Double Delight for Local Stables

As regular TW readers will know, Park Lane Stables (PLS) – a Riding for the Disabled Association centre – in Teddington has endured more than its fair share of trials and tribulations. Now, it’s back in the news once more but this time it’s a double cause for celebration, as Fiona Kingston found out when she spoke to Stables’ manager Natalie O’Rourke.

“Don’t fear the storm for the rainbow is never far behind” were words used to motivate the team at Park Lane Stables, Teddington during 2021. They now ring true for manager Natalie O’Rourke. After a tumultuous year, which raised £1.3 million, she has the keys to the Stables, which is currently undergoing refurbishment ready for a spring reopening, and an MBE.

Despite 13 years at PLS, the MBE took Natalie by surprise. “I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke. There was a phone number on the letter in case of questions, so I called and asked if it was a mistake. No it’s definitely real was the answer.”

Recognising her services to disabled people and the community in Teddington, the MBE is richly deserved. The Stables welcome riders of all ages and more than 350 people with disabilities. To help people’s wellbeing, ponies attend schools, hospitals and care homes.

A tireless community campaign

Of Natalie’s battle to save the Stables, volunteer Cathy Cooper, who campaigned on horseback in Bushy Park, said: “It’s the success story of the decade and touched people’s hearts all over the world.”

Artist Joy Cuff, another volunteer, said: “The ethos of Park Lane Stables is very inclusive, friendly, like a big family. Natalie is the driving force behind this ethos. Her energy is very infectious.” Motivated by her enthusiasm, Joy, unable to visit the Stables during the lockdown, began painting and selling pictures of their ponies to support the crowdfunding.

One painting of a young girl’s nightly lockdown visits to see pony Trigger, ‘to give him a goodnight kiss’, raised a significant sum. As did the initiative asking supporters to sponsor bricks. A new brick wall in the refurbished Stables, featuring their names, will act as a legacy to the nationwide response.

Did Natalie doubt she would succeed? “Yes, many times. It was so difficult; it was like climbing a mountain in a blizzard with no equipment.”

Celebrity support

Her backers are numerous. During the year-long fight, celebrities, the racing community, the Riding for the Disabled Association, the trustees, and Caitlin Limmer, from the Bearcat running team, stepped forward to help. When their collective effort pushed the deal over the line, Natalie revealed: “We were over the moon, and many happy tears were shed.”

Manor Farm Stables, Petersham, a treasured base during the crisis, remains a temporary safe haven until PLS’s renovations, focusing on the horses’ welfare, are completed. Natalie, who first fell in love with horses at a fair when she was six, plans a big party to celebrate PLS’s return to Teddington.

Local celebrity Rob Brydon, delighted with her success, said: “I was very happy to play a small part in this most unusual story with a happy ending. I wish Natalie and her horses a very enjoyable time in their new, old home.”

Fiona Kingston

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