RDA Magazine Winter 2019

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The official magazine of Riding for the Disabled Association

Winter 2019

RDA CEO Ed Bracher on half a century of magic and the quiet revolution

Pioneering group: Broadlands RDA 50 years of volunteering: Susie Elliot Gala Awards 2019 riding





Thank you! Thanks to the generous support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery many RDA Groups have seen their projects change from dream to reality!

Stables Ponies New Driving Ca rriages Horse trailers New sheds Riding hats Disabled Toilet s Saddle club cl assrooms Riding equipme nt and more!

Letter From the Guest Editor

W Caroline Ward, Communications Manager, RDA UK

elcome to the 50th anniversary nostalgia issue! Enjoy our pictures from RDA way back when, interviews with our early pioneers and the thoughts and reflections of our very own Chief Executive Ed Bracher. As the celebrations draw to a close, it has been a privilege to see RDA through another significant anniversary. Having started at RDA to help with the 40th, the past ten years have gone by in a flash – punctuated by many outstanding and unforgettable moments. But this year it does feel like we really pulled out all the stops. With free rein to celebrate how and when they wanted, RDA groups did not disappoint. With characteristic creativity, imagination and flair, we’ve enjoyed everything from pony blessings and fun rides to driving displays and parties. At both national and group levels, the anniversary has offered an opportunity to raise awareness and encourage vital support. RDA has been shouted about on national and regional TV, radio, print and online. The stories have been as varied as the organisation itself – but all sharing the same message of celebration and achievement. The anniversary has also created a focus for recognising the individuals around the organisation who make us what we are today. From those members who have dedicated many years to RDA, to the next generation of talent among our participants and volunteers, there has been much to celebrate. Above all, for such a widespread and disparate organisation as ours, anniversaries can be unifying. Whether it’s groups bringing their local community together, regions and counties organising shared celebrations in their area, or national events like our championships, if our 50th has demonstrated anything, it’s the strength we have when we come together. Over 3000 golden rosettes have been presented this year. Congratulations to everyone who has received one: for joining in, for taking part, for doing something brilliant, and for everything you’ve done to make this such a special year. Caroline Ward, Communications Manager, RDA UK

Riding for the Disabled Association magazine is free to everyone. To subscribe please contact RDA on +44 (0) 1926 492915 or via our website: rda.org.uk/rda-magazine


About Riding for the Disabled Association Riding for the Disabled Association Incorporating Carriage Driving (RDA) is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through the provision of horse riding, carriage driving, showjumping and vaulting.

Through a network of 500 volunteer groups throughout the UK, RDA provides opportunities for therapy, achievement and enjoyment, improving health, well-being and self confidence, and benefiting

mobility and co-ordination. RDA is reliant on voluntary help, donations and legacies to deliver its services. Please donate now at rda.org.uk.

RDA is a charity registered in England and Wales (No: 244108) and Scotland (No: SC039473)


Become an RDA Coach! The quality of coaching at RDA is second to none, combining equestrian knowledge with an in-depth understanding of a wide range of disabilities. At RDA we provide a tailored programme of training and assessment to help you achieve your coaching goals. Whether you want to become a Group Coach or RDA Fellow – we will give you the support you need.

For more details please contact: Lyndsay Wager 01926 405970 lwager@rda.org.uk Fiona Harris 01926 405970 fharris@rda.org.uk

Alex Walker 01926 405971 awalker@rda.org.uk

Contents The official magazine of Riding for the Disabled Association


t: +44 (0) 1926 492915 e: info@rda.org.uk www.rda.org.uk RDA Magazine is published by

Matrix Print Consultants Ltd Unit C, Northfield Point, Cunliffe Drive, Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN16 9QJ www.matrixprint.com


RDA President Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, Princess Anne Editor Ffion Llwyd-Jones e: ffion@rda.org.uk Deputy Editor Caroline Ward e: cward@rda.org.uk Graphic Designers Alex Morris e: alex@matrixprint.com Tolu Akinyemi e: tolu@matrixprint.com Advertising Sales Catherine Baldock e: cbaldock@rda.org.uk Editorial Board Ed Bracher Chief Executive, RDA UK Sarah Heynen Chairman, RDA UK Sal Atkinson Fundraising Manager, RDA UK Sue Adams-Wheeler Chairman of Coaching Committee, RDA UK Jess Cook National Partnership Advisor, Activity Alliance While every care is taken in compiling this issue of RDA magazine including manuscripts and photographs submitted, we accept no responsibility for any losses or damage, whatever the cause. All information and prices contained in advertisements are accepted by the publishers in good faith as being correct at the time of going to press. Neither the advertisers nor the publishers accept any responsibility for any variations affecting price variations or availability after the publication has gone to press. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the publisher, to whom application must first be made. The views expressed by contributors to RDA magazine are not necessarily those of the RDA, the publisher or its editor. Š2016 The Riding for the Disabled Association. Material for consideration in this section of the magazine should be submitted via email or digital file transfer to the editor. Submissions should be made on the understanding that the Riding for the Disabled Association has the right to use the material in any part of the magazine and any of its other publications, promotions or website, free from any copyright restrictions, or appearance fees other than the issue of artistic and photographic credits where applicable. Please include name of RDA group, photographer, riders and volunteers.


Contents Winter 2019


National News Keeping you in the picture

10 The Quiet Revolution

RDA CEO writes

14 Gala Awards 2019

Meet the winners

18 Profile: Susie Elliot

Recalling the past, envisioning the future

20 Picture Perfect

A selection of pictures from the past 50 years

22 A Family Affair


Meet one of our first groups

26 Out & About Join the conversation @RDANational

Regions had fun celebrating our 50th in style!

34 RDA rda.org.uk


National News Cause for Celebration


ver Celebration week (30 Sept-6 Oct) Groups up and down the UK have been celebratIng: gold rosettes have been handed out, bunting has been hung and, of course, there has been plenty of cake. Groups have shared their celebrations with RDA National, and here are some of the unique ways RDA groups have marked the occasion: In the South West, Green Cottage RDA held a gold-themed pageant featuring all their participants and ponies, while the South Region made a pennantstyle bunting signed by all the groups in the region; at the new Cavalier Centre in Shropshire, Perry RDA held vaulting and Countryside Challenge competitions; and on the other side of the country, Green Hedges, Barton and Iceni RDA from the East Region met up for a celebratory picnic. Brook Cottage Farm RDA held a 'carriage driving through the ages' demonstration.


Many celebrations have been shared across RDA National social media. If you would like to keep up with them all, follow RDAUK on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. TPICAP generously funded the building of the new gallery and viewing deck at the RDA National Training Centre, which is known as the ICAP Gallery.

RDA 50th Anniversary

Chosen Charity


DA has been chosen as the official charity at this year’s TheraPlate UK Liverpool International Horse Show on the 28-31 December. RDA groups can benefit from 50% off the show ticket price by using the discount code ‘RDA50YRS’.

Highlights to look forward to include the exciting final leg of the Eventing Grand Prix, the ever-popular Shetland Pony Grand National and, new for 2019, a series of 'Audience With' sessions with stars of the equestrian world. The RDA side is being run by North West Region with all money going to support groups in the area. Throughout the show, visitors will get the chance to 'have a go' on RDA’s mechanical horse, as well as find out more about the work of RDA. Show President, Nina Barbour said: “I am thrilled to announce that we

have chosen RDA as the official charity for 2019. We all share a passion for horses and ponies, and understand what incredible animals they are. Through the work of RDA we can truly see what can be achieved through riding and spending time with horses.”

Christmas is Coming


on’t forget to order your RDA Christmas cards! The last order date for Christmas delivery is Friday 6 December. All cards are in packs of ten and cost £4.90, with profits supporting the work of the RDA. It is a nice way of donating to our charity and sharing our message with friends and family over the Christmas holidays. Cards can be ordered online at: www.rdashop.org.uk


Coaching for the Future


he Coaching Conference 2019 in October covered Coach development and Equestrian Care. Sunday's timetable included an interactive talk from Nicky Fuller on the ‘Coach the Coach’ module of the Advanced Coach Certificate, developed for RDA, and a presentation from Dr Jane Nixon on the regulation updates on Equine Influenza and how to keep horses protected.

Russell Guire puts Isobel Benfield through her paces

In the evening, Coaches were greeted at the Grange hotel for a drinks reception, dinner and awards. Three Coaches, nominated by their peers, were presented with awards: High performance Coach of the Year Lizzie Bennett, Cambs College Vaulting Coach, for the impact she has made on increasing Vaulting activities within RDA. RDA Coach of the Year Sarah Healing, Penniwells Advanced Coach, for the experience and commitment she gives to her participants. The Extra Mile Award Judi Ralls, Greater London Driving Rep, for her dedication and enthusiasm to assist groups wanting to start up Carriage driving in her Region. The conference's second day included practical presentations at the National Training Centre. RDA East Regional Vet Katie Kershaw showed coaches how to help build equine core strength through a range of in-hand and physio stretches, and ridden exercises over poles. Russell Guire, Centaur Biomechanics, demonstrated his analysis of rider position and training aids, using sensors (linked to screens) to show horse, saddle and rider interaction.

Disability Power 100


DA volunteer Colin Duthie has been named in the Shaw Trust Power 100 list 2019, an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. This impressive list has previously included actor Warwick Davis and Paralympic sprinter Jonnie Peacock. Colin attended an exclusive event in October at the House of Lords to launch the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list 2019. It was an opportunity for the 100 individuals to meet and network with other recipients.

AGM 29 November


reminder to anyone planning to attend this year’s AGM at Saddlers’ Hall, London that the meeting will be for only half an hour from 10:30-11am. There is a separate event in the hall later in the day so we will not hold the usual conference. For any questions about the AGM please contact Amanda Perkins, RDA National Office at: aperkins@rda.org.uk

“I am absolutely humbled and thrilled to be included in the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List 2019," said Colin. "To meet all the recipients at the House of Lords was simply surreal and overwhelming.”

Coaches' feedback (gathered at the conference) about the Coaching Pathway will be used by working groups to To read more about Colin’s story collaborate and make appropriate changes visit www.rda.org.uk and take a planned for roll out in January 2020. look at our '50 Faces' project.


Colin Duthie



Dressage tests updates

Cathleen Leonard, going the extra mile


everal RDA dressage tests have been re-written for 2020, including ID walk and trot tests, and the Grade 1 and 2 Championships test. Others may have simple changes, so please note carefully any changes to tests. In particular, the free walk movement has been updated as follows: Stretching on a long rein: To execute the exercise ‘stretching on a long rein’ correctly, the athlete must lengthen the reins as the horse stretches gradually forward and downward. As the neck stretches forwards and downwards, the mouth should reach more or less to the horizontal line corresponding with the point of the shoulder. An elastic and consistent contact with the athlete’s hands must be maintained to ensure the pace maintains its rhythm. During the retake of the reins the horse must accept the contact without resistance in the mouth or poll. All RDA dressage tests are available on the My RDA website and all changes will be made by the end of the year.

Saddle up


ollegiate Saddles generously gave RDA an amazing 50 saddles to donate to groups across the UK as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. More than 150 groups entered the prize draw to win a free Collegiate saddle worth approximately £1,000.


Winning groups were drawn at random each day during celebration week and announced on Facebook. The live draws drummed up great enthusiasm and Collegiate even gave away a bonus five saddles at the end of Celebration week.

RDA 50th Anniversary

Going the extra mile


questrian adventurer Cathleen Leonard recently launched her first book about a 1,000 mile solo journey on horseback, from Scotland to Cornwall, to raise money for RDA. Cathleen said: “I travelled alone, without backup, and with very few pre-arranged stops, relying mostly on the kindness and hospitality of strangers who we met along the way. It was my first major long ride and it really was quite the adventure!” The book is called 'Before Winter Comes' and can be found on Amazon. Keep an eye out for mention of several RDA groups that Cathleen stopped at along the way, including the Clydesdale RDA, Happy Hooves Accessibility Mark Centre in Penrith, Helen Atkins RDA and Kyre RDA.

Highest Award


he Queens Award for Voluntary service (QAVS) is the highest award given to volunteer groups in the UK. It is awarded to groups for the positive impact and exceptional service they provide to people in their local community, and 2019 was a record year for nominations with a total of 281 volunteer groups awarded the honour. Among the 2019 winners of the QAVS were two RDA groups from Yorkshire: Bedale RDA and Rossington Hall RDA. John Chuter OBE, Yorkshire and Cleveland regional Chair, said: “Bedale is a fine example of a voluntary organisation providing a vital therapeutic equestrian service to some of the most vulnerable people in the local community. It is truly deserving of this award.”


Top of the League Join the Vaulting Show he first RDA Endurance Pathway stoppers


League ended on 31 October, with 312 participants from 14 groups nationwide. Philippa George from Park Lane Stables held onto the top spot attaining a brilliant 99km! Every participant will receive their special certificates in the next couple of weeks. In 2020, the RDA National Championships will feature an Endurance competition for the first time. Sasha Hart from TORQ fitness, who supported the have-a-go session at the Championships this year, was astonished at the scale of the event. ‘’It was a true honour to be a part of such an incredible occasion," she said. "It was clear to see the dedication and enthusiasm of your team and the sheer delight and enjoyment from all the riders. I will treasure the experience for a lifetime.’’

Eleanor Currington and Drunkeen Boy


lans are in place for the new Vaulting Coaches Pathway to be rolled out by the end of the year. The pathway will be a similar structure to the current Coaches pathway to enable more Coaches to easily develop their skills and encourage more groups to take up the activity nationally. National Vaulting lead Sam Davison and Coach Developer Lynne Munro took part in a training day on 8 September at the National Training Centre. The training day welcomed current Vaulting groups and a handful of groups interested in starting the activity. It was a successful day with a lot of positive feedback that will be used towards building the new Vaulting Coaches Pathway. If you have any queries about Vaulting, please contact Lucy at: lstokes@rda.org.uk


he final for the SEIB 'Search 4 a Star' RDA Showing Championship was held on 12 September at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre, Buckinghamshire. Each beautifully turned out combination had the opportunity to perform their individual show to judges David Ingle, Lynn Russell and Rosemary King. The class, now in its third year, was judged on the following criteria: 30% conformation, 30% turnout, 40% suitability, manners and way of going. After each individual show, the riders left the arena before returning a short time later as part of the evening performance for the final judging. The class was won by Eleanor Currington and Drunkeen Boy from Cambs College RDA. Judge Lynne Russell said: “I liked our winner from the moment he came into the ring. He wouldn’t look out of place in an open class and he was well ridden.” Inspired by SEIB 'Search 4 a Star' and want to know how to add Showing as an activity at your group? It’s easy: any Coach can run Showing sessions, no assessment of the group is required. All you need do is complete the application form on the MyRDA website and return it to National Office. Any groups wishing to get started with Showing can also attend a training day at National Office – dates to be confirmed on MyRDA website. If you would like to talk through the process, please contact Sarah at: shadley@rda.org.uk



History of RDA

The Quiet Revolution RDA CEO writes about the radical idea of RDA, the importance of ambition, and the magic that ‘doesn’t let you go’.



s part of our move to the new National Training Centre back in the Spring, we had a good clear-out of the office. Anyone who has moved – home or office – will know the peril of being side-tracked by finding and reading old books and documents. And so it was we came across an original RDA handbook from 1969. There, in black and white, was the far-reaching vision that remains as bold and ambitious today as it did then: ‘that no disabled person, who could benefit from riding, should be denied the opportunity of doing so’.

mainstream activities. Sadly, there is a wealth of anecdotes from those early RDA pioneers who were often on the receiving end of the public’s prejudice and ignorance.

This unambiguous, unqualified statement of intent has been the driving force behind everything that we have achieved as an organisation in the past 50 years.

We owe a huge debt to those visionaries among the medical, equestrian and disability communities who had the strength of will and determination to make a difference.

Taking a stand

Horses as therapy

We shouldn’t forget that the original vision, which even today sounds ambitious, was also considered quite radical. In the 1960s, attitudes to disability in the UK were not what they are now. There was certainly less integration and definitely less support for people to become physically active and take up

RDA 50th Anniversary

Today, much has changed (though clearly not enough) and I am proud of RDA’s part in making this happen. For the past 50 years, as well as providing meaningful therapy, we have been challenging the way people view disability and, indeed, sometimes challenging what our clients themselves think they can achieve.

These days, the idea of animals helping people is widely accepted. What was seen as slightly eccentric is now a mainstream part of the landscape. Horses are playing their part in all sorts of ways, and it all started with RDA. From the very

History of RDA

beginning, when a few open-minded physiotherapists started to explore the physical benefits of riding, we have developed our understanding of the therapeutic impact of horses to become world leaders in this field. More recently, as we have measured the impact of our activities, we have been able to add more detail to the weight of anecdotal evidence supporting the difference we make. We now speak with clarity and confidence about impact and this is happening at a time when more people understand and accept the special nature of the changes that horses can facilitate. As this interest increases, and more people and organisations are starting to use horses to benefit people, respect for our expertise also grows. We are now at the forefront of work to bring together a wide range of practitioners of equine-facilitated activities, so this network can work safely and grow. As with RDA, we want to make sure they are delivering meaningful activities with meaningful outcomes. Doing this will continue to make sure that joining disabled people with horses continues to be seen as a significant and mainstream activity.

Growing demand

Ed Bracher, RDA Chief Executive

The very best part of my job is visiting our centres and seeing the impact we have on the lives of the people we work with. Sometimes, it’s the apparently ‘small’ things that have the biggest impact. I watched a young boy with complex needs take up the reins and come off the lead rope. Quite an everyday occurrence at many groups, but for me, the achievement, the freedom and the new sense of purpose he experienced perfectly encapsulated what RDA sets out to achieve. And the impact doesn’t stop there. Wherever I go, I see riders like this benefiting from more opportunities to progress.



History of RDA

But I’m acutely aware that every change we initiate is only made possible because of a coach and a team of volunteers who make it happen, alongside the horse. In this regard, our greatest strength – the commitment of individuals who give their time – presents us with our greatest challenge: how to meet the growing demand for our activities by increasing the number of skilled volunteers and qualified coaches.

Coordinated approach For 50 years we have been reliant on the help and support of many volunteers. Today, 18,000 of them give more than 3.5 million hours each year. Some have brought knowledge and experience to help us do new things, others have worked out things for themselves. Now we need to share and extend that knowledge and experience. Our volunteers are no less committed and passionate than they were 50 years ago, but they are working with a broader range of people and delivering a broader range of

services, in a more complex and regulated society. The role of the national body is to make sure they have what they need to deliver our service with confidence. This year’s launch of a National Training Centre – which has already delivered multiple training days to hundreds of delegates – is a strong response to that challenge. Likewise, the new Coaching Pathway – launched last year and rolled out to all our coaches – will help to sustain and grow our expertise across the organisation. Our e-learning programme, regional training days and conferences are all part of a coordinated approach to building knowledge and confidence across the board.

Shared belief I want every volunteer, from Orkney RDA to South West Cornwall RDA, to feel confident they have the skills to do what is needed and the support to face new challenges. And I mean every volunteer. Another feature of my group visits is the number of times I hear the phrase ‘We’re just a small group’, as if the aims and ambitions of RDA as a whole

don’t apply across the board. Or – worse – that somehow we, as an organisation, value groups more or less depending on size. Every single group is vital to the overall success of RDA – and the individuality of each group is part of our strength. It’s what allows us to work in remote areas, to provide vital services to local and specialist schools, to tailor what we do to meet the needs of the local community. Yet within that difference, in being part of RDA there have to be some things we all believe in: delivering the best possible experience to participants, having volunteers and coaches who are trained and qualified, and doing whatever we can to bring the benefit of horses to as many people as possible.


If that means asking every group to be ambitious for its riders and drivers, encouraging its volunteers to learn new skills and looking for opportunities to welcome new clients then I make no apology for doing so.

RDA 50th Anniversary

History of RDA

Moving forward The development of RDA has been described by our President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, as ‘a quiet revolution’. In contrast to some, who like to tell me that ‘RDA doesn’t do change’, The Princess’s description is much closer to the truth. RDA started with something radical: an idea that disrupted the status quo, instigated and developed by people who weren’t afraid to take a stand. Since then we have never stood still. It is in the very DNA of RDA to respond, innovate and renew. The world is a very different place than it was 50 years ago and without our ability to adapt, we would never be the collective success story that we can proudly celebrate today. The ‘quiet revolution’ has enabled hundreds of thousands of disabled people to get on a horse or into a carriage and experience change – sometimes by doing something remarkable, often by simply achieving the next step, but always by moving forward and always benefitting.

Keep on keeping on An RDA coach recently said to me: “RDA is magical. It has a way of

sucking you in and it doesn’t let you go.” After 15 years as Chief Executive that certainly rings true. And part of the reason that it ‘doesn’t let you go’ is that there’s always more to do. As a national body, we must be every bit as progressive and ambitious as our groups, and personally there is still much to be done. During my 15 years I have continued to see the understanding of some disabilities increase and the opportunities available expand. But there is still a long way to go and it still amazes and annoys me that we have to argue with schools and service commissioners about the value of our activities. As issues around learning disability and mental health become more prominent, I want to see these impacts better recognised. The critical part that organisations like RDA are playing must be better understood. The combination of working with an animal and physical activity offers a significant positive impact on a person’s life and this is the thing that motivates me most about what RDA does. So, even though RDA has helped create a world where it is normal for a disabled person to be able to interact with horses, we need

to continue to challenge attitudes, so that more people can benefit.

Grateful thanks 50 years is a remarkable achievement. More remarkable still for the fact that many of the people who got us going are still involved, and so many of the original groups are still going strong. We are now into the third generation of people involved with us, attracting volunteers and participants of all ages, bringing new skills, new opportunities and new ways of tackling age-old challenges. Looking ahead, next year brings another Paralympics. This might be the very top end of our sport, but every RDA rider, driver, volunteer, coach, family member, supporter and donor from 1969 to now is part of the Paralympic story and we will be celebrating our Para Dressage team every step of the way. Finally, I would like to say thank you – whoever you are reading this – thank you for being open to the idea of RDA, and thank you for everything you have done, or can do, to keep us moving forward, embracing change and ensuring that no disabled person, who can benefit from riding and driving, shall be denied the opportunity of doing so.



Clare Balding

Tjay and Damon Hill

Alastair Stewart interviews Alice Powell and Damon Hill

Philip Serrell


Gala Awards 2019, meet the winners The annual Gala Awards night was, if possible, even more celebratory than usual on the occasion of the RDA's 50th anniversary.


lare Balding, Alastair Stewart and racing driver Damon Hill were among the special guests celebrating RDA’s 50th anniversary in the grand surroundings of Draper’s Hall, London, for this year’s Gala Awards. The evening, hosted by Clare, featured an after-dinner interview with Damon Hill and W-Series driver Alice Powell, and an auction led by Bargain Hunt regular Philip Serrell.

Although the event is an important fundraiser for RDA, the focus of the evening was most definitely the four winners. The Volunteer of the Year, Young Volunteer and Participant of the Year were presented with their awards and interviewed by Clare. Once again, Clare was disappointed that the horse of the year could not make it in person! Let’s find out more about our winners.




TJay Wilson, Young Volunteer of the Year

Young Volunteer award, sponsored by Players of People's Postcode Lottery: TJay Wilson TJay had watched from the rider sidelines from the age of 10, desperately wanting to become a volunteer. Finally achieving his goal a few years later, at age 14, he now puts body and soul into volunteering, and will do anything and everything he's asked to do by the RDA team. As his nominator, Jane Lawrence of Vale Mill Lane Stables, says: “He simply wants to give back all the time.” On learning of TJ's Young Volunteer of the Year award, his Nan was beside herself with delight and pride. In his typical laid-back fashion, however, TJ was more muted in his response – although, as he views everything as a competition, his reaction reflects that attitude: 'What me? I won!"


RDA 50th Anniversary

Isabella Theophanous, Participant of the Year

Participant of the Year, sponsored by Childs Farm: Isabella Theophanous Isabella (Bella)'s recent diagnosis as severely sight-impaired has impacted every aspect of her life, and yet she continues to bring a positive, cheerful attitude to her weekly RDA activities. Her nominator, Jess Dunne of Beechley Stables, wanted to ensure the nominee was a group choice – and the group unanimously chose Bella. As Jess comments: “Once she turned 14, she also started volunteering with us, and now comes every week after school to water and feed the horses, and prepare the yard.” Jess says Bella was on an RDA holiday in Yorkshire (her first ever) when the winner was announced, and in typical modest fashion was a bit overwhelmed, and wondered: "Why have I won?"


Jo Rutherford, Volunteer of the Year

Volunteers from Lincolnshire Wolds receiving Horse of the Year on behalf of Cracker

Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Howden: Jo Rutherford

Horse or Pony of the Year, sponsored by Snuggy Hoods: Cracker

Jo is the "unsung hero of the group, and we would struggle to do what we do without her," says her nominee Kady Chatman of Saxon Group, adding that Jo is involved at every level of the group's activities, as group coach, group organiser, trustee and fundraiser. Those fundraisers have included a 50-mile challenge, a 3-peaks challenge – and she's now in training for a 102-mile Cotswold Way ride. Kady adds that Jo always says "Yes" to helping, despite dealing with challenging difficult circumstances.

Cracker recently celebrated his 20th year with the Lincolnshire Wolds group, and still manages to "create a little bit of havoc if he's in the mood" according to his nominee, Liz Marshall. As a registered fell pony Cracker's full name is Heltondale Bracken V11, and he's the subject of a book written by his proud owner, whom he also took to church (as a driving pony) for her wedding.

Jo say it feels "very, very surreal" to have won the award, then adds: “I'm absolutely stunned as I had no idea, and I'm so grateful to Kady for nominating me – I'm hoping it will give us all a boost!”

In addition to achieving driving pony status, Cracker has also helped numerous children to ride, and continues to be unfazed by any rider screaming or throwing themselves about. In lieu of comment from Cracker, his nominee says: “Lincolnshire Wolds would simply not be the same without our Cracker.”



Profile: Susie Elliot

Building a Dream "I rocked up that first day with my sister-in-law Jackie, who had Downs Syndrome, and two little boys with Cerebral Palsy. There we all were in a field on the Scottish Borders, the children, the ponies, and four ladies who thought this was a good idea." That's Susie Elliot describing the beginning of Borders group, which started in Scotland in 1967. More than 50 years later, Susie is Chair of Borders Group, Vice-chair of Equipower in Stirling, Honorary Life Vice-president of RDA, and RDA Championships lead on the 'meet and greet' team. She recalls the many changes over the past half century of RDA, while casting a positive eye to an innovative future.

Susie on the hospitality team at the National Championships

Wet, windy fields "We didn't realise what a learning curve we were stepping onto," says Susie. "Jackie could stubborn; for 12 weeks she wouldn't go near the pony. Finally, at week 13, she got on. Then she rode for 20 years, and loved it." Yet, just 12 months before the creation of a formal association that would become the RDA, the group was still holding training days in wet, windy fields. But a few short years later, at a lecture by a prominent orthopaedic surgeon, Susie realised how far they'd progressed out of that wet field: "We were finding out so much about our participants. We spoke with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and teachers. We were making progress." The three other women in that Scottish Borders field were Bethia Allan, Eildon Watherston and Phoebe Stewart and, with their practical horse sense and extensive knowledge, they become early

18 Tracy and Willie Brown's RDA wedding at the Borders Group arena

RDA 50th Anniversary

Profile: Susie Elliot

Fifty years ago, Borders group RDA (Susie Elliot is the first right)

mentors: "Everything they taught us to do, we still do," says Susie. "Riders and volunteers are all part of the team, and we continue to value a well-trained horse that walks on."

What we can do The 'can do' attitude (so much part of today's RDA) was in evidence during those initial approaches to schools and centres, 40 years ago. "We said: 'With the help of the horses, let us help the children in your school'," says Susie. The group now welcomes 50+ riders a week, and maintains relationships with area schools and therapists. Rosemary Lane, principal of the physiotherapy college in Aberdeen and Regional Chair of the Highlands and Islands, became another mentor: "She taught us so much from the physiotherapist side," says Susie. "At a 1970's conference at the veterinary school in Glasgow, she put her physiotherapists in body suits with splashes of paint on their muscles, and as they rode around we could see what was happening to the muscles in the body. We were enthused by it – the more you know, the more you can do, and the more success you have."

Managing the RDA family Gradually, enthusiastic people followed the footsteps of the early

pioneers, with a positive approach and confidence to try new ideas. When the RDA holidays began, Susie jumped right in. "There were children that didn't get holidays, "she explains. "It wasn't just about the riding, it was about bedtime stories, food, and teenagers filling the sink with soapy water and playing in the dishes." Years later as Regional Chairman, Susie witnessed RDA become a federation. She adds: "There was many groups, but we didn't always know what was happening, especially from a health and safety perspective. We worked hard to ensure the best for participants, volunteers and horses." On the National Board, Susie saw the development of a cohesive national policy of information, training, and working together as a big family. "Ed's made a huge difference to the organisation, and Caroline's the best thing that ever happened," she adds. "My remit on the board was communication, and I wanted to show people what we did and explain what's happening to that participant. We needed professional tools, and that's what Caroline provided."

Onwards to the next 50 Looking to the future, Susie recalls how that initial group always saw people's worth. As she says: "Being an RDA volunteer brings out the potential in people that they never knew they had." She also emphasises the need for

new approaches to encourage people to volunteer, especially the younger generations. "We can create a positive future through teamwork and blending the old with the new," she says. "The younger generation has great skills and learn in a different way from older generations, and it's critical to work together, listening and sharing ideas, respecting opinions and knowledge. We have to encourage youngsters from schools and colleges. We may not have them for long, but give them the right experience and they will support and come back to us." Susie adds that volunteers get to see so many dreams come true: "One day, the telephone rang and it was dressage champion Tracy Brown's fiancé saying: 'Tracy won't marry me unless it's on a horse. Can you organise the wedding?' So, we did, and the ceremony was on horseback in the arena. Volunteers throughout RDA get to share that feeling of achieving something great and worthwhile – and that never leaves you! No matter how small, success is so rewarding." Susie concludes: "I'm privileged to be part of a charity that's so successful. RDA touches so many people, from that person in a wheelchair who gets the balance and the strength to sit up, to taking people competing and winning events. You create incredible friendships with wonderful people, through working together with that amazing, magical animal, the horse. There's a thread that goes round the world that attaches us all together. We just have to keep spreading the word!"





Picture Perfect 1


A selection of pictures from the past 50 years




8 1. Rayna Matthews 2. Jo Jackson 3. Jane Holderness-Roddam 4. Molly Thorn Award


RDA 50th Anniversary

5. Peter Felgate 6. Zoe Cain 7. Pat Straughan 8. World Dressage team 1994





18 11

14 19






9. 1996 Paralympics team 10. Liz Dendy with HRH Princess Anne 11. Lloyds Bank Dressage Team 12. Debbie Criddle 13. Majorie Langford 14. Epsom RDA Gymkhana 15. Anne Dunham

22 16. CD World Team 17. International Dressage Team Chef d' Equipe Ann Cutcliffe 18. HRH Princess Anne with Liz Dendy and Jean Gardner 19. Pat Putland 20. Inger Bryant 21. L avinia Mary Fitzalan-Howard, Duchess of Norfolk, and ex-RDA president 22. Dryden RDA



Challenging Boundaries

Four good legs


ampshire-based Broadlands stables was an early RDA group, with the riding school started by Frank and Flora Welch in 1946. Suzanne Stratford, Frank and Flora’s daughter, still runs the Centre and says: “We started as a commercial stable, but my mother soon realised, like many good people before her, that four good legs are much better than two wobbly ones!” For Flora, the belief that horses could be used for something more came after she met a farmer in Devon. He had developed angina (chest pain) and could no longer cope with the wild and rough terrain of the farm. Of course, in the 1940s there weren’t any quad bikes, so a Cob was his way of navigating the hills that he could no longer walk up and down so easily. The trusty Cob could also go sideways and open gates while the farmer remained mounted. Here was a glimpse for Flora of the benefits riding could have for someone with a disability.

Top of the class Flora was also inspired (as were many other people) by Danish rider Lis Hartel, who had polio and walked with crutches. Polio had affected Lis' mobility when walking, but she didn’t let it affect her riding abilities. She was one of the first women to compete in the Olympics in 1952, winning an individual Silver Medal in Dressage in Helsinki and repeating that feat four years later in Stockholm.


With these examples in mind, Flora approached a friend who worked at the local Treloar school (for girls with disabilities), and asked if a few of the girls could come during school time to ride at the stables. The idea was to incorporate the school curriculum into the lessons – a nice way to get the girls out of school while still ticking the boxes for their educational needs.

RDA 50th Anniversary

A Family Affair After 50 years, it seems fitting to return to the groups that started it all. Among those early pioneers was Broadlands RDA, which is still thriving more than a half a century later. We visited the group to find out more about those early years of the quiet revolution that would become the Riding for the Disabled Association.

Positive Feedback There was no question what Flora and Frank were doing at Broadlands was beneficial to their new riders. Although there was no formal training on dealing with disability, nor a Coaching pathway, nor support from outside the stables, Flora knew what they did was working because of the feedback from the school. Not only was the riding helping with the girls’ learning, but it was also boosting their overall spirit, which gave Flora the confidence to believe she was making a difference. Before she knew it, word spread about the new venture, and Broadlands started to build a clientele of local disabled riders.

Challenging Boundaries

“Riders had to be able to get on from the mounting block, which was one of our limitations,” explains Suzanne. “But at the beginning it was mostly people with cerebral palsy. As time went on we came across various disabilities such as spina bifida, thalidomide and polio, of which now, thankfully, we hardly see any cases.” Broadlands' relationship with Treloar school continued to grow. There was a regular slot for the more physically disabled students, who were seen to benefit the most from the mobility it gave them. Flora could see it was time to start expanding Broadlands' horizons and reach out to like-minded people in the equestrian world.

Becoming RDA In 1964, Broadlands became one of the original members of the Advisory Council of Riding for the Disabled (ACRD) – the forerunner of the RDA

– chaired by W A C Anderson, the BHS Secretary General. The Council contacted various riding stables that had already started to provide lessons to disabled riders, with the idea to gather them together to exchange ideas. Flora was one of ten riding school owners invited to the meeting, to discuss the evidenced therapeutic benefits; it was decided the Advisory Council would work to support more riding schools in enabling them to provide therapy through riding. Flora's daughter Suzanne also became involved, sharing the increasing workload. She got her BHS coaching qualifications, and took on more responsibility for the daily running of the stables in 1974, when RDA sessions increased from one day a week to two. In 2002, the stables decided to focus solely on RDA and moved away from commercial clients, enabling it to provide group sessions three days

Frank and Flora Welch at Broadlands

a week, with the rest of the week allowing individuals to come down to enjoy the tranquility of Broadlands RDA and spend some one-to-one time with the horses.

Trust and confidence Since those early days there has been a noticeable shift in the participants that Broadlands supports. In the beginning, Flora supported riders with physical disabilities only. “It is relatively recently that autism has become the biggest disability we support,” explains Suzanne. “So much of ordinary riding techniques provide some sort of therapy for our riders. So we just teach the riding skills to the level of each individual participant. Because the riders are children, we incorporate games into the sessions to make them interesting, which aids their learning and builds strength.” Over the years, the principle of how Broadlands RDA plans its sessions has not changed. However, understanding and knowledge of how riding benefits participants has grown exponentially. For example, Centre Manager, Jackie Nuth is an Advanced Coach and is training in Psychotraumatology and equinefacilitated assisted-learning for human development. This is part of the next step at Broadlands RDA to integrate more therapy through ground work with the horses. Jackie says: “Having this training has been key for me. Not everyone can get onto the horses or even wants to get on. The thought of being on the horse can be too overwhelming for some participants so quite often we start with ground work. Sometimes they do eventually want to ride, so we can progress with these skills. However, there is a lot to be said for just being with an animal like a horse and the therapy that can provide.



Challenging Boundaries

Broadlands Open Day

You have to have quite a lot of faith in the people around you and the horse. This is one of the things I have witnessed from ground work – the development of our participants’ trust and confidence.”

Forward Progress 24

The experiences of groups such as Broadlands has helped shape the RDA organisation we are today. Their willingness to embrace the new idea of horses as therapy, to learn as they went along and then – crucially – to come together and share that knowledge was the basis for an entire movement.

RDA 50th Anniversary

After fifty years, Broadlands continues to progress and challenge the boundaries of what its participants can achieve and the types of therapy that can be provided. Not only has the group seen a shift in the types of disabilities, but it also innovated and adapted, and embraced new ideas and techniques to enable ever more people to take part. Through its continual forward thinking, Broadlands RDA has succeeded in adapting to the ever-changing needs of participants, and continues to make life-changing differences for local people.

Jackie Nuth with Rowan at Broadlands Open Day 2019

Challenging Boundaries

Three of our many 50-year volunteers Sally Campbell-Gray MBE, RDASC, FRDA, HLVP Sally Campbell-Gray has volunteered with RDA since 1968, just before the charity was officially formed. She says: “I have loved my 50 years with RDA and all the people I have worked with. I've been rewarded by the many achievements and pleasure of so many of our riders and volunteers. The rewards and awards presented to me by RDA, and indeed the Queen, are much appreciated and are proudly displayed around my house. I could not have done this without the friendship and support of everyone in RDA and the tremendous support of my family who say they are as proud as I am for 50 years well spent.”

Sue Robson

Gay Redman

Sue Robson’s involvement with RDA began by chance when she was asked by her childhood friend, Jean Burdon, if she could use her little grey pony in a new RDA Group starting in September 1969. Sue’s enjoyment from volunteering has always been about working closely with the ponies and the participants. Over the years, she has seen the life-enhancing difference RDA has made, and collected notable memories: “We had a pony called Pepsi that had been ridden for weeks by a boy that didn’t speak. Every week the side-walkers would pat the pony saying ‘Pepsi’. Suddenly during one of his sessions, the young boy bent down, patted the pony and said ‘Pepsi’. There wasn’t a dry eye in the whole riding school, including his mother, who had never heard him speak."

During the many years in which Gay has dedicated her time, she has taken on various roles, and seen the charity's ongoing growth. In 2013 she was appointed East Regional Chairman, which has given her a wealth of experiences. Recently, Gay was involved with young adult para riders and has been inspired by their courage and determination to overcome difficulties to achieve their goals, and give them a sense of purpose. “None of this is possible without our fantastic volunteers and I think anyone who would like to volunteer and help in any way they can will find it extremely rewarding and enjoyable,” says Gay.

25 Tom and Holly


Out & About

Out & About With characteristic innovation and fun (and cakes!), our UK Regions are celebrating the RDA's wonderful 50th year!

Golden route Many groups celebrated the 50th Anniversary with wonderful picnic parties and fun days.


The new Hertfordshire Golden Horseshoe Route (a slightly wonky U-shaped route joining the nine county groups) starts at a 50-year-old venue at North Herts Group and loops just over 80 miles to the newest group. Suzanne Brown has walked 70+ miles; the final leg between the Herts & Essex Border and Brook Cottage Farm groups is planned for December to mark the end of the year and the walk. Suffolk's outing to Helmingham Hall Gardens was hosted by Lady Tollemache. It was a lovely day, with tea and awards.

RDA 50th Anniversary

The three groups (Iceni, Barton and Green Hedges) riding at South Cambs Equestrian Centre got together during the celebration week as riders, volunteers and children enjoyed a picnic in a marquee. Luckily, the rain stopped and they were able to ride. The East Region's Tea Party for regional volunteers in Great Thurlow Barn (lent by the Vesteys') included a garden visit and moving talk from Lindsay Nicholson on how the therapy of horses had helped her over difficult times. Ed Bracher gave a wonderful presentation about the new National RDA Lowlands Equestrian Centre near Warwick, and awards were given out. Gay Redman, Regional Chair, East

Galloway celebrations Our celebrations opened with a talk on RDA UK's 50-year achievements, focusing on Galloway RDA's successes. Group Secretary, Brenda Heap, described the difference to sessions because of the recently installed hoist, funded by Kirkcudbright Rotary, Dumfries & Galloway Council, and the Santander Foundation. Three groups of riders, adults and children completed challenges and drill rides to music, and got golden rosettes to commemorate the milestone. In between rides the audience was entertained by our Drum pony who looked extremely smart and did not put a hoof wrong.

Out & About

During the morning, Bea, Erynne and Lauren from Dumfries High School presented awards and certificates for bravery, courage, dedication and endeavour as well as Long Service Awards. Thank you to all the riders, parents, guests, volunteers and spectators who came along. It was a lovely sunny day and a great opportunity for our riders to show off their skills and demonstrate what can be

Oor Willie Willie was a renowned pony at Gordon RDA group, near Inverurie. Sadly, we lost him in the middle of the RDA 50th anniversary week, which was very poignant for everyone at Gordon, and we wanted to celebrate him in honour of the RDA's 50th anniversary. Willie lived from the age of five at the RDA group, and gave 25 years of service – half of RDA’s lifetime. Willie was 14.2hh smart cob, used for children and adults. He worked in the four-term academic year, 40 weeks, four days a week, sometimes in three different rides. By our calculation, that’s 12,000 rides! He would be on summer holiday for 12 weeks of the year at an RDA volunteers' home – always a bit of a struggle to decide who would have him as everyone wanted him! Willie worked with the regional physio in a pilot hippotherapy project as he was totally unfazed by anything, was a popular choice for the dressage regionals as he was the greatest showman, and grew at least a hand in the arena and performed in a pleasing outline that always gained super marks. He could turn his hoof to anything, introduce canter in hand to

done in our lessons. We also enjoyed a lovely buffet and celebratory cake. The day would not have been possible without the support of our coaches, Lochhill Equestrian, Barstobrick Café, The Cuckmere Valley Rosette Company, Maureen Ablitt and Kathryn Howatson. Pam Cherry, Trustee & Committee Member, Galloway

independent riders or would look after the children as they learnt to ride and play games. He always looked good in his tinsel at Christmas and was part of a musical ride for the Princess Royal. On our 50th anniversary, let's celebrate the wonderful horses and ponies who make our miracles happen. In memory of “Oor Willie” the perfect RDA pony. Barbara Manson, Chair Grampian and Highland

Coaching and rosettes We had a great Southern Region Coaches Training Day at RDA Abingdon Group in October, when about 100 people attended. A very big thank you to Clive Milkins, who gave three fabulous demonstrations, with plenty of new ideas and inspiration to take away. The three riders, Natalie, Isobel and Connall, were amazing and coped so well in front of such a large audience and their 50th Anniversary rosettes were very well deserved. Thank you, too, to Abingdon and Ann Barlow, for hosting the day and to all the ladies who provided such a welcome lunch. It was nice to see so many coaches from the Region gathered together. Alice Summersbee, South



Out & About

Founding RDA member This year sees the 50th anniversary of The Diamond Centre for Disabled Riders, an RDA forerunner. Our roots go back to 1959 when our founder Keith Webb, a London Mounted Police Officer, saw a wheelchairbound child benefiting from riding a pony. The image stuck, but it was not until 1968 when Keith, supported by Dr. Joan Bicknell, undertook a pilot scheme at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in Carshalton to explore the benefits of riding for the patients. Six riders were chosen to ride at The Diamond Farm Riding School in Oxted. Riding then moved to Carshalton, with Saturday afternoons at Queen Mary’s Hospital. In November 1969 The Diamond Riding Group was formed and became a founder RDA member.

Fifty years of fun My journey began as a young physiotherapist working in a ‘Special School’ in Kent. When the headmaster said 'Riding is not a therapy,' I disagreed and took children to a riding school in Sevenoaks. Suddenly, something was happening, horses and people with disabilities needing each other.


My real education began when we moved to Devon. I was co-opted into working with a new Group, where I remain to this day. We visited Groups in purpose-built centres, old engine sheds and run-down riding schools – everywhere was the sense that

RDA 50th Anniversary

people with disabilities could benefit from contact with horses. I helped with training in Ireland, Greece, Hong Kong and USA. I was in the dizzying heights of a high-profile organisation, but I don’t like heights, the hierarchy of committees, and all that goes with it is not for me. I went back to the Group I loved, doing what RDA is all about, using everything that is ‘Horse’ to help a child or adult towards a working normality. By doing what is, above all, fun! Mary MacLachlan, retired Southwest physiotherapist

The determination of Keith and his wife June led to six acres leased at Queen Mary's Hospital, and a purpose-built centre opened in 1974. Now, we have 200+ volunteers, supported by 13 staff, stabling for 30 horses and ponies, three arenas and land for grazing. Each week, 360 disabled children and adults enjoy horse riding, carriage driving, vaulting and hippotherapy. We look forward to celebrating our 50 years and are proud that more than 6,000 disabled riders have benefited from riding at Diamond. Steve Axon, Chairman, The Diamond Centre for Disabled Riders, Greater London

Out & About

Scenes of Ayrshire We wanted to celebrate all things RDA and asked the kids: "If Princess Anne were to come to our party, what would you like her to see?"They came up with the fantastic idea of 'Scenes of Ayrshire', which represented places within our part of the world. After a warm welcome by coach Marrian on a chilly Thursday, the children from both our riding schools in Ayr and Kilmarnock embarked on a friendly 'Scenes of Ayrshire' competition. After a short break, two of our visually impaired riders showcased their talents in dressage, and there was barely a dry eye in the house

'Grease', cookies and raffles Cliff Hollins RDA hosted a 1950’s Rock'nRoll themed family event in September. Around our ‘Grease’ style fairground there were rides, bouncing castles and trampolines, face painting and candy floss! We offered pony rides and a pony club member came to ride in a lovely 1950’s style dress! We borrowed old American cars for the event and photo opportunities, and also set up a 1950’s American diner style photo booth. Lindsey J Moore sang all afternoon, working her way through the decades. Not only is Lindsey a fantastic singer, she is a rider at Cliff Hollins RDA. Many people enjoyed a boogie to the songs,

as our rider Katie read out the most beautiful poem about what RDA means to her. Our current chairman Colin Duthie then gave a speech about the privilege of being recognised as one of the UK's top 100 Most Influential Disabled People, having travelled to the House of Lords just a few days before the party. After gold rosettes were given to our riders, thanking all for attendance, tea, coffee and cake were served as we each discussed a brilliant day that everyone loved. Bernadette Leslie, Carrick

while Lindsey’s guide dog enjoyed the attention of our younger guests. Our lovely volunteers and pony club members helped with tombola, sweet stall, cake stall (with home-made cakes and donations from Greggs & Krispy Kreme) and a burger van. The event highlight was our luxury raffle with prizes being donated from local companies, and a giant iced cookie from Millies Cookies. The star prize was two tickets to the Olympia Horse show.


The day was a huge success, and we raised £769. Alison Kopasz, Group Secretary, Yorkshire & Cleveland


Out & About

65 and counting Chipping Norton is a small branch that meets on Thursdays during term time at Durham's Farm, Chastleton, just outside Chipping Norton. We have the most loyal volunteers and like to keep in touch during the holidays. Every year, we have a Christmas lunch for helpers, and we've added another date to our list, meeting at the Charingworth Manor

Rides and Fayres The Tyne & Wear Group is proud to have been involved with RDA for 50 years. Starting out on the beaches of South Shields, we have been in our purpose-built Centre in Washington for more than 40 years. In September, we held a sponsored ride covering 10 kilometres and, for the first time, included a disabled rider. Everyone was very supportive and raised money for the Centre activities.


In November, we are holding our annual winter fayre and the theme for this year is '50 years of RDA'. We always have some riding demonstrations, and this year's programme will showcase our RDA riders, demonstrating their riding skills as individuals and as a group in a drill ride. There has been so much work put into this by our riders and their mentor Tracy Steel. Eileen Curley, Tyne & Wear Group, North

RDA 50th Anniversary

Hotel for a 'Cream Tea', which turned into a celebration. Our most longstanding volunteer Ann Nobbs was presented with her certificate for 35 years service. She started when her son was five-years-old and she used to bring his Pony Club pony along to be used at RDA sessions – now she has grandchildren the same age. In the past, Ann was the person holding the branch together from organising horses, ponies, riders and volunteers to being Secretary. Now she takes it a bit easier, having handed over to

newer members, although she still comes every week and is a great source of help and advice. We also presented 15-year certificates to Caroline Pye (our Treasurer) and Veronica Roberts who notched up several years volunteering at RDA in Hong Kong before coming to Chipping Norton. Caroline Paxford, Secretary, Chipping Norton

Out & About

Multi-colour celebrations To celebrate RDA’s 50th anniversary, North East and South Yorkshire Region provided stunning gold and green rosettes for all their riders, and Sheffield RDA presented their volunteers with gold rosettes. The volunteers said they appreciate being recognised for their help and enabling the riders to get enjoyment from horse riding.

groups gold rosettes for the children and for the school to display, so all the children, staff and parents get to know about RDA. The schools also had a certificate for the notice boards. Wakefield RDA had a week of Celebration rides, and riders were presented with gold rosettes. The group recognised the fantastic support of their volunteers and presented 50 long-service certificates.

Ebor Vale Group is celebrating with a 'Fabulous at 50' 50k sponsored ride/carriage drive. Angela Payne, Group Coach, said most of the riders, all ponies and many helpers will take part. Each rider and driver will be completing a 5k ride, totalling more than 50k. Carolyn Brown, NE & S Yorkshire Publicity Officer

Michelle Oglesby, Group Chairman, said they have given the school

The Essential Volunteer I started my RDA career volunteering with Lady Perdita Blackwood’s Group at Cavallo in about 1967. I was asked to take children from Fleming Fulton School in South Belfast for outings in their pony and trap, which I did with my friend Peggy. The children loved it so we would take two at a time across the main road into Barnett’s Park for a drive, while the wonderful

school staff looked after my baby son James.

I still enjoy volunteering at the group.

In 1974-75 I was contacted by Anne Baxter about the possibility of setting up an RDA Group in the Lisburn area. I contacted Parkview School, which was keen to be involved, and we began running RDA sessions at Pond Park Riding School. I was the Instructor along with Vivienne Noblett. Lisburn RDA is currently based at Lusk’s Equestrian Centre, conveniently close to my home. Although retired from coaching,

Footnote from the Group Over the years, Jane's many roles included Organiser, Chairman, Secretary and Coach. She has also helped out with Regional holidays, days out and competitions. Without Jane, Lisburn RDA would not exist – for more than 40 years it has helped hundreds of people. Jane McMurray, Lisburn



Out & About

Fifty in three Riders from RDA groups in the North Midlands region marked the RDA's 50th anniversary by covering a total of 50 kilometres in just over three hours at the North Midlands Endurance Ride in August. The sun shone, the flies were not too troublesome, and horses, ponies, riders and volunteers all enjoyed the beautiful countryside on the Nottinghamshire / Leicestershire border. Riders choose to complete either 1km, 3km or 5km distances. All the riders rose to the challenge of riding outside the school environment, whether that was riding on a bridleway for the first time or, for one rider, meeting a train on the local heritage railway line that runs nearby. As well as offering a new challenge, the endurance ride gave our riders the chance to get out into countryside they might otherwise struggle to access. The view you get when you are sitting on a horse is completely different to the view from a wheelchair. All the riders received rosettes and certificates for their efforts.


This was the second endurance ride hosted by Wenlo RDA since our home riding school, Meadow School of Riding, moved to Bowleys Barn Farm at Normantonon-Soar, near Loughborough, in 2018. Meadow School of Riding is also home to Ashmount and Ruddington RDA groups, and we are so lucky to have safe bridleways on our doorstep. Claire Maden, Wenlo RDA

RDA 50th Anniversary

Nought to fifty New Group Nantwich & District RDA (set up in 2017) has now reached 50 volunteers and growing.

riders from aged three right up to retirement age with various disabilities. We have just signed up our 50th volunteer, and as nearly everyone is new to RDA we have an ongoing training programme to keep everyone updated and build confidence.

Flicka, the mechanical horse at Reaseheath College gave us the chance to get to know our riders and train our volunteers. With one rider at a time, we got to know each one and their families well over the months. Word soon spread about the fun and we raised enough money to buy our own horses and pay for their keep.

Not everyone is involved with the horses. We have some amazing fundraisers and a magnificent team who can bake cakes and look after the all-important refreshments at our weekly sessions and events. Our singing is also quite impressive as we find this works well with Flicka and her rhythmical strides.

We now have three horses (Ben, Mac and Bobby) and four newly refurbished stables, so the hunt is on for our next pony. We have

Fifty reasons to celebrate!

Hope at 50

Sheila Saner, Group Chair, NorthWest

At our volunteers’ lunch in the summer, we presented each volunteer with their golden '50 years of the RDA' rosette and a certificate of recognition from Hope Mountain. Our riders received their rosettes during the Autumn RDA50 celebrations, when we had games and Celebration Cake.

Kesteven’s idea of a Silver Hour – and so the Hope Mountain Silver Hour was born. Our idea is that the silver stands for brightness, rather than hair colour, bringing brightness into lives. We started our first sessions of horse-petting and grooming with co-operation and support from Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham and from Coedpoeth Befrienders. During our Tuesday afternoon sessions, visitors met volunteers, children and horses. This was backed up by our usual risk assessments for new visitors, followed with home-made Hope Mountain cake.

To mark the 50th anniversary by trying something new, we adopted

Larissa Burnett, Co-Chair, North Wales

We've compiled fifty faces of Hope Mountain on a banner made throughout the year’s riding, which helped us and our visitors to see what we did and how we built our team.

Out & About

Fifty wonderful reasons For small RDA Groups, it can be difficult to get riders and ponies to the National Championships. But they can participate, in spirit at least. The riders at Bagshot Infants School, part of Sandhurst RDA, are keen supporters of the Arts and Crafts competition and, this anniversary year, entered their magical, golden pony Bailey in the Sculpture class. He was created by the children over several months, with scrunched newspaper, a wire frame, papier mâché, several layers of gold paint, PVA glue, faux fur, and wool for his mane and tail mixed with lametta for that extra golden sheen. Finally, his rug was made of purple felt with golden blanket stitching. He was then festooned with '50 Reasons Why RDA is so Wonderful' comments from the school’s RDA community: one rider said: “It widens my world”, while another observed:

Half a century – not out! Our 50th anniversary celebratory events included dressage, jumping, countryside challenge, games, tea parties, cakes, driving sessions with woodland picnics, Open Days, and even a cake made out of sugar beet and apples for the horses. Publicity has been encouraged through radio talk shows, and we've also become television celebrities with the TV cameras attending a Group to capture the essence of the RDA golden celebrations. One Group had a Paralympic Gold medallist (cyclist) award those special gold rosettes during celebrations in October.

“They help me learn how to ride while working my muscles the right way”. A parent said it gives: “The gift of freedom of movement and the unconditional love of a horse”. A school governor said: “RDA lessons provide limitless learning” and a school staff member added: “The children learn to respect animals in a very special way”. Of course, Bailey was a winner at the National Championships! Joanna Sale, Regional Publicity Officer, South East

The Bryngwyn Group monitored its riding miles for three months and has accomplished a milestone 50km. Our initial objective was 'Ride 50 miles with 50 smiles', but we have far exceeded this target as a region. We are also delighted three South Wales groups (Bryngwyn, Dinefwr, and Vale of Glamorgan) each won a saddle as part of Collegiate Saddle UK's give away of 50 saddles to RDA groups

Fifty in a flash Across West Mercia, we've been busy with two new facilities opened with Royal Visits, the National Training Centre in Warwickshire and the Cavalier Centre in Shropshire, dozens of birthday cakes and hundreds of Golden Rosettes. It would be impossible to mention them all in such a small space and wholly unfair to single out any one group or individual. What we can do is record an unswerving loyalty from volunteers, supporters and participants and huge praise for the excellent work set down all those years ago. How little did they know or perhaps dream that their single-minded approach to help others with the aid of a horse could have grown and be so vital to so many 50 years on.

Everyone (from current and past members to riders and helpers) has shared commitment, hard work, and fun while celebrating this wonderful occasion with the traditional Welsh Hwyl!

There are not many images of those early days (websites and social media were the stuff of science fiction), but today they record forever the joy, happiness and fulfilment that is RDA in action. Let us hope when our successors celebrate being 75 or more they take care to ‘click’ and look back on what a fantastic year 2019 has been. They will see lots and lots of cake!

Amanda Say, South Wales

Trevor White, West Mercia




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