A Middlesbrough riding school for the disabled has thanked a local charity for galloping to its rescue after intruders made a series of “shocking” night-time attacks on the centre’s horses.
Horses at the Unicorn Centre, a purpose-built Riding for the Disabled facility in Hemlington, came under attack when youths threw stones and eggs at them.
Staff at the centre were further alarmed when night-time intruders, sometimes armed and with dogs, entered the premises for late-night “lamping” to shoot wild animals.
Manager Claire Pitt said: “The Centre was being targeted by local trouble-makers and the situation was getting desperate.
“While there was never any risk to any of our volunteers, the incidents were extremely concerning to me and our staff.
“As animal-lovers, it was very distressing to know our horses were being hurt by people throwing stones at them and even covering them with eggs. The horses had become nervous and were clearly upset.
“Equally, a number of individuals were entering our property in darkness, often armed with air guns and with dogs, to hunt wild animals.
“That was worrying and alarming but, without a fence, they were able to wander onto our land from a public footpath.
“We’re so well supported by the community in terms of dozens of volunteers who help out at the centre, so it was so sad that a minority were targeting us in such a horrible way.”
Talks with the Police resulted in CCTV cameras being erected before the Unicorn Centre turned to the Philanthropic Foundation to help pay for the cost of erecting fencing around the premises.
“We had fantastic support from the Police, but there’s only so much you can put up with and we knew we had to put in place preventive measures,” added Claire.
Having previously received £5,000 from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation towards a new floor, the Unicorn Centre received a further £5,750 towards new security fencing.
“We are so grateful and indebted to the Foundation for their support,” added Claire. “Without wanting to tempt fate, the issues do appear to have stopped since the fencing and cameras went in.
“That means we can all now focus on what we do – providing riding therapy sessions to more than 200 local children and adults with disabilities.”
Philanthropic Foundation trustee Emma Simkins of patrons Henderson Insurance Brokers said: “It’s brilliant that we’ve been able to help the Unicorn Centre in their hour of need.
“Having helped the centre purchase a new riding floor a couple of years ago, we were naturally concerned to hear about the attacks, which really do defy belief.
“We had no hesitation in giving them another financial helping hand. It’s a fantastic facility for Teesside’s disabled community and we’re delighted to make sure that remains the case.”
Set up 20 years ago, the purpose-built centre serves more than 170 Teesside children and adults with a range of disabilities.
Nearly 120 volunteers help out at the centre but they are always on the look-out for more, and there is currently a particular shortage on Thursday evenings and Saturdays.