OXFORD’S largest estate is set to get a horse and pony centre this summer to encourage children to learn about wildlife.
Blackbird Leys resident Annie Blackwell is opening the centre in a field off Pettiwell Lane, Garsington.
Miss Blackwell, 46, said: “Oxford is not just a concrete jungle. These fields are full of all sorts of things – we have rabbits and kites and insects. It’s like children have never seen any animals, they don’t take any notice.
“I want to get them out and teach them about wildlife a bit more. They need to understand there’s more to life than PlayStations and Xboxes.”
The centre will open on July 5 and has seven ponies and three horses of various breeds – including a Shire horse and Shetland pony – for visitors to groom and ride.
Miss Blackwell said: “The plan is for them to to come and do fun things with the horses, like plait their hair and put glitter on and stuff –it will be like playing My Little Pony.
“A lot of children enjoy just grooming rather than hopping on a horse and saying, ‘Let’s go.’ It’s lovely to go for a ride, but it’s not quite the same as spending time with them.”
She said: “Grooming the horses is very therapeutic and it makes such a difference for children. Horses aren’t scary, they don’t just bite and kick. They are quite happy to stand there and be petted.”
As well as grooming sessions, Miss Blackwell hopes to run other activities at the centre.
She said: “It depends on what age group they are, but we’ll get older kids feeding them and filling hay sacks.
“We’ll have other wildlife activities like bug packs and spotting swallows and other birds.
“I also want to do demonstrations for families called I Want a Pony, for kids who want them but don’t understand what a commitment it is, where they can look at the realities of owning a horse before they buy one.
“I’m hoping to get lots of primary school children, but I want a mix of people. Adults are welcome as well as children.”
The horses are owned by Miss Blackwell’s sister Stephanie.
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