New digs for Saddleview Pony Club

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Grounds found . . . Saddleview Pony Club members celebrate their new grounds at Miller Park in Green Island (from left) secretary Sharleen Warren, treasurer Nicki Howie, president Louise Lawrence, and head coach Kathy Fuller. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A battle-worn Dunedin pony club has found a new home.

A front page story in The Star in February last year reported a long and costly legal battle between Saddleview Pony Club and Dunedin Riding for the Disabled (RDA).

The fight was about the right for the club to occupy the grounds the two organisations shared in Flower St, Fairfield.

The two parties reached a settlement of Dunedin RDA buying the club’s three buildings on the grounds for $9000.

RDA paid the club another $1000 to end all claims by the club.

The club left the grounds on Waitangi Day last year and began searching for new grounds.

Club treasurer Nicki Howie, of Walton Park, said the club recently signed a lease to establish grounds on about 3.5ha at Miller Park in Abbotsford.

“We are really happy we have somewhere to call our own.”

The land – below the car park of the Green Island Rugby Club junior fields – is owned by the Dunedin City Council.

The club signed a five-year lease and have a right to renew for another five years.

When the first club members rode horses on the new grounds, she expected the committee members who fought to keepthe club alive to shed some tears.

To set up the grounds, a series of working bees were planned. The job list included tidying fences and clearing gorse.

The club was aiming to open the grounds in November.

Long-term plans include putting a portable clubrooms on the site.

The grounds, which had views across Green Island and out to Saddle Hill, was a mix of land suitable for coaching and grazing.

Club secretary Sharleen Warren, of Walton Park said the new site allowed the club greater scope for development than its former grounds in Fairfield, such as land for club members’ horses to graze permanently.

The club would also be more accessible than ever before as its grounds were more central to children living in the greater Green Island area, making it easier to ride horses to.

Club head coach Kathy Fuller, of Green Island, said any perception a pony club was elitist were misguided.

“You don’t need fancy gear or a fancy horse . . . you don’t have to have all that. We are all about fun and inclusion.”

Club president Louise Lawrence, of Abbotsford, said the club had salvaged a pony club sign once suspended from a pole in Flower St, Fairfield for installation on a post in John St in Abbotsford.

The club had up to 30 riding members at its peak and a drive was on to recruit riders aged up to 25.

“We welcome anyone to join us – with or without their own horse or pony, who has a passion for all things equine.”

She acknowledged the support of the council, the other eight pony clubs in the wider Dunedin area and the Saddle Hill Community Board.