Horses at school spur move to build arena

St Kevin's College assistant principal Jo Walshe and pupil Sheldon Corbishley, who has offered to...
St Kevin's College assistant principal Jo Walshe and pupil Sheldon Corbishley, who has offered to help with the project, check progress on the school's new horse arena. Photo by Rebecca Ryan.

St Kevin's College will hold a grand opening of its new horse arena next month, with good progress made on groundworks in the first week.

The co-educational Oamaru secondary school introduced an equine studies programme in the second term of this year and the support and interest had been ''amazing'', assistant principal and programme co-ordinator Jo Walshe said.

''I thought if we could get six kids keen, then that'd be great,'' she said.

''But at the moment I've got about 17, so it's been pretty amazing.''

The new arena will measure 60m long by 20m wide, based on dressage size. It has been under construction for about a week.

''The kids will be able to do their dressage, but they will also be able do their normal riding and a bit of jumping [in the arena],'' she said.

The idea had been suggested in the past because of the number of rural boarding pupils who ride and keep horses on school grounds.

After finding equine studies tutor Ingla Inklew, and benefiting from a bequest, it was possible to go ahead with the arena project.

''We're really thrilled that we've been able to create this facility for kids and the community to use,'' Ms Walshe said.

The introduction of an equine programme and construction of an arena has brought St Kevin's College in a full circle.

Before the college became co-educational in 1983, with the introduction of boarding and day female students, horse riding classes were available for female students at Teschemakers.

The area around the new fenced arena will be developed and landscaped, giving the school the opportunity to pull out a number of old bluegum trees.

There will be a grass bank for spectators and the school hopes to make the facility available for people in the wider community, too.

Next year, St Kevin's will introduce achievement standards at NCEA levels 2 and 3 in equine studies.

The programme will also be available for years 9 and 10 pupils.

''It's just about getting confidence and looking after animals. It's a really positive thing,'' Ms Walshe said.

The school has one horse, on loan from Waimate, while other pupils brought their own.

''We wanted to be able to offer it to kids who don't have their own horses, as well,'' Ms Walshe said.

Next year, the school hopes to introduce ''flexible Fridays'', where pupils would not have to come out of another scheduled class to take part in equine studies.

The grand opening of the St Kevin's College horse arena will be held on October 31.

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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