The South Downs Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has a long history – it was founded in 1977 and operated– as you might expect – not far from the South Downs, at Upper Beeding. Some 30 years later, the group moved to the equestrian centre at Brinsbury College, in 2013 we had another change to Bridge House Equestrian Centre at Slinfold and in May 2018 we moved to Albourne Equestrian Centre at Albourne.
The facilities at Albourne are ideal for us with outdoor and indoor schools enabling us to operate year round and for our riders to enjoy riding outside in good weather.
On Wednesday mornings, we run three riding sessions, offering riding opportunities to adults and children with quite a broad spectrum of disabilities from brain injury to autism and dyspraxia.
The ratio of volunteers to riders is necessarily high. For every rider we need a volunteer to lead the horse and at least one side-walker to walk (or run!) alongside the rider, to give guidance and to offer support and reassurance, and before we even get to the point of rider meeting horse, there is a tremendous amount of work which goes on behind the scenes. For more information please go to our Volunteering page.
The riding experience can be hugely rewarding – it can be exciting, or have a calming effect, it can give freedom, and a unique experience of movement never possible “on the ground” and for many just a very special interaction with the ponies and horses which are at the centre of everything the group does.
Carolyn Heitman, Chairman of our group explains “we need a specific type of horse that can cope with the differences that come with disabled people. We have to do a lot of work with the horses to prepare them. Even something as simple as having 2 people walking alongside a horse, whilst being ridden, is unusual for a horse, and can be unsettling for them”.
Our volunteers and riders alike become very fond of the horses and ponies we use.
Whilst part of the Riding for the Disabled Association, which is a national charity, each group is run as an individual charity, and as such we are self-funding, and all members of the group are volunteers. See our Fundraising Page.
A small committee of Trustees is responsible for the management of the group – all of whom are volunteers and receive no payment for their work.