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: July 19, 2018