$30 million riding school hunkers down because it must, founder says

"Massive conditions" imposed by Government means centre avoids public exposure -- but doesn't need it anyway: it's full

riding1.jpgThere is no more charming facility in the Sai Kung area than the riding school near Lobster Bay — at least for animal lovers. Yet it is low-profile and appears under-used, at least in mid-summer.

Visiting on a sparkling Sunday we found just two children being given lessons by pink-shirted and booted women instructors.  The kids were riding in round paddocks with the solicitous instructors walking alongside guiding them. Two families wandered about.

Another instructor was exercising an enormous horse called Big Ben, the largest at the school, she said. Grooms tended to the 36 horses in the paddocks and the stables.

The Clearwater Bay Equestrian Education Centre is privately owned by Nicky Loiterton, a former music industry marketing executive.  She explained why the riding centre has to be low-profile. Use of the land was approved by the Government subject to “massive conditions”. Neighbouring villagers complain. “We have to be very careful,” Nicky said.   This sounds like Hong Kong; getting such a facility up and trotting in this over-regulated city is an admirable accomplishment.

Nicky said mid-summer is the low season. Members are away; instructors are given annual leave.

The centre cost about $30 million to set up.  She said it’s a viable business, comfortably covering its operating costs. A private membership club, it’s full. Membership varies from $16,000 to $150,000. A limited number of non-member packages area available but you have to wait in line for a slot to become free. Week-day camps are run by the centre and these can be promoted, because they are deemed educational.

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