A Middlesbrough riding for the disabled charity has added a famous name to its stable of horses thanks to a four-figure grant through its local Newcastle Building Society branch.

Caesar, a 15.3 hands grey cob, has taken up residence at The Unicorn Centre, which is a purpose-built facility offering riding therapy and learning and training opportunities for over 200 disabled adults and children from the Tees Valley area each week.

Located in Hemlington, the popular centre had been struggling to keep up with demand for riding lessons and had been looking to add to its stable of horses so it could reduce its growing waiting list.

After being awarded a £3,000 grant through Newcastle Building Society’s Linthorpe Road branch in Middlesbrough, the charity began its search for the right horse and eventually obtained Caesar from a private seller in North Yorkshire.

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

The Unicorn Centre, which is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, aims to provide riding for people with disabilities in an inclusive, safe and supportive environment that will allow each individual to achieve their full potential.

It was the first centre of its type to win the Matrix Standard, a nationally-recognised quality mark for organisations which provide support to individuals to make learning and work more accessible, and recently became the first accredited Dementia Friendly riding establishment and RDA group in the country.

It was also voted as British Dressage Northern Small Venue of the Year last year, and is supported by a team of around 100 local volunteers who assist with riding lessons each week.

Claire Pitt, centre manager at The Unicorn Centre, says: “The centre attracts riders from right across the area and its popularity means we have a lot of new people wanting to take advantage of what we offer.

“Our horses work with people who have a range of different disabilities, so as well as needing to be physically big enough for adults to ride, our planned new addition also needed the right type of calm temperament.

“Caesar is a substantial character with a lovely personality and was precisely what we were looking for – we were really lucky to find him and he already has a big fan club among our riders.

“We’re absolutely indebted to the Society for their support in enabling us to bring him to the centre and we’ve already been able to increase the amount of sessions and training available to our riders, which will in turn mean we can make a positive difference to the lives of even more local people.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £494,707 in grants and partnerships, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The most recent grant application period saw 40 projects that had been nominated by Society customers receive a total of £94,982 between them.

Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the newcastle.co.uk website by customers who wish to support their local communities.  There are larger grants of up to £50,000 also available to assist groups in improving or maintaining community buildings.

Kimberley Saunders, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Middlesbrough branch, adds: “The Unicorn Centre has a fantastically positive impact on the lives and well-being of so many people around our region, and it’s great to know that our support is enabling them to do even more.

“The Society is committed to making positive contributions to our communities and supporting this sort of invaluable organisation is a great way for us to do just that.”

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.