A RIDING school has celebrated 40 years of helping people with disabilities or special needs get in the saddle.

Barrow Farm, which is located in Metsons Lane, in Highwood, near Chelmsford, held a public open day packed with celebrations to mark the anniversary, giving people the chance to watch their staff in action, a pony parade and chat to current riders and their families.

The centre, which was founded in 1976 by Mary Mitchell and her late husband Peter, is one of only two in Essex with the facilities to help those with disabilities to ride specially trained ponies.

Although the 120 riders pay a small contribution towards the cost of their riding sessions, the charity is dependent upon dona - tions, fundraising and legacies to meet its annual running costs.

Mrs Mitchell’s daughter Anne now runs the centre. She said: “We are marking the anniversary year by carrying out a much-needed refurbishment of our amenity block so that it is fit by 21st century standards to support riders, volunteers and other users.

“The project will provide new accessible toilets, a changing/shower room, a modern kitchen and a pleasant waiting room, where parents and carers can watch riders through a TV viewing system without distracting them.

“Work will take place in July and August this year so that the centre can reopen in early September for its regular work with pupils from special schools.”

Over the past 40 years, Barrow Farm has provided riding sessions for thousands of local people with disabilities. With the completion of the sum - mer project, it will be in a position to go on providing riding lessons well into the future.

Anne added: “Riding at Barrow Farm is all about ability, achievement and fun for people with a disability.

“Anyone who rides horses will tell you it’s a million things – exhilarating, exciting, relaxing, challenging, stimulating, satisfying and just the best thing ever. Barrow Farm riders feel this way too.”

Find out more at barrowfarmrda.org.uk