Princess Anne toasts charity’s success as RDA Carriage Driving turns 40

Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre hosts memorable day of celebrations

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) enjoyed a day of celebrations in the company of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, marking 40 years of RDA Carriage Driving. The Princess enjoyed driving displays from RDA groups and a demonstration of para driving. Colin Pawson of the British Driving Society took guests on a nostalgic talk through the last 40 years of driving at RDA, while carriages from then and now paraded the arena. Mark Broadbent of Fenix Carriages demonstrated the very latest addition to RDA Driving – a new purpose-built carriage for wheelchair users.

Following the displays, Her Royal Highness presented rosettes and badges to all those involved, then met RDA volunteers, drivers and supporters before cutting a special anniversary cake.

RDA Carriage Driving Chairman, Margaret Brockie, received a special award from The Princess Royal for her dedication to driving and for successfully encouraging the growth of the sport within RDA.

“It was a great day of recognising how far Carriage Driving has come,” said Margaret. “We celebrated those pioneers who could see the potential of driving for people with disabilities, and showed how their vision has been realised in the vibrant and dynamic activity that so many benefit from today.”

Cobbes Meadow Fun Day

Cobbes Meadow RDA Driving Group held a Fun Day on 12th June to celebrate 40 years of carriage driving and invited neighbouring group Woodchurch to join them.

The day started with two volunteers being asked to harness up a familiar pony and set of harness in under 5 minutes. Woodchurch won, their time was 4 minutes and 2 seconds. The two groups then dressed in fancy dress to the theme ‘Famous Couples’. There was much laughter as entries ranged from Miss Piggy & a missing Kermit to St George & the Dragon. The ponies paraded in the outdoor arena and Carol Porter was asked to judge. She placed St George & the Dragon 1st; Reverse Dalmation and Queen of Hearts 2nd; Batman, Dobbin and Flower Pot Man Bill 3rd; Father Christmas 4th; and Miss Piggy 5th.

Those drivers that wanted to then drove a series of 8 cones against the clock. 1st was Kevin driving Jacko; 2nd Pat driving Charlie; 3rd Andrew driving Jacko; 4th Richard driving Charlie; 5th Rita driving Smartie; 6th Martyn driving Winston; 7th Liz driving Rainbow; and 8th Angela driving Charlie.

The final driving challenge was a mini Le Trec with obstacles including driving over a carpet; parallel parking and standing for 2 seconds; driving past a scarey corner of wild animals (teddy bears on a washing line); and driving a circle with one wheel inside a smaller circle of discs.

Eleven drivers took part and all ponies were extremely well behaved and worked hard throughout the morning. Once the ponies were made comfortable and the carriages put away or loaded onto trailers the drivers and volunteers gathered together for a splendid celebratory lunch.

The weather was perfect for lunch outside which included salmon, strawberries and a glass of champagne with 40th anniversary cake served by volunteers from the riding group. It was a good opportunity to meet up with former volunteers, some of whom had been at the initial driving session.

Maria Conneely, Cobbes Meadow RDA Driving Group Organiser

Glorious day out at Shelley Centre

The driving team at Shelley took Thyme the pony and his Hartland 4 wheeled Carriage to Blandings Farm EC near Newmarket on 9th June to celebrate 40 years of RDA Carriage Driving. Our two disabled drivers, Vivien Hatfield and Sheila Frampton, both stroke victims who can no longer ride, really enjoy their driving.

We spent four hours in total, experiencing Dressage, Cone driving, Cross Country and Solid Obstacles. All for real in this wonderful setting. Viv and Sheila are very hands on with harnessing up, putting to and are keen to experience the skills needed for this more challenging aspect of carriage driving.

Six of us were on hand to make sure the day was special, proudly displaying the Rosette and our badges. We socialised with coffee and lunch on arrival (it was 50 miles from Shelley) After taking turns round all the elements, Thyme had his reward of a carrot and haynet while we all enjoyed coffee and cake before packing up for home.

May thanks to Howard and Margaret Nuttall. Linda Twichten, Louise Kemp and Suzie Battersby for making it all possible.

Eunice Binder

A Ruby fun day at Mid Suffolk Carriage Driving Group

I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful rosettes and badges that you sent to us and to say how much fun we had on Monday.

Horses, Carriages Whips, Helpers and even the Dogs were all looking very pretty in their Ruby attire. (Or as near to Ruby as they could get!!) We had a scavenger hunt which was hilarious especially when two volunteers were trying to reach the same ‘dog rose’!! We also had a quiz for those that were back at base!!

Cakes, sandwiches etc were made and a mountain of strawberries were eaten!!

It was a wonderful opportunity to invite some of our old friends to join us and our hosts were amazing having cut borders round their fields for the Disabled Whips/ABW’s/Horses to enjoy. A bit hard work for our cyclists though but they all came back smiling!! The venue for this particularly Monday was in Hestley Green which is deep in the heart of the Suffolk countryside which really added to a great atmosphere.

Gill Elmer, Group Organiser, Mid Suffolk Carriage Driving Group

RDA Carriage Driving at 40 – a brief history and background to a week of celebrations

Early in 1974, the Sandhurst Group of RDA approached the driving section of the Donkey Breed Society to see if they would co-operate with the group to experiment and try out ideas for teaching adults with disabilities to drive a pony or a donkey. After several sessions it was proved that driving for the disabled could be a success and all those involved were convinced that the scheme must become permanent.

On the 12th June 1975, it was carried by the Council of the Riding for the Disabled Association that the constitution be amended to include driving.

The Council for RDA appointed Phoebe Stewart as the first Chairman of RDA Carriage Driving and she had great support from Nancy Pethick, nominated by the British Driving Society, to develop the discipline and rules within the Association. The first driving group set up under the auspices of RDA was Windsor and Ascot and this group continues to thrive. RDA now has 66 groups providing sessions to 1026 drivers.

The event at the Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre forms just part of the celebrations going on across the country during this anniversary week. Many groups are holding events to mark the occasion; picnic drives, fun days and parties.

Page Last Updated: June 16, 2015