Cassie Lee from Mold, Flintshire, claims Sychdyn Riding School refused to allow her daughter Maddie to have horse riding lessons because she is autistic, with the school claiming it was down to its insurance policy
Image: Cassie Lee)
A furious mum claims her daughter was refused a horse riding lesson because her autism was “too bad.”
Cassie Lee, from Mold, Flintshire, said her 14-year-old daughter Maddie was turned down because of her additional needs.
The “heartbroken” mum-of-three said a member of staff at Sychdyn Riding School asked “how bad” Maddie’s autism was before refusing to allow the booking.
Cassie said the incident is a painful reminder how people with disabilities are “still not treated equally”, North Wales Live reports.
Sychdyn Riding School told North Wales Live it was necessary to access Maddie’s disability due to insurance concerns to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
A spokesperson for the school, based near Mold, added: “We have to consider everyone’s safety, there’s protocol we have to follow, and if people have different needs we have to factor that in, we don’t want to put anyone at risk .
“We’ve never come up against this in all the years. We’re not discriminating, we’re just sticking to within the law.”
However, Cassie claims it was “direct discrimination” and showed a “lack of empathy for people with special needs.”
She added: “I’m heartbroken, if I’m honest. I’m hurt because I’ve had to watch my little girl upset because she couldn’t go, just because she’s autistic.
“People these days say people with autism are accepted but we face struggles every day and no one sees that side of things.
“It’s really upsetting that people just write her off because everyone who knows Maddie loves her and knows how great she is, people on the street say ‘hiya’ to her before me because she’s so popular.”
Maddie’s autism means she communicates and expresses her emotions differently to others.
But Cassie said this is no reason for her daughter to miss out on things other children get to do.
Cassie said the riding school had been willing to take the booking when Maddie’s dad, Danny Brockley, had called on March 23.
But things changed when they learned of Maddie’s autism, Cassie claims.
She said: “Maddie’s dad called up first and spoke to someone and it was all fine but when he mentioned she had autism they said they couldn’t do it.
“They said it should be no problem until he explained that Maddie has autism and she might get excited when she sees the horses, and then they said she couldn’t come.
“Maddie stims which means she flaps her arms and makes noises when she gets excited but that’s just how she reacts and she shouldn’t be treated differently to anyone else.”
The mum-of-three added: “What upset me the most was how dismissive they were, it’s like they heard the word autism and made their minds up.
“They kept asking ‘how bad is it? How bad is her autism?,’ But it’s not bad, autism isn’t something bad it’s just different.
“I just want my little girl to be able to do what she enjoys.”
The devastated mum added she would not have allowed her daughter on a horse if it wasn’t safe.
But Sychdyn Riding School said they needed different insurance to work with Maddie safely, and recommended Clwyd Special Riding Centre, which specializes in riding for people with additional needs.
A spokesperson said: “We’re just trying to stick within the rules that have been given to us, and there are places available which are specifically set up for people with different needs.”
On the insurance explanation, she said: “They did come back after and explain to me about the insurance, but the thing that hurt me was the way they approached it, because it felt like she was just being told no because of her autism.
“In this day and age, people who were born with disabilities are still not treated the same and not able to do the same things as other people.”
She added: “We have spoken to other parents with ASD and did consider others but we ended up going to a riding school in Flintshire, which doesn’t specialize in disabilities. I’m glad we found a school who understood her.”
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Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said they should have made “reasonable adjustments” to ensure Maddie could ride.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at leading equality charity DR UK claimed the riding school’s actions: “The Equality Act is clear that reasonable adjustments must be made for people with disabilities.
“Laws have been in place for over 25 years to allow disabled people to take part in mainstream activities with non-disabled people.
“It would appear that Maddie has no additional needs that require anything more than a little time for her to adjust to being around the horses.
“All the riding school needed to do was to adopt a can-do attitude and let her ride the horse.”