The popular 'Introduction to Horse Riding' schools pilot programme has been extended to next month because of its recent success.
The Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE) collaboration was designed to provide an opportunity for both fifth- and sixth-class primary and secondary school students to try horse riding for the first time.
The pilot programme has been under way since last autumn and is designed to give students the opportunity to experience horse riding in their local AIRE-approved riding establishment.
For those who may never have seen a horse up close before, let alone ridden one, it has proven to be an unforgettable experience.
Twenty AIRE riding establishments were selected for the programme and around 60 local schools are participating.
The feedback has been positive and the scheme is proving especially popular with transition-year students.
A subsidised rate of €10 per child per lesson has been agreed with AIRE riding centres, while HSI provides an €8 per student travel subsidy for each pupil participating.
The one-hour lesson includes demonstration riding by expert tutors, safety around ponies and horses, care of the horse and tack, and the opportunity to try horse riding in a supervised environment.
Joe Walsh, chairman of HSI, said he was delighted to announce the programme extension.
"While we focus on Team Ireland Equestrian's pursuit of medals in 2012, it's important to remember where it all starts," he said.
"Horse Sport Ireland is committed to supporting the development of the equestrian leisure industry and giving children the opportunity to try horse riding for the first time."