contributed so far, but there is still a great deal of work to be done.
“We need to make sure the equestrian industry is seen as an attractive and rewarding place of employment for all, while helping centres in their business planning and operations.”
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