Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is a national charity which was set up in 1969, and in last year, celebrated its 50th Anniversary. It is a charity where horses benefit the lives of over 25,000 disabled children and adults at nearly 500 centres all over the UK.
Newbury RDA has been based in Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire for the last 27 years. We have 8 resident ponies and offer riding therapy to over 60 special needs children each week, these children come from schools in Berkshire. The charity is run by a board of Trustee volunteers, volunteer coaches and volunteer helpers.
We have three principal objectives:
1 Developing and supporting opportunities for therapy
2 Developing and supporting opportunities for achievement
3 Enabling physical activity and enjoyment
We aim to give local children with special needs the opportunity to reach therapeutic goals and develop life skills whilst experiencing the outdoors and connecting with animals.
Newbury RDA are raising funds to build an Outdoor Arena. We currently have over 70 riders per week and 8 ponies and run lessons morning and afternoon 6 days per week. All these lessons are held in a very old Indoor Arena which is small, damp and rattles very badly on windy days, which frightens our ponies resulting in lessons being cancelled. In the summer we can hold lessons in a paddock but only when dry. The surface is uneven which can injure the ponies and the field itself needs a lot of work for it to be usable. An Outdoor Arena would have a safer all weather waxed surface. It will also be enclosed so riders who are capable can ride off the leading rein can do so safely. This gives the children an immense sense of achievement. Being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine has huge benefit to the well-being of our children and ponies giving a sense of space and freedom which some of them don't otherwise have. On some days it will be the only fresh air that the children have time for which is so important for mental health and often their behaviour noticeably changes for the better. Having an Outdoor Arena also gives us a chance to do important ongoing maintenance work on the very old Indoor Arena rather than cancelling lessons. For example part of the wall fell down and we had to wait until builders could come and fix it as we couldn't take the risk of more collapsing with the children in there and riding. Newbury RDA had to close the stables during the Covid lockdowns and remained closed for some time afterwards due to the vulnerability of our children. Being outdoors in an arena means infections are less likely to spread and so gives us a much stronger chance of keeping open and the children getting their physical and mental therapy with us.