Trotting out an unusual CCA
Thirteen schools, mostly in the heartland, allow students to pick up horse riding at lower cost. -ST
By Amelia Tan
HORSE riding - the sport of kings?
Think again. It has been introduced as a co-curricular activity (CCA) this year in 13 primary and secondary schools.
By year end, 11 more schools may be added to the list.
The new Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre is behind the push to bring horse riding to the community, from which may come Singapore's next batch of equestrian champions.
The centre, keen on changing the image of horse riding as an 'elite sport', deliberately knocked on the doors of neighbourhood schools first, said its senior manager Karina Lim.
The schools now on the CCA programme are heartland schools such as Queenstown Secondary, Jurong Secondary and Edgefield Primary.
The notable exception is Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).
Students show up at the centre's two-month-old premises on a 3ha site next to the Singapore Racecourse in Kranji for their riding lessons.
There, in Singapore's biggest horse-riding facility, they are taught how to ride and play games on horseback. They also learn how to feed, clean and care for horses.
The students attend 45-minute sessions weekly in groups of up to 10, led by an instructor. Each student is assigned an equestrian assistant, who is responsible for the learner's safety.
Chief riding instructor Andrew Dunn said safety is the priority at the centre, and that he and his team had gone to Australia to pick out horses of the 'right temperament' that react well to young riders.
'They also have to be strong enough to stand up to the workload. It is hard work for a horse to have to do up to three 45-minute rides a day with a child on its back,' he added.
The centre's programme is really a second stab at bringing horse riding to Singapore students as a CCA.
The sport made its debut as a school activity about six years ago, courtesy of the Pony Club of Singapore, but the programme wound up after a year.
Of course, students can also join any of the four horse-riding schools here - two are public and two are private - for classes on their own time, but these are more expensive.
A 10-lesson group programme in a public school costs $500 to $600.
Private schools charge about $560 for an eight-lesson beginner programme, after which riders will need to pay membership fees to join the club in order to continue using the facilities.
The two public schools are Gallop Stable's branches in Turf Club Road and Pasir Ris. The two private ones are the Bukit Timah Saddle Club and the Singapore Polo Club.
At Queenstown Secondary, for instance, a student who signs up for horse riding as a CCA pays $500 for 30 lessons, which amounts to half the actual cost per head. The difference is covered by the student's Edusave account.
Needy students can apply for financial aid to pay for the lessons.
Queenstown Secondary principal Ang Chee Seng said his school introduced horse riding as a CCA because not many students would otherwise be exposed to it on account of the cost involved.
Private tutor Jeannie Lim, whose daughter Candy Tio is one of nine students in Queenstown Secondary on the programme, said $500 was not a small sum, but it was still less than what she would have to pay if Candy took riding lessons at one of the riding schools.
Candy, 15, is sold on her new CCA.
She said: 'I look forward to each lesson. I hope my school can continue to offer horse riding as a CCA next year so I can practise more and get better.
'I may even want to join competitions.'
Bowled over by the not-so-ordinary
This was introduced at Edgefield Primary in Punggol as an enrichment activity about eight years ago.
It grew so popular within three years that the school made it a co-curricular activity (CCA). It has bagged medals in inter-school competitions.
Pupils are put through their paces in four dances - the cha cha, the jive, the waltz and the tango - during their weekly sessions.
The teacher-in-charge of the CCA, Ms Liew Mei Teng, said she has seen her pupils improve in their conduct and mature because dancing demands teamwork and respect for one another.
This French bowling game, similar to British lawn bowling, has been introduced at Pioneer Junior College and Greenridge Primary School.
It is played with metallic balls on a dirt surface.
This is a CCA at Henry Park Primary, Shuqun Primary, Cedar Primary and Elias Park Primary.
Advanced skaters have even taken part in ice-skating shows such as Holiday on Ice.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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