FESTINA Lente, the charity and equestrian learning centre, is seeking support to help buy and develop a new education centre in Co Wicklow.

The organisation, which employs 60 people and assists 450 people every week, is currently based in Bray but the lease on those lands will expire shortly.

A suitable property on 42 acres - Belfield House in Kilpedder - has been identified. It will cost €3 million to purchase and already €500,000 has been raised. If the charity can successfully buy this land, it will be in a strong position to apply for state funds to develop the facility.

This week Rachael Blackmore, Cian O’Connor and Nina Carberry travelled to Dublin city centre to help launch the fundraising drive.

Blackmore said: “I was lucky to spend time with some of the children at Festina Lente recently. They are all champions, keen to learn and benefit from the special connection horses have with humans.

“Festina Lente’s extensive list of programmes offer a future path in life to those in need. This is why raising the funds to secure their new home is critical.”

Retraining racehorses

As well as providing a range of equestrian training programmes for people with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds, Festina Lente retrains retired racehorses and has ambitions to do a lot more in this area.

Dr Jill Carey, CEO, explained: “Our plan is to build a state-of-the-art National Education Centre to continue our current work. We will be also focussing on retraining and repurposing racehorses, enabling these animals to have a second career in riding clubs, dressage, show jumping and in certain equine assisted learning programmes.

“As part of this, Festina Lente will develop an accredited training programme for equestrians wishing to learn how to look after and work with ex-racehorses.’

Finbar Cahill, well-known in racing as the owner of Pinch Hitter and Helvic Dream, is a patron of the charity and heads the fundraising committee. He said: “It is critical to the survival of Festina Lente that the €3 million is raised to fund a purchase of Belfield House which has already been agreed.

“Once we are over this first hurdle, the second challenge will be to raise the €20 million to get the facility up and running.”

Donations are the simplest way to help and the charity has experts on hand to help individuals or businesses interested in making a contribution, which may qualify for tax relief.

There is also an option to loan money to Festina Lente for a seven-year term which may suit corporations with a socially responsible agenda or individuals with a private pension fund.

Willie Mullins is another big supporter of Festina Lente, and Horse Racing Ireland has also taken an interest.

HRI’s chief executive Suzanne Eade commented: “Festina Lente provides fantastic equine assisted learning and therapeutic horse-riding programmes and their work has a huge impact, not only in Ireland, but across Europe.”

How to donate or find out more

  • Web: festinalente.ie/a-new-home-for-Festina-Lente/
  • Email: jillcarey@festinalente.ie, shane.gill@keycapital.ie, jfinbarcahill@gmail,com
  • Tel: 087 2546324 (Finbar), 086 354 9755 (Shane), 086 354 9755 (Jill)