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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 12 April
Repeated Thursday 17 April
Listen to this programme in full
This week Helen Mark visits villages to the north and west of York to meet the New Equestrians, finding out why more and more people are taking up horse riding.

There is a growing trend apparent all over the UK that more and more people own horses. A survey conducted by The British Equestrian Trade Association showed that numbers have almost doubled over the past 10 years, with now over 4 million people regularly taking to the saddle.

Helen Mark travels to villages just outside York to meet a variety of horse owners of different ages and from very different walks of life to find out why they ride. There are the traditional families who have always kept horses but now there seem to be more and more people like Sue Helmont who took up riding as an adult. Although Sue works full time she can still own a horse, because she pays for it to be kept in full livery. In fact in the area around Haxby, whereas a few years ago there were around 40 horses in livery there are now over 200, partly because farmers have taken advantage of grants to diversify.

Helen Mark investigates the effect on the rural economy and also hears concerns from the British Horse Society as to whether there may be now too many horses too soon with some people not knowing how to keep them. On the other hand does this increase in number of people riding mean a significant improvement in British horsemanship and does this augur well for equestrian events in the Olympics in 2012? Helen meets Catherine Wheelock who is a fierce contestant for the Para-Olympics and watches her as she puts her horse through its paces for the dressage.

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