Exclusive HorseFest Ticket offer for RDA members

HorseFest is a new, three day festival, taking place from July 23 to 25, for all those horse fans with an interest in the equine world, allowing them to come together, learn, celebrate, have fun and create special memories.

And for those who can’t manage to get away for the whole weekend, day tickets are now on sale for the Saturday and Sunday with a packed line-up planned, all for just £65 at the Early Bird day ticket price.

Thanks to the team at HorseFest we have secured a further discount for RDA members and volunteers with 10% off any Adult, Young Person, Child or Family entry ticket. Just use the code HORSEFESTRDA10 at the checkout on the website.

Held at the stunning Weston Park in Shropshire, the event includes a variety of interactive and inclusive performances and demonstrations from top riders and experts across all areas of the equestrian world, all designed to help the HorseFest festivalgoers to learn and develop their own knowledge in an inspirational and caring environment.

Entry to HorseFest whether with a day or weekend ticket, includes workshops, talks, large and small arena demonstrations, as well as music and entertainment into the late evening. Ten headline experts and professionals are already announced and there’s more to come!

If you want to see and watch everything on offer a weekend ticket is a must to ensure you don’t miss out on one of HorseFest’s fantastic headliners.

Across the weekend HorseFest will showcase an amazing 36 Main Arena demonstrations, 124 workshops, talks and interviews to participate in; a wellbeing zone, children’s area for family fun, equestrian and lifestyle trade stands, delicious catering, three nights of music, bands and DJs; and there’s six ways to stay, from tents to live in vehicles, glamping or cottages and rooms in Weston Park if you want to enjoy the full magical experience.

Saturday so far includes:

  • Eventing mother and daughter duo, Mary and Emily King
  • Grand Prix dressage rider Sam Turner and her traditional gypsy cob, Billy Whiz
  • Performance psychologist Charlie Unwin
  • UK based Australian Horseman, Jason Webb
  • All action stuntman himself, Ben Atkinson
  • Dressage legend and renowned story teller, Steph Croxford
  • Event rider and presenter Jonty Evans with Cooley Rorkes Drift
  • Jamaican event rider and mentor, Lydia Heywood
  • Gillian Higgins of Horses Inside Out

Sunday so far includes:

  • Leading showjumper and trainer, Jay Halim
  • Top event rider Lissa Green
  • UK based Australian Horseman, Jason Webb
  • Event rider and presenter Jonty Evans with Cooley Rorkes Drift
  • Gillian Higgins of Horses Inside Out
  • Dressage legend and renowned story teller, Steph Croxford
  • All action stuntman himself, Ben Atkinson
  • Jamaican event rider and mentor, Lydia Heywood

With leading names already signed up, topics covered will include training on and off the ground, saddlery fitting, biomechanics, physiology of horse and rider and many more – there will be something for everyone to get involved with and enjoy whilst learning.

As well as the educational element, socialising is a key ingredient in the HorseFest mix, and the horse world does love a party!

At night, unwind, relax or dance the night away with the live music and entertainment or get involved with fun quizzes as you treat yourself to a drink or two!

Throughout the event there will be a variety of tasty and innovative food stalls and bars as well as a shopping village that will include horsey and lifestyle stands to browse and enjoy.

Not forgetting the little ones, the festival will have fairground activities, a play area, arts and crafts and hugely popular hobby horse races to keep children entertained.

Early Bird Adult Ticket Prices are available until they are sold out or February 28, 2021. Come along for the whole weekend and stay 3 nights for £165 per adult or day tickets are £65 per adult You can bring the family (2 adults and 2 young persons and/or children) for the weekend for  £350 or a family day ticket is £150.

For further information and to book your tickets visit www.horsefest.org


For further information please contact Issy Cooke at TSM on (01724) 784600.

Page Last Updated: January 13, 2021

Weekly News 19 November

We are sorry to share the sad news that Pat Burgess, Founder of Wilton RDA in Wiltshire, has sadly passed away. Pat was a much-loved figure throughout RDA, especially of course at her group and in the region. Described as a ‘powerhouse’ of a person, Pat said she ran Wilton on ‘love, joy and enthusiasm’. We could all do with a bit more of that at the moment, and Pat will be sadly missed.
You can read more about Pat here www.rdawilton.co.uk/calendar-news-events/pat-burgess

Financial support for groups in England
Today’s DMCS announcement of a ‘Winter Survival Package’ will unfortunately not benefit RDA groups. However:
Sport England ‘Return to Play’ funds
There are three funds still open for application from Sport England, part of a wider package of over £220m of support which they have provided since late March (which several groups have already benefited from). Find out more here: www.sportengland.org/how-we-can-help/our-funds
Support for closed businesses
RDA groups in England that pay business rates may be eligible for a grant following the latest lockdown. Check your eligibility here: www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-your-business-is-eligible-for-a-coronavirus-grant-due-to-national-restrictions-for-closed-businesses

Groups in Scotland entering Level 4
We updated Regional Chairs in Scotland yesterday following the Scottish First Minister’s announcement that will bring a number of areas into Level 4 from this Friday, 20 November at 6pm. If you are affected by the changes or just want to keep up to date visit www.myrda.org.uk/runningyourgroup/getting-started-after-lockdown/rules-for-scotland and read: COVID-19: What it means to groups in Scotland for all the details.

Vacancy: Regional Chair West & Central Scotland
Kate Bennet will be stepping down as Regional Chair for West & Central Scotland after nine successful years in post, and we are now looking for her replacement. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring your knowledge, experience and professionalism to a key role in RDA UK, so please get in touch to find out more. We also have vacancies for Regional Chairs in Greater London and South West. Contact Faye McKenning in the office (fmckenning@rda.org.uk) if you would like to find out more about these roles – or any other RDA UK volunteer positions currently vacant.

Clare Balding signed bookplates
A reminder that the Clare Balding signed bookplate scheme is open until tomorrow. If you want to take part, here’s how it works:

  • Buy your copies of Heroic Animals as cheaply as you can
  • One coordinator per group, head to www.myrda.org.uk/clare-balding-book and fill out the details.
  • We’ll send the information to Clare who will sign the bookplates and return them.
  • You stick them into the books and use them for fundraising
  • The scheme closes on 20 November.

This project is being coordinated by Angela Sly at National Office, so any questions please email her at asly@rda.org.uk .

Page Last Updated: November 19, 2020

New look Operations Team at National Office – changes explained

There have been a few changes to the Operations staff team at National Office. We have moved away from having a member of staff responsible for each activity area (e.g. dressage, showjumping, carriage driving etc.) and instead now have teams covering specific areas of our work, eg:

  • Training & Education (which deals with any qualifications, coaching pathway, training around delivering sessions, participant education, Proficiency Tests etc)
  • Group Support (safeguarding, governance)

Your first point of contact if you are not sure who to speak to is the Group Support Team who can be contacted at groupsupport@rda.org.uk and 01926 492915 and then pressing option 2 followed by option 1.

Please find here a brief presentation that explains this new structure, which was presented at the October 2020 Operational Planning Committee Meeting and the November 2020 Regional Chairs Meeting, which you might find interesting.


Also you can view the whole staff team and their contact details here: www.myrda.org.uk/about-rda/meet-the-team/ 

Page Last Updated: November 18, 2020

Weekly News 12 November

Clare Balding signed bookplates

The Clare Balding signed bookplate scheme is now open! If you want to take part, here’s how it will work:

  • Buy your copies of Heroic Animals as cheaply as you can (currently on Amazon for just £10)
  • One coordinator per group, head to myrda.org.uk/clare-balding-book and fill out the details.
  • We’ll send the information to Clare who will sign the bookplates and return them.
  • You stick them into the books and use them for fundraising
  • The scheme is open for 2 weeks and closes on 20 November.

This project is being coordinated by Angela Sly at National Office, so any questions please email her at asly@rda.org.uk .

Award winners

Congratulations to President’s Award winners Sue Robson (Richmond & Catterick); Jane McMurray (Lisburn RDA); Brigid Hamill (Windsor & Ascot); Lynne Munro (Perry RDA); Isobel Buchanan (Winton); Anne Mitchell (Barrow Farm); Lesley Furnell and Zara Campbell Harris (Wyfold – who received her award earlier this year).

The RDA ‘Brilliant’ awards went to Trish Clarke (Gareloch); Teagan Murphy (South Bucks); Natalie O’Rourke (Park Lane Stables) and Equipower Group. These awards were kindly supported by Childs Farm, players of Peoples Postcode Lottery, Oliver Wight and Andrews Bowen.

The Birt Spooner Cup, awarded to someone who has gone over and above to promote the cause of RDA, was awarded to Sue Adams-Wheeler, Lead Coach for 10 years and International Liaison Officer. Congratulations Sue. Sue gave a very interesting talk at the AGM. You can watch a recording of this on our YouTube channel, along with the acceptance videos of the Brilliant Award winners, at www.youtube.com/rdanational

More details about the AGM and award winners here in the latest news stories at: www.myrda.org.uk/category/news/

Creative Writing competition

Back by popular demand, the Creative Writing Competition is open! The form and poster are on MyRDA for you to use, and we will also be sharing on social media so that participants can enter directly if they wish. The competition closes on 26 Feb 2021 so there’s plenty of time for riders and drivers to join in.

You can download the information and entry form here (this link may immediately download the document, so don’t be surprised if that happens!): www.myrda.org.uk/assets/Creative-Writing-Competition-Entry-Form-2021.docx

And the poster here: www.myrda.org.uk/assets/Creative-Writing-Competition-Poster-2021-1.pdf

Thanks to Godolphin for sponsoring this competition.

RDA activities at home

We are really keen to produce more worksheets and resources for participants to do at home and in school. I know many of you are crying out for help here – particularly those of you who have been creating your own materials since March.

As a first step, if you are happy sharing your activities and resources with us, this would give us a real head start. We will then (shamelessly) use your ideas and produce a range of regularly updated resources for all groups and participants to access.

If you can share anything with us, that would be great. Some of you were kind enough to send me your ideas and worksheets over the summer and they were so helpful – and your ideas and creativity are outstanding.

Please send to Alex Walker at awalker@rda.org.uk

Page Last Updated: November 13, 2020

Recognition for Coach who brought therapeutic riding to Russia

‘Birt Spooner’ Cup awarded to Lead Coach and International Liaison

RDA has presented coach and RDA Fellow Sue Adams-Wheeler with the prestigious Birt Spooner Cup. The cup is awarded to an individual who has supported and promoted the cause of RDA in an outstanding way.

Sue accepted the award during RDA’s virtual AGM, chaired by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. In her acceptance speech she recalled the challenges of bringing RDA to Russia – at a time when the authorities refused to acknowledge that disability existed – and other pioneering trips around the world.

Sue started with RDA journey in 1976 as part of Leominster group in Herefordshire. Her passion for coaching and the development of standards across RDA soon earned her a place on what was then known as the Training Committee, from where Sue’s role as an ambassador for RDA coaching both at home and abroad really took off.

She travelled to Russia just at the end of Perestroika. “Russia had a policy that disabled people did not exist, so they didn’t provide any support or activities,” Sue explains. “I had no idea what I was in for and had so many adventures. I spent three years going backwards and forwards to Russia, and travelled all over.”

Since then Sue has presented at conferences all over the world, and brought RDA coaching and training to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Kelantan, Penang, Borneo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

In China, Sue and fellow RDA coach and physiotherapist Lynne Munro worked with American charity, Hope, to help disabled orphans – a legacy of China’s One Child policy. More recently, RDA has taken her to Korea, where she trained horses for a programme supporting military and fire service personnel with PTSD.

“They are all adventures in themselves,” says Sue. “Sometimes fun, sometimes really very frightening, but always I’ve enjoyed it. I’m so honoured to get this award.”

Watch Sue’s talk and acceptance speech at www.youtube.com/rdanational 

Page Last Updated: November 11, 2020

RDA presents one-off awards to recognise COVID challenges

(RDA) has recognised the particular challenge faced by its groups during 2020 with series of one-off awards presented at the charity’s virtual AGM. The four ‘Brilliant’ awards acknowledge the dedication of the RDA community throughout lockdown and the gradual restarting of activities.

Brilliant Person Award, sponsored by Childs Farm

Trish Clarke of Gareloch RDA won this award for her creative, problem-solving attitude and everything she has done to keep her group engaged and together during lockdown. Her nominator said: “Trish always sees a problem as an exciting challenge and her enthusiasm and caring personality have enhanced and improved our whole group. Thank you Trish, you’re an inspiration.”

In her acceptance speech, filmed and shown at RDA’s virtual AGM, Trish said “I am honoured and delighted. The RDA is a great organisation, and one that I am proud to be associated with. One of the core strengths of RDA is its ability to foster teamwork and I am lucky to work with a fantastic group of people. This award is a tribute to their hard work and support.”

Brilliant Young Person, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery

RDA rider Teagan Murphy was the deserving recipient of this award. Teagan wanted to ensure that the ponies at her group had enough to eat during lockdown. In order to raise money, she cycled 55km in stages around her local area with the support of her family. Her original aim of £200 was well and truly beaten with her final total of £1,380.

Brilliant RDA Group, sponsored by Oliver Wight

Equipower RDA won this award for their extraordinary efforts to keep their riders and volunteers engaged during lockdown. They ran fitness classes, mental health support services, educational activities, fundraisers and more.

Ettrickbridge & Dryden group were highly commended in this category for their weekly ‘horsey homeworks’ for schools, regular news-drops and zoom social events.

RDA UK Award, sponsored by Andrews Bowen

Natalie O’Rourke of Park Lane Stables won this award. With stables closing due to the pandemic Natalie was concerned that RDA participants at her group would not be getting their equine therapy. Undaunted, she took a pony to local adults and children in lockdown to brighten up their day. She also visited the children of key workers at schools, elderly people in care homes and a child in Great Ormond Street. Natalie is now running Stable Management and Wellbeing in Wellies sessions, which are proving to be very popular.

Anne Allen was highly commended in this category. She opened up her own stables in order to provide a venue for her group, teaching horse care, feeding, grooming and taking part in a specially devised obstacle course.

Watch the citations and acceptances on the RDA YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/rdanational

Page Last Updated: November 11, 2020

HRH The Princess Royal Chairs Zoom AGM

RDA held its 51st AGM, chaired by our President, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. In a first for RDA, the meeting took place on Zoom and was livestreamed on YouTube. Hundreds of members tuned in from around the UK to watch the event, which also included an awards presentation for volunteers and riders.

In her President’s Address, The Princess acknowledged the challenges that RDA and its 500 member groups have faced since the start of lockdown in March. She recognised the dedication shown by the charity’s volunteers and coaches to ensure that RDA’s commitment to disabled people has not suffered.

The Princess, who previously ‘met’ with volunteers and riders on Zoom during the first lockdown, spoke about the individuals throughout the organisation who have shown great leadership in helping RDA to adapt and innovate throughout this period.

RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher also acknowledged this point, saying he has ‘never been more proud to be part of RDA’ than during this year.

“My main message is one of thanks to everyone in the RDA community – collectively, you have done so much to support each other during this crisis,” he said.  “When I look back over 2020 I will, of course, remember a time when we all felt the stress, uncertainty and frustration of what was happening. But I will also remember a time when our community really pulled together and supported each other.”

Private meeting with President’s Award winners

After chairing the AGM, The Princess moved to a private break out room to meet winners of The President’s Award – RDA’s most prestigious award for over 30 years ‘above and beyond’ voluntary service.

Award winner Lynne Munro said: “At first the idea of a virtual awards ceremony was strange but actually turned out to be a great experience. A couple of practice sessions helped too! We each had lots of individual time chatting with Princess Anne in a relaxed, friendly and personal way with lots of anecdotes and laughter too. The only downside was no photograph with The Princess but that is a small price to pay for what was, for me, the most exciting thing to happen in my kitchen during lockdown!”

Ed Bracher said: “Thank you to all of these volunteers for their amazing service to and support for RDA over the years – we are blessed to attract volunteers to this organisation who not only stay with us, but also do incredible things to take us forward.”

President’s Award winners

Susan Robson            
Susan Robson joined Richmond and Catterick Group in 1983 chairing the group between 1983 and 2000 leading them through some tough times. Throughout her 50 years involvement with RDA Sue has held positions at group, county and regional level.  Her greatest achievement has been in the practical help she has given to disabled people throughout the region with whom she has a natural empathy having had her own challenges with dyslexia. These she has overcome through willpower and a dogged determination not to let that limit in any way what she can do. 

Jane McMurray
Jane McMurray is one of the founders of RDA in Northern Ireland and started Lisburn RDA in 1975 . The Group continues to provide riding for pupils from Parkview to this day. 

Jane’s lifelong association with horses and wide experience have been invaluable both at group and regional level where her contribution should not be underestimated. She has never held an official regional post but for many years no Dressage Competition, Holiday, or Day Out took place without Jane’s help, quietly working away in the background assisting wherever she was needed, always ready with a kind word and encouragement

Brigid Hamill
Brigid Hamill was one of the founder members of Windsor and Ascot Driving Group in 1975 and is still supporting the group today.  The group started with donkeys and jubilee carriages and now has three lovely ponies – over 40 volunteers and currently 13 drivers. She has recently given up coaching, but she can still be seen busy helping, head holding and assisting participants at the sessions.  She is a great “mother” figure in the group, always there with a listening ear, supporting the team, and has given so many people over the years the opportunity to enjoy driving.  


Lynne Munro
Lynne Munroe first met the RDA in 1974 as a placement activity during her physiotherapy training in the East End of London working with disabled children riding horses. Over the years, Lynne has touched every part of RDA at Group, County and National levels. She is a “doer” who will put her hand to any aspect of the daily delivery of tuition, support and encouragement to both participant and volunteer alike. She has helped to develop vaulting as a core RDA activity. Perry RDA group in Shropshire, where she is a regular coach, has benefitted from her careful guidance.

Isobel Buchanan
Isobel joined the Winton Group as a volunteer in 1977 four years after it was founded. She did a variety of roles and became Chairman in 1990 and remained in that role for nine years.

The group was very active during this period, raising substantial funds, owning a minibus, and taking disabled children on holiday each year.  Isobel was called upon to take the Chairman’s role again in 2008-2014 and was County Chairman from 2011-2015

One of her proudest memories is when a Winton Group rider won a silver medal at the Special Olympics in Shanghai, China in 2007.  

Anne Mitchell
Anne has run and worked at Barrow Farm since its start in 1976 – she has taught and supported hundreds of disabled people to appreciate riding and driving. Through her enthusiasm, determination and dedication Barrow Farm has progressed from 12 to over 140 riders and drivers each week. She has been involved in all aspects of running the organisation and has trained and developed many RDA coaches.  Anne has also contributed to RDA at County and Regional level.  She has taken part in and run many training courses for coaches and volunteers.

Lesley Furnell
For over 30 years Lesley Furnell has dedicated herself to RDA through her expertise as a physiotherapist. Lesley moved from her previous group to Shiresmill Riding Therapy Centre in 2000.  Qualifying as a Group Coach in 2004, she has worked tirelessly displaying endless patience and care with all participants.  For nearly 10 years she has held Group governance roles and been a key player in increasing activities, improving training for volunteers and developing funding streams.

As Regional Physio from 2004 to 2016, Lesley travelled extensively capturing the latest thinking and developments, readily passing on that knowledge and understanding to the Region and RDA nationally.  She was a member of the International Coordination Group representing RDA and presenting papers at HETI conferences worldwide.  Throughout, she has encouraged many young therapists to get involved with RDA.

Lesley has channelled her energy into qualifying as a Coach Developer, part of a successful Regional Coaching Team.

Page Last Updated: November 12, 2020

Weekly email to groups 5 November

Watch the RDA AGM & Awards live on You Tube

The RDA AGM & Awards will be broadcast live on YouTube tomorrow from about 10:30 to midday on Friday 6 November. Simply head to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/rdanational . Please encourage your volunteers and wider RDA community to tune in by sharing this link.

RDA Tartan scarf

As the cold weather begins to take hold, you might be interested in purchasing an RDA tartan scarf. These beautiful (and warm!) Lochcarron of Scotland scarves were produced during our 50th anniversary and can be bought through the good people at Norvite Farm & Country with all proceeds to RDA. www.norvitefarmandcountry.com/11406/products/rda-50th-anniversary-tartan-lambswool-scarf.aspx . 

Resource for managing horse care

Tess Fordham, Regional Vet for Scotland has produced a useful template form for groups with horses to ensure consistent care and decision-making in an emergency. This might be useful if you have different people coming in on different days to look after them. You can find it here (third form in the list on the right hand side of the page): www.myrda.org.uk/runningyourgroup/horses-and-rda/

Carriage Driving Facebook Page

With Carriage Driving groups still unable to return to activity, don’t forget there is a Facebook group for helping to keep you in touch with your RDA carriage driving community. In Facebook search for ‘RDA Carriage Driving’ and request to join. 

Page Last Updated: November 5, 2020

5 November Update to groups in England

As promised, please find here our latest advice regarding the lockdown in England from 5 November to 2 December.

Group closure

In order to comply with the country-wide lockdown, RDA groups in England should close until 2 December. Reducing the spread of COVID-19 is a priority and as an organisation we will act accordingly.

Two possible exemptions

There are two situations where, in specific, individual cases, RDA activities may be requested to continue by a school or healthcare provider for specific educational and/or therapeutic purposes.

These situations are:

  • Where a school wants to continue RDA sessions for their students as it forms part of their normal provision for education and training
  • Where an individual or members of a small group have been referred or prescribed RDA activity by NHS, social care providers or similar and the trustees have written approval from this NHS healthcare (e.g. GP, CAMHS etc.) or social care provider for this activity to continue as part of ongoing medical assistance or therapy.

These situations will be covered by RDA insurance where trustees have received a written request from the education or healthcare provider. It is up to the trustees to decide if they want to meet these requests. Staff and volunteers required for these sessions can travel in this instance as this is classed as essential.  If these exemptions apply to any of your activities and you plan to remain open, please email groupsupport@rda.org.uk so we are aware of which groups this relates to. 

Horse care

Riding centres and stables can remain open for the care and exercise of horses during this period to protect animal welfare.  Staff and volunteers can travel in this case as this is classed as essential.

Exercise should be done following our existing insurance and exercising of equines policy, which permits volunteers to exercise equines for the benefit of the equine both at an RDA venue and away from an RDA approved venue (e.g. hacking from the venue where this is possible and safe).  Most groups will have this in place anyway.  This needs to be agreed, signed and retained by the trustees.  All of these activities would be covered by RDA insurance as long as this policy is followed. 

Protecting your RDA community

The health of everyone within our RDA community is paramount. It hopefully goes without saying that volunteers and staff should be under no pressure to attend RDA for any purpose if they don’t want to.

The government has released new advice that those over 60 and those who are clinically vulnerable are at higher risk from COVID-19.  Those at risk should:

  • be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise contact with others
  • continue to wash hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas at home and/or workspace.

We are therefore advising that where possible these individuals should avoid any RDA activities that involves mixing with other households. 

The government has also advised those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield. These individuals will receive a letter confirming this.  Further guidance is available on www.gov.uk .

This includes: ‘You are strongly advised to work from home. If you cannot work from home, you should not attend work for this period of restrictions.’  Therefore, any staff or volunteers should not undertake any RDA work or volunteering away from their home during this period. 

I hope that this brings some clarity, but if you are in any doubt about your next steps please do get in touch.

Page Last Updated: November 5, 2020

Weekly email 29 October

Watch the RDA AGM & Awards live on You Tube

The RDA AGM & Awards will be broadcast live on YouTube from 10:30 to midday on Friday 6 November. Simply head to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/rdanational . Please encourage your volunteers and wider RDA community to tune in by sharing this link.

If you have any questions about the AGM please contact Amanda Perkins aperkins@rda.org.uk 

Report into activity levels

The report following the survey into current activity levels is now complete and can be read or downloaded at www.myrda.org.uk/assets/RDA-Activity-Levels-Report.pdf. By the end of this week I will be issuing a press release about the report and it will be on the main RDA website in our news section. The report makes several recommendations about how RDA UK (which includes National Office staff and National, Regional & County volunteers) might respond to the findings, and we will be following up with our plans to do this in the coming weeks.

Vacancy: Great London Regional Chair

Mike Locke has done a fantastic job as Regional Chair for Greater London, and he is now stepping down. We are looking within our RDA community for his replacement, so please do get in touch with Faye McKenning in the office (fmckenning@rda.org.uk) if you would like to find out more about the role – or any other RDA UK volunteer positions currently vacant.

Clare Balding’s new book – an opportunity for fundraising

Clare Balding’s new book, Heroic Animals, is now out, and she is keen to support RDA groups through the book if possible.

I have a plan, but at the moment I’m only looking for an initial show of interest so I can see if it’s going to work and how best to coordinate it.

The idea is that your group buys the books that you want through normal channels (currently on Amazon for £13.60 and in Sainsbury’s for £10 – rrp £20), then you get in touch with a coordinator at National Office (possibly me but this hasn’t been decided yet) to request however many bookplates you need, which we will get signed by Clare. You then add these bookplates to the books, which can then be used for fundraising, raffles etc (depending on how popular this is, we should be able to arrange personal dedications).

It would be best if there was just one person from participating groups coordinating things at your end.

Let me know if you think you might be interested. And if you have an idea of how many books you think you might want signed that will help too. If it looks like a goer I’ll set this up asap.

Page Last Updated: November 5, 2020

Weekly email 22 October

RDA rider of 33 years and former trustee of Glasgow RDA Elaine Boyd has been voted on to this year’s Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 – a list of the top 100 influencers with disabilities in the UK. Elaine’s motto is: ‘Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.’ Many congratulations from all of us at RDA.

Find out more about aviator, accountant, charity trustee and adaptive sports enthusiast Elaine here: disabilitypower100.com/project/elaine-boyd-fcca/ 

COVID announcements

Our thoughts are very much with groups in those areas affected by new and tightened restrictions. I just wanted to reassure everyone else that if I don’t mention specific local or regional COVID updates in these emails, it’s because we are communicating directly with the regional teams in those areas.

CAF Resilience Fund for groups in England (with apologies to everyone else)

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has opened a £20m fund to distribute its share of the government’s coronavirus support package. Small and medium-sized charities in England have until 10 November to apply to the CAF Resilience Fund, which will make grants of between £10,000 and £100,000.

Full criteria and details here: www.cafonline.org//charities/grantmaking/caf-resilience-fund 

Competition opportunities

The SEIB Search for the Start RDA class is open until 27 October. Details here: www.seib.co.uk/competitions/search-4-a-star-rda/

Horse Monkey and Lee Pearson are running an online Walk/Trot dressage test, to be judged by Lee during Your Horse Live. It is open to disabled and non-disabled riders so it’s not RDA specific, but you might know of someone who would like the chance to enter. Click this link here.  

Survey into activity levels
I promised you the report this week into activity levels. Please accept my apologies that it didn’t make it over the finish line in time to have here as a link. It will be on MyRDA as soon as possible and I’ll put the link in next week’s email.

Safeguarding training

A reminder that we are now able to offer a couple of options for renewals of safeguarding training. Although it is not practical to offer in person Face to Face Workshops, we do now have the option of using Zoom. And if you attended a face to face course last time you can refresh using the e-learning. More info here: www.myrda.org.uk/runningyourgroup/safeguarding-2/

Page Last Updated: November 5, 2020

New report into post-lockdown activity levels

Following the survey to groups about activity levels and the factors affecting the continued closure of groups post-lockdown, the following report has been produced. Please feel free to download it for your own interest. This will be publicly launched on Friday 6 November.

With thanks to all the groups who took part in this research.

RDA Activity Levels Report

Page Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Weekly News 15 October

COVID announcements

The First Minister’s announcements on Wednesday 7 October in Scotland does not change our existing guidance to groups.

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday 12 October we are reassured that RDA activities in England can continue in the same way in all 3 tiers, medium, high and very high.  All tiers permit organised outdoor sporting and physical activity, which covers RDA activities, this includes activities in so-called ‘indoor’ arenas. Even though travel should be kept to a minimum we are also reassured that travel for charitable purposes and to access our services is permitted in medium and high risk alert levels and travel inside very high risk alert level areas.  Travel into or out of very high risk alert level areas is advised against unless it is necessary.

More detailed updates to Covid guidance is available here

Disability dispensation in England and Wales

We have had confirmation in England and Wales that coaches can now support disabled participants where it may mean they need to be closer than social distancing would normally allow (1m in England and 2m in Wales).  This is only permitted if this is for a short duration (few minutes), if the activity has been risk assessed and the coach is wearing a face covering. A face covering is mandatory for this situation.  This means that coaches can now support riders to mount and dismount, check girth, stirrups etc. where they would not have been able to do so before. This has been available to Scottish coaches since the middle of September. Further information can be found here.

Face coverings

We have recently revised our policy on face coverings. Those leading and sidewalking are now allowed to wear face coverings during sessions if they so wish. This is not a substitute for social distancing for activities where people will be in closer contact for more than a few minutes. This means sidewalkers still need to be from the rider’s household/ support bubble.  We would not recommend riders to wear a face covering during ridden sessions as this could impede communication between rider and coach/ volunteers but they can choose to do so if they feel more comfortable, as long as this does not interfere with their safety on the horse (i.e. no loose elements). Further information about face coverings can be found here.

Insurance refund

Your group will be receiving a letter in the next week or so with information about the insurance refund we have been able to negotiate through our brokers as a result of lockdown. The letter will specify the refund due to your group (15%) and how you can claim it.

Survey into activity levels

I have started analysing the results of the recent survey into activity levels at groups. This will be written up as a report, and I will share the findings with you next week. Many thanks to everyone who took part.

Safeguarding training

We are now able to offer a couple of options for renewals of safeguarding training. Although it is not practical to offer in person Face to Face Workshops, we do now have the option of using Zoom. And if you attended a face to face course last time you can refresh using the e-learning. More info here: www.myrda.org.uk/runningyourgroup/safeguarding-2/

Countryside Challenge Competition

Many thanks to Sue Mack for running the Countryside Challenge competition. The winners have now been informed, and the new ‘obstacles’ will be incorporated into the course (along with a special appearance from ‘Stevie The Scarecrow’ from Stevenage & District). Congratulations to Clytha, Haworth, Newtownards and Wellow for their winning group entries, and Laura Smith and Daniel Davies who entered individually.

RDA Tracker

The rdatracker website is not working, so please don’t try and use it for the time being.

Staff contacts

The most up to date names, specific roles, numbers, emails and working times will always be found here: www.myrda.org.uk/about-rda/meet-the-team/ (Go to MyRDA, then Contact Us, then Meet the Team).

Page Last Updated: October 15, 2020

Weekly news 6 October


The new phone system at National Office is up and running. It’s the same as the old one (mainline 01926 492915) but there are now options when you call in to help direct your call. 

Dressage Anywhere

RDA classes for Dressage Anywhere have reopened. The schedule for October is now live and there is a range of led, independent, VI and graded tests available. www.dressageanywhere.com/Competitor/EnterCompetition/601

Duke of Edinburgh Awards

Duke of Edinburgh Awards are researching the amount of DofE volunteering that has been happening since lockdown. If you have DofE candidates signed up with your group, please complete the survey if you can – even if there hasn’t been any activity. Thank you. www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RDADofE2020

Page Last Updated: October 15, 2020

Weekly News 1 October

Starting with some sad news. This last month saw the passing of two RDA ‘greats’, Sister Chiara Hatton-Hall and Miss Liz Dendy.

Sister Chiara was one of our founders, attending the very first meeting of the ‘Advisory Council for Riding for the Disabled’ that the BHS set up in April 1964.  She was the first Chair of the Training Committee and created much of what we now recognise as the basis of our excellent Coaching support.  She helped to set up FRDI (which became HETI and brings together RDA-type organisations around the world) and was respected across the globe. 

Liz Dendy was Chair of RDA in the 1990s, skilfully steering us through the transition towards Federation, which many of you will remember. She was instrumental in setting up the International Paralympic Committee, and was a champion for disability sport worldwide.

We owe them a huge debt of gratitude and our thoughts are with their families.

Phone system down on Friday pm

There will be a new phone system at National Office from Monday 5 October (No change to phone numbers). This will be set up from 2pm this Friday.  If you need to contact the office between 2 and 4 pm on Friday, please use the group support email (groupsupport@rda.org.uk) or call 07599 236 036.

AGM and Voting papers

Next week your group will receive voting papers for the virtual AGM on 6 November. Please complete and return your responses as soon as possible.

Government Kickstart Scheme

You may have heard that the government has created a new scheme to encourage and support employers to create work placements for young people in England, Scotland and Wales.  The Kickstart Scheme pays the costs for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment to be employed part time for 6 months.  The placements should support young people to develop the skills and experience they need to find work after completing the scheme.

There is a minimum number of 30 people who must be enrolled on the scheme, although you can do so as part of a consortium, so RDA UK is looking to see if there is enough interest from groups for us to take this further. You can find out more about the scheme and how to register your interest here: www.myrda.org.uk/government-kickstart-scheme/

New Coaching Lead

Karen Thompson has taken on the role of Coaching Lead for RDA UK. Karen replaces Sue Adams-Wheeler, who has stepped down after 9 years in post. Sue led on many changes in coaching including the new Coaching Pathway and we are hugely grateful for her leadership and experience throughout her time in the role. Karen runs Kesteven Rideability in the North Midlands, and is County Coach and Regional Dressage Rep for North Midlands. 

Virtual Windsor

Congratulations to all the RDA riders who took part in the first ever RDA Dressage Challenge at Virtual Windsor Horse Show, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The overall winner, Elise Coubrough, and the highest placed in each grade will share in the £1,000 worth of vouchers kindly donated by Wychanger Saddlery. You can find all the results from the weekend here: virtual.rwhs.co.uk/results/

Survey about activity levels and closure

I’ll be closing this survey at the end of this week, so please take part if you haven’t already. It takes about 5 minutes and will give us valuable information to help us support you better in the coming months. www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RDAActivityLevels

Brilliant Person Awards

Our Brilliant Person Award closes this weekend, so there’s just time for your entries. Visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9L6QD99

BBC Sports Personality of the Year – Unsung Hero Awards

Nominations are open for BBC SPOTY, which this year also features the ‘Captain Tom Young Unsung Hero’ award. More information and entry details here: www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/27037119

Page Last Updated: October 2, 2020

Government Kickstart scheme

You may have heard that the government has created a new scheme to encourage and support employers to create work placements for young people in England, Scotland and Wales.  The Kickstart Scheme pays the costs for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment to be employed part time for 6 months.  The idea is for the placements to support the participants to develop the skills and experience they need to find work after completing the scheme.

There is a minimum number of 30 people who must be enrolled on the scheme, although you can do so as part of a consortium, so RDA UK is looking at the possibility of doing this to support your Group, if this might work for you.  

What funding is available

Funding is available for:

  • 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week
  • associated employer National Insurance contributions
  • employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions

There is also £1500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.  RDAUK may charge you a proportion of this element in order to help fund a co-ordinated approach to the training program required by the scheme.

How to get the funding

Funding is available following a successful application process.

Who can apply for funding

Any organisation, regardless of size, can apply for funding.

The job placements created with Kickstart funding must be new jobs. They must not:

  • replace existing or planned vacancies
  • cause existing employees or contractors to lose or reduce their employment

The roles you are applying for must be:

  • a minimum of 25 hours per week, for 6 months
  • paid at least the National Minimum Wage for their age group
  • should not require people to undertake extensive training before they begin the job placement

Each application should include how you will help the participants to develop their skills and experience (RDAUK may be able to provide a co-ordinated approach to this training) including:

  • support to look for long-term work, including career advice and setting goals
  • support with CV and interview preparations
  • supporting the participant with basic skills, such as attendance, timekeeping and teamwork

Once a job placement is created, it can be taken up by a second person once the first successful applicant has completed their 6-month term.

To find out more about the scheme visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme

At the moment we are just looking for groups to register their interest, to find out if we could meet the criteria for 30 people through our ‘consortium’. If you think your group might be interested, please email Peter Dean at RDA National Office at pdean@rda.org.uk 

Page Last Updated: September 29, 2020

Weekly News – 24 September

This is the first of what will become a regular weekly email to all RDA Group Chairs and Contacts.
The emails will usually come from me, and I hope you will feel happy contacting me directly if I can be of help. That said, outside of communications, publicity and PR, you will quickly reach the limit of my knowledge, so please continue to use your usual contacts for other things.

Update your details
This is a great opportunity to help us update our records. If you are no longer Group Chair or the designated Group Contact, please email info@rda.org.uk and let us know – ideally with the name of your replacement.
I know lockdown prevented the publication of this year’s handbook. As an interim measure, I am going to get the current contact information for each region into an electronic format and circulate that as soon as it’s ready.

Government announcement Tuesday
The devolved government announcements on Tuesday brought no specific changes to our current guidelines. Remember that www.myrda.org.uk is being kept up to date with the latest information. If something changes that affects the whole organisation or needs immediate action we will of course email you as soon as possible.

Chief Executive webinars
Throughout lockdown, RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher has recorded a series of webinars about how we have been tackling the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on RDA. You can watch the latest one – and catch up with previous webinars – on our You Tube Channel at www.youtube.com/RDAnational. A transcript of the latest talk is also available, so please let me know if you’d like a copy.

Virtual Windsor
Tomorrow at 2:30pm is the RDA Dressage Challenge Class at Virtual Windsor Horse Show, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and prizes from Wychanger Saddlery. Congratulations to all who entered, and especially to those who made it into the top ten! Tune in to watch it ‘live’ – with commentary from our very own Dressage Lead John Robinson – at https://virtual.rwhs.co.uk/

Survey about activity levels and closure
Please don’t forget to complete our survey into activity levels and continued group closure if you haven’t done so already. It takes about 5 minutes and will give us valuable information to help us support you better in the coming months. www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RDAActivityLevels

RDA UK volunteer vacancies
We have several vacancies for Regional and County volunteer roles. If you, or someone you know, would like to find out more about being an RDA UK volunteer, please contact Faye McKenning at National Office on fmckenning@rda.org.uk .

Brilliant Person Awards
There’s still time to nominate someone for our Brilliant Person Award. Visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9L6QD99

Have a good week and stay safe.

Best wishes,
Caroline Ward
Head of Communication & Insight, RDA UK
01926 405968

Page Last Updated: September 29, 2020

Group Development Manager – Maternity Cover

RDA National Office, Shrewley, Warwick

RDA is a leading national charity, dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled people through horses and our team at national office work closely with our network of national volunteers to ensure RDA Groups are able to provide an excellent experience for those who take part in our activities.

About the role:

We are seeking a new member of staff to play a key role in supporting RDA Groups in developing the excellent service they provide to our participants. This role is an opportunity for someone who prides themselves on their ability to engage with key stakeholders and has strong project management and organisational skills.

The main responsibilities of the role include leading in four key areas:

  • Delivering against the RDA UK Growth Plan
  • Managing the recruitment of new RDA Groups
  • Supporting existing RDA Groups in setting up their governing documents to best fit their future needs
  • Overseeing and administering the delivery of a Sport England funded programme, Accessibility Mark.

It is important that you are a confident communicator with exceptional customer service skills as you will be providing advice and guidance to our volunteer workforce on a regular basis.  We also value adaptability; someone who will enjoy working on new projects and the challenges associated with a varied workload.

This is a temporary role, providing maternity cover, working 34 hours per week (09:00-17:00 Monday to Thursday, 09:00-16:00 Friday, with one hour for lunch), although flexibility will be needed leading up to events with extra hours covered by time off in lieu.

Salary is £25,000 (pro rata) per annum.

Please ring 07493 394237 or email cmilican@rda.org.uk for a full job description, or send your CV to cmilican@rda.org.uk .

Closing date for applications is Tuesday 30th June.  

We are looking for the successful person to start, for a handover period, by mid-August if possible.

Job Description Group Development Manager (Mat Cover) 2020

Page Last Updated: June 22, 2020

HRH Princess Anne launches 50th anniversary tartan for RDA in Scotland

A new tartan has been produced by Lachcarron of Scotland in celebration of 50 years of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) providing therapy through horses. The tartan was launched at an Anniversary event in Edinburgh by RDA President, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. The Princess met with volunteers and participants from around the country and was presented with her very own RDA tartan scarf by brothers Andrew and William McLeod.

In addition to launching the tartan, the event was an opportunity to celebrate 50 years of RDA in Scotland. There are 54 individual RDA groups in the country, supporting almost 3000 adults and children with physical and learning disabilities to benefit from horses. In her address to guests, The Princess thanked the volunteers – over 2,500 in Scotland – without whom RDA would not be possible. She acknowledged the whole team effort that it takes to help make such a real difference to people’s lives through riding and carriage driving.

Kim McCutcheon, Edinburgh and Borders Regional Chair for RDA, said “The tartan has been designed to incorporate the charity’s colours and it was lovely to launch it at a special celebration alongside our wonderful volunteers and participants. It would be fantastic to see the tartan worn across the whole of the UK and by purchasing a scarf you are helping to support another 50 years of therapy through horses.”

The event was kindly held at the People’s Postcode Lottery office in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Clara Govier, managing director of People’s Postcode Lottery said ‘It has been a honour to support Riding for the Disabled in celebrating their fiftieth year here in Scotland, and see the launch of their new tartan. They are an incredible charity, working across Britain to improve the lives of thousands of people. They are hugely popular with the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and have received over £2.5 million in funding since 2013.’

The tartan costs £22.95 and can be ordered from kate@tarandoun.co.uk

Page Last Updated: May 2, 2019

RDA Brand Research – have your say

Survey now live

Following the RDA UK Board’s decision to research the RDA brand, our research partners, The Frameworks, have compiled an online survey, which will remain open for the next month. The survey takes a few minutes to complete and will ask for your views on RDA, our reputation, name and logo.

You can find the survey using the link here:


Why are we taking this step?

For several years, throughout the whole organisation, the strength of the RDA brand has been under discussion. The milestone of our 50th anniversary seems to have reignited the topic.

With strong feelings – and only limited anecdotal evidence – on all sides of the debate, the RDA Board has decided to carry out a research project to gather some real insight into the RDA brand for the first time.

A brand research company, The Frameworks, has been appointed to carry out this work, with a brief to explore three key questions:

1)            To what extent does our current brand hold us back from achieving our aims?

2)            To what extent does our current brand help us to achieve our aims?

3)            How significant is the RDA brand in creating a sense of belonging among the RDA community? 

The research aims to include the views of as many people with the RDA community as possible, and will involve one-to-one interviews, focus groups and and the online questionnaire.

The results of the research will be presented to the Board in June. Depending on the outcome of the research, the Board will then decide whether or not to take any further steps.

We hope that you, your participants, volunteers and supporters will want to take part in this discussion. It is important we end up with a range of views from across the whole organisation.

For more information, please see the prepared FAQs below or, if you have any further questions, please contact the office on info@rda.org.uk


Why has the RDA Board decided to research the RDA brand?

The strength (or otherwise) of the RDA brand has been under discussion for several years within all parts of the organisation. The milestone of the 50th anniversary seems to have reignited the topic. In order to gain clarity and proper insight into this area – rather than rely on a small amount of anecdotal evidence – the board has decided to undertake this research.

What do we mean by ‘brand’?

It’s important to recognise that a ‘brand’ is more than just a logo and a name. These elements are important, of course, but so is the language we use to communicate, the values we all try to live up to and the way we behave, both with each other and with the people we serve. All of these combine to deliver a public understanding of what RDA stands for and promises, and this is what we mean by a brand.

Are you planning to change the name RDA?

The scope of the brand research is to explore three key questions:

  • To what extent does our current brand hold us back from achieving our aims?
  • To what extent does our current brand help us to achieve our aims?
  • How significant is the RDA brand in creating a sense of belonging among the RDA community?

Only when we have answers to these questions will be in a position to contemplate changes to the name or visual identity. Nothing is off the table, but we’re a long way from making any decisions about significant changes.

Who is carrying out the research?

Following a competitive pitch process, the board has contracted The Frameworks (www.theframeworks.com) to carry out the research. The Frameworks is a specialist design consultancy with a research-focused methodology and an established track record in brand strategy.

What will it cost?

This research project will cost £20,000. We have an ongoing commitment to investing in research, to make sure that we are as effective as possible and that everything we do is based on an identified need. We are currently spending less than 2% of our total turnover on research and this project represents slightly less than half of that cost.

What will happen when the results are in?

The Frameworks will present their findings to the RDA board in June. At this point, they may also present some suggestions for next steps, but this is not within the remit of this initial project.

How can I have my say?

It is vital that we include the views of as many people as possible throughout the whole organisation. There will be some one-to-one interviews and focus groups, which you may be approached to take part in. The best way to ensure your views are counted will be through completing the online survey, which is now open.

Page Last Updated: May 23, 2019

BEF advice on equine flu outbreak

Following the recent outbreak of equine flu, the British Equestrian Federation has issued advice for horse owners. You can find it here: Advice on equine flu

Page Last Updated: February 8, 2019

HRH Princess Anne Chairs 49th RDA AGM

The 49th RDA AGM took place in Glasgow under the Chairmanship of the charity’s President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Held within the splendour of Trades Hall, Glasgow, the AGM brought together delegates from RDA groups all over the UK – many of whom enjoyed a traditional Scottish welcome at the previous evening’s Ceilidh.

In her President’s address, The Princess acknowledged that next year’s 50th anniversary would be the time for reflections, but she took time to recognise the experience and expertise within the RDA family, made up of many years dedicated service by RDA’s volunteers and coaches.

Delegates were treated to talks from RDA riders Max Stainton, who recently became the first person with Cerebral Palsy to trek to Everest Basecamp on a horse, and Anne Brown, whose dedication to RDA extends to having the charity moto tattooed on her behind!

When asked about speaking in front of The Princess, Anne Brown said: “I was trying not to see her there but, of course, had to have a few sneaky peeks to gauge how it was going. As I realised she was smiling, then laughing, I kinda relaxed a bit. I was worried that I was overstepping the mark a wee bit, but it seems I wasn’t, so I’m glad that I went for it.”

The AGM also offered the opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of outgoing RDA Chairman, Sam Orde, whose time in office officially ends in April 2019. Sam was presented with an Honorary Life Vice Presidency by The Princess Royal, who thanked her for the nine years she has given to the role.

The lively programme also included a welcome from The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander and presentations from Stewart Harris, Chief Executive of Sport Scotland, Occupational Therapist Rhona Harkness and Hazel Johnstone of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Director of Operations for RDA UK, Claire Milican presented her ‘Top of the Ops’ – a run down of the top ten innovations, improvements and activities delivered by the operations team at RDA National Office during this year.

Communications Manager, Caroline Ward, offered a taster of the proposed celebrations for RDA’s 50th anniversary throughout 2019.

“Thank you to our regional team in West & Central Scotland for hosting this year’s AGM,” said RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher. “I am also grateful to Her Royal Highness, not just for chairing the business of the day, but for taking the time to meet so many of our participants and volunteers during her visit. We look forward to welcoming everyone to our 50th AGM next year!”

For copies of any of the day’s presentations please email Angela Sly at asly@rda.org.uk

• Honorary Life Vice Presidents – RDA UK Chairman Sam Orde and Deputy Chairman Sheila Saner
• President’s Award – Patricia Wilding of Clytha RDA
• Dudley Smith Award – Joan Jack and Alison Mackintosh – Brae RDA
• Loriners Education Award – Moray RDA
• Birt Spooner Cup – Max Stainton

Page Last Updated: November 19, 2018

9 year old Charlotte is RDA ‘Rider of the Year’

Clare Balding presents award to ‘determined’ Charlotte at charity fundraiser

Charlotte Seth, a 9-year old rider at Haworth Riding for the Disabled group in Yorkshire has been named ‘Rider of the Year’ at RDA’s annual awards night. Hosted by broadcaster and author Clare Balding, the evening also featured appearances from journalist and newscaster Alastair Stewart, Paralympian Natasha Baker and celebrity auctioneer Philip Serrell.

Rider of the Year Charlotte has Joberts Syndrome . This leaves her with balance and coordination problems, poor fine and gross motor skills and proprioception issues. She started riding with RDA when she was four. At the time, she needed a team of three volunteers around her as poor core strength meant that she was unable to sit upright on the pony.
“Riding is therapy without Charlotte realising the therapy is actually happening,” said Haworth Group Coach Jane Lawrence.

Through Charlotte’s determination, her RDA group have witnessed amazing progress in all areas of Charlotte’s development. Her core strength has improved to the extent that she now, with support, walks up the mounting block steps, supports herself on the pony and sits upright. She smiles throughout her whole lesson, even when she finds a session tiring.“She is so much more in control of where she wants to go and what she wants to do,” says Jane. “I’m so proud of her – I think she’s amazing.”

When asked what she wants to do when she grows up Charlotte replied, “I want to be able to do anything. I want to tell everyone they can do anything.”


Natasha Baker, Joanna Jensen of Childs Farm, Helen Seth, Charlotte Seth, Clare Balding

Clare Balding also presented awards to Volunteer and Young Volunteer of the Year and RDA Horse of the Year.

Volunteer of the Year – Helen Bacon, Pegasus RDA, Manchester
Helen is one of the founding trustees and a coach at Pegasus RDA which launched in Feb 2017. Helen runs the group day in and day out as if it was her full-time job, not a volunteer position. Everyone who touches Pegasus RDA benefits from the immense effort and time Helen gives and she has been instrumental in all of Pegasus’s greatest achievements over the past year.

To top this off, Helen was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016. Through several gruelling courses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, more scans and injections that I can keep track of, a lumpectomy and most recently a hysterectomy and appendix removal, Helen hasn’t stopped for breath when it comes to RDA.

In Helen’s citation, Haworth Group Chair Gill Petty wrote: “Pegasus undoubtedly would not be the amazing success it is now without Helen. For this and her selflessness, kindness and relentless energy to drive us forward, we nominate Helen Bacon as Volunteer of the Year.”













Clare Balding, Helen Bacon, Penny Taylor of Godolphin

Young Volunteer of the Year – Nia Miller, East Liverpool RDA
Faced with her own challenges of significant dyslexia and verbal dyspraxia, Nia is determined to achieve and to support others. As such, she Nia began volunteering at RDA and Sports Disability Academy Liverpool. As a volunteer Nia has coached specialised sports, officiated and assisted in running events with participants from around the country.
Nia has taken her passion for equine assisted therapy into her academic life, with her first degree dissertation in “Self-perceptions of disabled participants engaging in equine therapy” and her Masters in “Exploring female domestic abuse survivor’s experience of equine therapy”.

As RDA Group Coach Nia teaches individual and group lessons, ensuring all participants with different needs are safely cared for. She takes great pride in her care for both horse and participants. Modestly, she takes no credit for the enormous achievements of East Liverpool RDA at Regional and National Championships, as well on a weekly basis with their clients.

Nicole Adams of People’s Postcode Lottery, Nia Miller, Alastair Stewart

Horse of the Year – Lambrusco, South Bucks RDA
Lambrusco is a 26 year old 16.2h grey WB gelding. Lambrusco joined South Bucks RDA in January 2007. He is a gentle giant and has always been popular in RDA classes. With such a wonderful temperament he was soon competing in RDA Dressage and Para Dressage and in 2008 he went to Hong Kong and won 2 Gold and 1 Silver Medal with Sophie Christiansen.

Lambrusco is still giving pleasure to many riders on a weekly basis. His riders range from age 8 to 75 and he regularly does lead rein RDA sessions and private walk sessions with independent riders. He is so reliable and loves to go out around the woods for a good leg stretch. He recently won the RDA Dressage Anywhere Grade 1 Championship with a 60+ yr old stroke survivor on an amazing Score of 77.94%, proving to all that he still has it and is happy in his work.
















Clare Balding, Helen Burt (South Bucks RDA), Marilyn Harford of SnuggyHoods

A night of celebration and fundraising
The four awards provided the backbone to an evening full of celebration that also included songs from internationally renowned Baritone Roderick Williams. Guests were treated to an interview by Alastair Stewart with Natasha Baker, and the evening culminated in an auction led by TV’s Philip Serrell.

Page Last Updated: September 28, 2018

International Para Dressage rider Diane Greene owes it all to Watershed RDA…..

A fabulous 3 days for me at The RDA National Championships where I was helping the British Dressage Team and supporting some of my riders who were competing – I had such a lovely time meeting some truly inspirational riders and horses and the teams that support them.  I was there to help answer questions riders and trainers had about making the step up into Para Dressage with British Dressage, but it was made even more special for me when I was asked to present the prizes on Sunday.  It was such an honour to make the awards and I really enjoyed meeting the riders and congratulating them, the joy this sport brings is priceless.

I started my own journey back in the saddle with the RDA after I was diagnosed with trauma induced MS 10 years following an accident which saw me suffer a horrific head and facial injury when I was kicked in the face by a horse I was leading.  My riding days ended there until some 17 years later a Consultant suggested I should go back to riding as I was struggling to sit up unaided for long and he thought it would be good for my core strength.  That is when I met the Watershed RDA Team and Beans the wonder pony.  At first I cried each time when I got home, I was nervous when I rode and couldn’t last more than 10 minutes at a time, I had to have 2 walkers either side of me and someone leading Beans, very upsetting for someone who in a previous life had had horses at Grand Prix Dressage level and I was sad that I couldn’t see that I would ever get that back.

The Watershed Team were fantastic with me and we did everything at my pace and with humour and as the months went by I got stronger physically and could sit up unaided again (something I had struggled to do being reliant on sitting in my wheelchair or the sofa) and more confident until I was able to move from the steady neddy that was Beans and start to ride off of the lead rein and onto Connor who was a much sharper pony and a real character.  I started doing some video dressage tests with him and at the end of our first year together we won a silver medal in the RDA online National Championships 2015.  I then started riding with Avon RDA as they had a lovely horse called Whitty a nice little TB horse and we won several competitions together.  The Avon Team looked after me just like Watershed did and it all went so well I decided it was time to get my on horse and I was lucky to find the perfect horse Winnie (Gunstone’s Pride) who we nickname the Unicorn.

Winnie and I joined the British Dressage South West Para Dressage Team in January 2016, were we attend a monthly training session with FEI trainers and Judges, attended the Para Dressage Camp with the team GB coaches and were selected to represent the region at the Inter County Championships, where we were Reserve Champions.

We were then selected to represent England at the Home International held at Vale View, Melton Mowbray.  Winnie and I won all 4 of our tests and our team were 3rd, the highest placing they have ever achieved at this event.  I also won the top prize for the highest scoring rider of the weekend. Something I would repeat a year later and boost the team into 2nd place.

Together we won Gold at the Dressage Anywhere RDA National Championships riding for Watershed RDA, And we were Reserve Champions in the Freestyle Championships at the RDA Nationals 2016

In 2017 I applied for entry onto the BEF Talent Pathway (Team GB training platform) and have been selected, this leads onto the World Class Podium and we hope to be selected onto that level in July this year working towards a Paralympic Team place in Japan 2020 and beyond.

Winnie and I also won the British Dressage Bronze National Championships and the Silvers – hard to believe that we have become double National Champions in our first attempt, and last year we were Reserve Champions in the Gold finals.  Our success through the levels has also meant that we have now been selected to represent Great Britain on three occasions and it is a real honour to wear the Union flag. Becoming an International Para athlete was a dream when I started and to have achieved it in such a short time has been amazing.

Without Watershed RDA I would not have started on this journey with Winnie and I owe them so much.  I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to ride a Grand Prix test but I can still ride a quality horse and compete at the highest level.  In the early days of my diagnosis there were times when I would be at home for weeks at a time without venturing out in my wheelchair, some very dark days.  Now I drive a car independently with hand controls and ride Winnie 3/4 times a week with a competition most weeks too and I am back at Watershed coaching 3 other budding Dressage stars.  I also mentor riders from other parts of the Country and have been asked to help more RDA centres improve their Dressage, so I am really living the dream and proof that it is what you can do that counts.

When you are diagnosed with MS it is a very frightening thing, I left the Neurologists very unsure of what the future would hold.  Because of the head injury my diagnosis took over 10 years and I had to get a bit feisty with my local hospital and transfer myself to the care of Prof Scolding at Southmead, where I at least got the diagnosis I already knew would come, by that point we had missed the relapsing form and moved to progressive so no medication for me.  But, that meant I could move on and fight it (once I had got my head around it that is – which took a year or two).  The Professor has seen a real change in me and when I saw him in July he said he wished he could bottle what I have and give it to his patients as I breeze in on my scooter with such optimism and fun, I told him to get horse riding added to the treatment list but I am not sure how NICE would react to that.  I now really don’t worry about the future, I am back doing the sport I love supported by a new team with Para Coach and Trainer Leonie Brown and her fabulous team at Daneswood Dressage (Team Unicorn) and Winnie of course who really has changed my life.  I would recommend to anyone who has had the same diagnosis to have a trip to your local RDA centre – you may not have Paralympic ambitions like me but it is the best therapy you can get and I know you will love it too – just be prepared to smile and laugh a lot and perhaps shed a few tears of joy!!

Page Last Updated: September 18, 2018

500 competitors, 1600 rosettes, countless tears of joy – and one elephant

RDA National Championships 13-15 July, Hartpury College, Gloucestershire

Over 500 competitors took part in this year’s RDA National Championships, a three-day event for disabled riders and carriage drivers. Featuring dressage, carriage driving, showing, vaulting, showjumping and RDA’s own event, the Countryside Challenge, the Championships is the biggest event of its kind in the world. Highlights of this year’s event included the first endurance ride, the introduction of Dressage Pairs and the first entry by an elephant – thanks to the creative genius of Penniwells RDA in the costume dressage freestyle to music!

The Championships, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, began as a dressage competition and now boasts seven main disciplines as well as Arts & Crafts, Best Turned Out and Horsecare & Knowledge. Over 100 of RDA’s 500 groups take part, with competitors travelling to Gloucestershire from as far away as Aberdeen and Omagh in hope of returning home as national champions.

“This was my first year as a competitor, although I’m also a volunteer so I could see life from both sides,” said Cass O’Brien, who is a rider with Unicorn Centre and RDA County Chair for North Yorkshire. “As a participant I was treated with a huge amount of respect, with lots of lovely comments from everyone, good luck wishes and well done’s after I’d done my test. I may have only come 7th but I felt as though I’d won the world cup! Not too bad for a worn out 65 year old!”

Another first timer was 13 year old Charlotte Roberts of Ynys Mon RDA. “One of my dreams was to ride at a National event in the same ring as Charlotte Dujardin, truly a dream come true. The Whole event was inspiring and we left really feeling it is what we can do that counts!”

Craig Harrison from The Foresters Horn RDA in Merseyside reflected: “An amazing weekend where I achieved a PB score in the Grade 3 Championship Test followed by a 3rd place in my freestyle. A massive thanks to all the volunteers and staff across the country, without whom this fantastic event wouldn’t be possible. Roll on next year and the 50th anniversary of RDA!”

Championships Chairman Anne Coney said: “This year’s Championships attracted more visitors than ever to witness the fantastic achievements of over 500 riders.  Volunteers from all over the country make this event happen and it is a privilege for me to be the Chairman.  The hot weather did not deter the enthusiasm – and the big smiles from the competitors and their supporters.”

Find all the results here

Get up to speed on the RDA National Championships:

  1. The RDA National Championships is the biggest event of its kind in the world for disabled horse riders and carriage drivers
  2. Paralympians including Sophie Christiansen, Sir Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker, Ricky Balshaw, Deb Criddle and Liz Stone all began their competitive careers at the Championships 
  3. This year over 500 competitors took part, with over 1600 rosettes presented over three days
  4. 102 RDA groups travelled to this year’s event. The furthest travelling from Garioch 490 miles away
  5. In recent years the Championships have welcomed VIP visitors HRH The Princess Royal, Carl Hester and Clare Balding
  6. Since 1994 the Championships has been hosted at Hartpury College. Their support over the weekend makes them one of the charity’s biggest and most loyal donors
  7. The Championships started as a dressage competition and now includes carriage driving, vaulting, showjumping, endurance, showing and countryside challenge
  8. Countryside Challenge is a unique event to RDA. Styled as a ‘walk in the countryside’ competitors are scored on their execution of a range of obstacles including the apple tree, the bridge, the gate, the post box and archway.
  9. The event is run by a team of over 160 volunteers – not counting the teams of volunteers who come to support their riders and drivers.
  10. The Championships has no age restrictions. Competitors as young as four and in their nineties have taken part
Page Last Updated: September 18, 2018