Richmond Vale Academy supports the national drive for various forms of nature tourism such as Diving, Hiking, Agro Tourism and Eco Tourism in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
We have eight rooms available for guests to rent. Most guests enjoy taking a PADI Open Water Certificate, hike the La Soufriere Volcano, visit the waterfalls, relax on the beautiful black sand beach and some come for the Annual Liberty Horse Training Clinic. The Academy's horses are used to teach local children and youth and at the moment we do not offer tourist rides.
The horse school at Richmond Vale Academy (RVA) was opened in August 2019 for local students, thanks to sponsorship from Tus-T Water. With the sponsorship RVA has been able to recruit a Vincentian horse trainer as well as welcome local students. The new trainer is Tishorn Edwards, who has over the past 10 years, learned the skill from RVA director, Stina Herberg, an experienced horse handler whose skills have been featured in Equestrian, an international magazine that focuses on horses.
Edwards obtained his own horses but continued to be connected to the RVA horse programme. RVA has six horses and focuses on teaching children about caring for and handling horses in a holistic manner. The children are taught horse nutrition as well as hoof care, grooming, handling, understanding horse anatomy, tack, kindness, how to behave around horses and also basic riding skills.
To enrol, students must first apply and try a first time lesson during which they are evaluated for admission into a 10-lesson basic course, five of which involve learning to ride a horse. The school will be open every Saturday and has a special introductory offer, with lessons lasting 40 minutes. Children must bring at least one parent when attending classes. RVA also has a programme where students can work to earn for lessons. The work includes cutting grass, collecting manure or other kind of barn work.
In 2007, a herd of horses that needed a new home were brought to RVA. They included mares, gelding and a stallion, ages 2 to 20 years old.
However, because many of the horses in St. Vincent are related, RVA did not breed the horses, but still has four of the original stock. The RVA horses have mainly been used for an annual fundraising event where Herberg teaches the language of horses, body language communication, focus, leadership and team work — “through the way of the horse”.
“Because we now can work together on a more regular basis, it is possible that youths from St. Vincent can come and learn more about horses and also to ride them,” said Herberg, who has taught the language of horses in several countries and has been featured in many magazines.
Herberg said that learning to handle horses is a useful skill, especially in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with its ecotourism potential.
She however, cautioned that it a very long journey to offering any kind of ecotourism activities that involves riding horses.
“Learning to train a horses takes a long time and it also takes a long time for a horse to become strong and willing and safe to give trail rides. Further, it is costly because of equipment, tack and veterinary needs,” she said.
“However, RVA’s programme is a first step along that journey.”
She said that while it could take up to five years for a handler to develop the skills needed to offer a horse-related ecotourism experience, RVA has successfully taken tourists on walks with horses through the rainforest.
“Tourists have been absolutely astonished by this experience,” Herberg said.
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Restoration of the La Soufriere Cross Country Trail
The La Soufriere Cross Country Trail winds its way from sea level up to the top of the 4.048 ft volcano. The trail snakes across the width of St. Vincent and can be walked from either the Leeward or Windward coast.
However, over the years, the Leeward trail was seriously affected by various weather systems, including Hurricane Tomas in 2010, which blew down a number of trees and resulted in several landslides along the trail. The trail from the Windward side was rehabilitated and is thus in good condition. The Leeward trail was more difficult to hike because of fallen trees.
Together with the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority, the Forestry Department and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Facility, RVA restored the trail and taught in schools about the importance of protecting biodiversity giving lessons about climate change, biodiversity, climate smart agriculture and ecotourism in eight North Leeward communities.
Ten persons were hired to clear the trail, remove logs, make look out spots, benches and repair steps. Fifteen information signs were also created to provide visitors with directions, advice and information. The Leeward trail is approximately 5 miles (8 km) long and offers visitors breath-taking panoramic views of the surrounding land and seascape, as well as close encounters with flora and fauna.
Volcano LA SOUFRIERE PAMPHLET