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Riding for the disabled association

The RDA has been carrying out life-changing activities for over 40 years. The charity operates a network of 500 volunteer groups which organise activities such as riding, carriage driving, vaulting and showjumping. These wonderful experiences with horses and ponies are enjoyed by up to 28,000 people each year.


Mid Sussex RDA is a local charity providing horse riding sessions for disabled adults and children. Part of the wider national network Riding for the Disabled Association, they are based at Chestnuts Riding School, Pyecombe.

The riders have a wide range of physical, cognitive, sensory and social disorders but they all share a common thread; a sense of achievement and empowerment gained through their weekly riding sessions.

The sessions are run on two mornings a week by a large dedicated team of volunteers. Some of the volunteers currently with the group have given decades of service. Both the Group’s founder members Judy Case and instructor Sally Yonge, recently received the prestigious President’s Award, presented by the organisations president, HRH the Princess Royal, for their dedication over forty years of volunteering!

Instructors complete an extensive supervised period of training before qualifying. The volunteers who lead the horses or support the riders have full training to enable them to carry out these responsible roles. All volunteers undergo a Data Barring System check. and potential volunteers are invited to watch a morning’s riding to see what’s involved. Not all volunteers are experienced with horses – an enjoyment of the outdoors and a genuine desire to make a difference to disabled peoples lives are the only essentials.

Excellent facilities at Chestnuts

The Mid Sussex RDA has been based at Chestnuts for two years, since the owners, Richard and Sue Hazelden, offered their facilities after the group moved from Brendon Stud, where they had been established since 1976. Facilities at Chestnuts are ideal, a large indoor school means that rides are not weather dependent. The group owns an electric mounting ramp which enables riders in wheelchairs to mount from a raised platform.

A true transformation can be seen in many of the riders as they take to their horse. For a rider with no vision or very little mobility in a wheelchair, riding a horse can be hugely empowering. Horses are renowned for being sensitive animals, as they are able to sense a rider’s vulnerability and gauge their confidence.

Sheer Joy Award RDA Horses deliver happiness!

The group uses four horses to provide the rides and all four are extremely trustworthy and reliable, with their steady paces and kind natures
essential factors in them being chosen for RDA work. The group owns one horse
Superted, who earns his keep by being kept as working livery at Chestnuts. The other
horses, Teddy Tosh, Mylo and Basil are all owned by the school and hired by the group by the hour along with the indoor school. The group works tirelessly to secure funds in order to deliver their services. Annual running costs currently stand at over £12,000 pa and the group rely entirely on fundraising, donations, legacies and grants.

In the summer of 2013 they held a fundraising event at South Downs Garden Centre, Hassocks. The attraction of a star prize TV donated by The Burgess Hill District Lions helped draw crowds and bring in over £1300 in raffle ticket sales and donations.

More recently one young adult rider, Helen who suffers from severe epilepsy completed a sponsored bike ride around Tilgate Park, Crawley, on a specially adapted bike. Her huge enjoyment of horseriding and her love for her regular horse Teddy Tosh inspired her to raise funds for the group. Members of the group watched her smiling through the rain completing her personal challenge to give something back.

Amazing benefits for riders

Volunteers have a huge sense of pride in their work and speak of the reward felt time and
time again in having played a part in the rider’s journey. Riders come from all walks of life; some have been with the group for many years and benefit not only from the physical improvement of balance, core muscle strength, co-ordination etc but by having a real sense of achievement in taking part in a sport with an element of risk, something often denied to someone disabled. The social interaction with other riders and volunteers and of course the connection with their horse, is a hugely positive emotional benefit.

Three local special needs schools, ride with the group on Thursday mornings bringing pupils for a term or a school year. The group’s office shed is decorated with beautiful cards and drawings that children from over the years have sent in appreciation of their time spent riding.

The group stresses that enjoyment is key, no goals are set too high and riders receive constant reassurance and support. The riders and horses are treated with utmost respect at all times.

Supporters are welcome to watch a session take place, seeing a profoundly disabled person be empowered by their achievements and their connection with the horse is an emotional experience.

Want to get involved?

To find out more about supporting Mid Sussex RDA visit their website at www.mid-sussex-rda.org

The group has a Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/rdamidsussexgroup where people can donate and businesses are invited to invest £100 a year to be featured on the Mid Sussex RDA website and in their literature.

The group’s horse Superted has his own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SupertedMidSussexRda where he keeps people up to date with the group’s activities.


From wheelchair to saddle – Equine Therapy works body and mind 

“My name is Paul Conway, a 53 year old stroke survivor, once a well-known marathon runner competing in many countries around the world and Europe.


2003 was to be my year with so much to look forward to with the veterans Over 40’s Marathon World Championships in Melbourne as the goal. Training was going to plan clocking 105 miles a week, running 3 times a day – the punishment I put my body through to succeed.

Then November came and my life fell apart. I suffered a stroke. My life changed that day. Not only did I lose the use of my whole left side, I lost all my drive and zest for life, I just gave up on everything. Suffering bouts of depression and having uncontrollable fits, many times I thought of ending my life at these low episodes.

A good friend told me about Equine Therapy and then one day took me to visit the RDA Unicorn Centre in Hemlington, Teesside. Sitting in the gallery watching all the disabled children having riding lessons, all of them smiling as they rode past, made me feel ashamed of myself giving up so I have now started to take lessons myself and it has changed my life so much. My body has become supple. I won’t lie, I was terrified at my first lesson but my instructor Heidi has a vast knowledge of disabilities caused through stroke and head injuries and she and all the staff instil confidence in me.

I now try everything. My mind is clear and I don’t get depressed. I even walk with a stick now, no more wheelchair for me! The Centre has its own physiotherapist if needed. I cannot put into words how much Equine Therapy has changed my life for the better, both mind and body. My spirits are up as I have a goal to achieve with every session. I have been for my consultant review and he was amazed at my transformation since starting Equine Therapy. I am on my feet, the epilepsy has settled and I haven’t had any down and dark days since starting to ride. I’m so focussed now on the future, life doesn’t stop after a stroke but opens other doors. Who knows what can be done until we try it.”




I am side walking a profoundly autistic teenager.

Though I have accompanied him many times, he doesn’t acknowledge me. He avoids looking directly at any of the helpers.

He is tense and stiff as he starts his ride and pulls at the pony’s mane. I attempt to release his hold on the pony – and he grabs my thumb in a vice-like grip.

Gradually, he absorbs the pony’s rhythmic gait and begins to relax. He lets go of my hand.

I talk to him, encourage and praise him. But I still don’t exist.

I am in my world. And he is in his.

I continue to look up at him – and smile.

Quite suddenly, he looks at me – eye to eye. Though his expression does not change, he slowly raises his hand and gives me a thumbs up.

For just a few seconds we share the same world.

I wish my rider knew the sheer joy that moment gave to me.

Perhaps he did know.


Seaside Venture Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association

Established over 30 years ago, the Seaside Venture Group of the national Riding for the RDADisabled Association, promotes and provides horse riding opportunities for persons of all ages and abilities at the Wrea Green Equitation Centre, Bryning Lane, Wrea Green, Preston.

Working under the direction of qualified instructors, volunteer helpers assist nearly fifty riders of varying abilities, to experience horse riding in the indoor school, each week.

As part of the national organisation which has over 22,000 riders and 1,000 carriage drivers, Seaside Venture Group, covering Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre, Preston, and surrounding areas, is one of over 500 similar groups dotted around the whole of the UK.

In addition to contributing to over 400,000 rides nationally, Seaside Venture Group run specialised riding holidays, at the Special Riding Centre, Near Wrexham, North Wales giving local riders the opportunity to develop further their riding and social skills. This year we have also attained the Show Jumping status.

We pride ourselves on a high standard of care, safety and training. The RDA recognises and encourages, individual achievement at every level, from sitting on a pony for the first time, to Paralympic Gold Medal!

We bring together horses and people, to create a “unique” therapeutic and training environment.

Seaside Venture Group is a registered charity (no: 1073606) and depends entirely on volunteers and fund raising, we receive no grants or government funding, and in addition to helping run our sessions, volunteer helpers also work to raise funds, to enable the Group to continue it`s valuable work.

For more information visit www.seaside-rda.org.uk

For Email, Phone or Fax click here: Contact Us


RDA South Wales

The South Wales division of the RDA is a local charity covering a majority of areas across South Wales including Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Cardiff and Pembrokeshire. As a registered charity the RDA provides riding lessons to those affected by a disability. The charity aims to help and offer an opportunity to learn some valuable horse riding skills which can help build upon mobility, confidence, self-belief, coordination, control and other life skills.

The RDA base in Pembrokeshire is set in the idyllic location of Rudbaxton which is just north of the county town of Haverfordwest. The Bowlings Riding Centre has 350 acres of wooded farmland area for you to roam at your leisure. With a large indoor school area perfect for the RDA and other nervous riders.

In 2009, Bowlings Ride Centre piloted a project in association with charity ASDAN, which is a pioneering curriculum development scheme and awarding body offering programmes and qualifications that develop learning, employability and life skills. The RDA and ASDAN worked together to develop a special project where two children were chosen to complete the ASDAN module for Riding and Horse care in Pembrokeshire. Since then, the Bowlings Riding Centre has had 5 riders take part in the scheme, continuing the great work and commitment that the scheme provides to those affected by a disability.

Visit the RDA South Wales to find out more.