Meet the ‘50 faces’ breaking down barriers

50th anniversary portrait project challenges attitudes and celebrates diversity in disability horse sport

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is celebrating 50 years of achievement, therapy and fun through horses with a stunning online collection of portraits and stories from all over the UK. Designed to challenge preconceptions about disability, volunteering and the world of horses, ’50 faces’ is a celebration of the brilliant, fearless and pioneering people who make up the RDA family.

Right from the start, RDA has helped to open up the world of horses to everyone. The charity’s radical mission in 1969 that ‘no disabled person who could benefit from riding shall be denied the opportunity of doing so’ was the start of a quiet revolution that is still breaking down barriers today.

50 Faces acknowledges and celebrates RDA’s impact on people’s lives, regardless of age or background, from those who horse ride and carriage drive for life changing therapy, to the Paralympians who started their journey with their local RDA group.

“In our 50th year we want people outside of RDA to feel that they can get involved, and that means everyone. 50 faces is about saying: if you think you know who takes part in horse sport – think again!” says RDA UK Communications Manager Caroline Ward.  “RDA has spent 50 years breaking down the barriers to participation, championing the goals and achievements of disabled people and welcoming volunteers and supporters from all walks of life. By reading just a few of the stories behind the ‘faces’, hopefully we can inspire more people to join in.”

Explore the 50 faces project at www.rda.org.uk/50-faces

Meet RDA volunteer, trustee and rider, Colin Duthie, Carrick RDA, Scotland

At the age of 20, I was run over by a lorry. I suffered horrendous injuries – including an above knee amputation.

My first experience of horse riding was through my local RDA. To say it was a profound experience would be an understatement. Horse riding really did save my life. You have to understand, at that time I was in a very bad way, both physically and mentally mainly due to not being able to walk. However, going from losing one leg to gaining four when riding was very cool, plus being on horseback was the only time I was out of pain. RDA gave me the confidence to challenge myself and others and put me on the path I am on now – living life to the full whilst helping others along the way.

Since then, I’ve done a wheelchair ascent of Ben Nevis, helped achieve a new world record for a team of wheelchair users pulling a Boeing 757, set up the South Ayrshire Tigers Powerchair Football Club and been on several long distance motorbike rallies for charity.

I’ve been a motorsport fanatic my whole life, but I never thought I’d get my race license and actually start racing – especially as a 54 year old lower limb amputee. I’m the first disabled driver ever to race in Super Lap Scotland. It was a dream come true. I’m also the first disabled person in the UK to become a Level 2 Motorsport Coach. In 2016 I helped set up the charity Disability Motorsport Scotland and so far we’ve arranged track days for over 130 disabled people as drivers and passengers.

I’m also now Chairman of Carrick RDA, where my life started again, way back in 1996. The last 35 years have been one heck of a rollercoaster – but I’d rather have the ups and downs than going nowhere. THANK YOU RDA, from the bottom of my heart, and from all my family and friends too. Here’s to the next 50 years.”

RDA at 50

Formed in 1969, when a handful of pioneers started to realise the therapeutic benefits of horse riding for people with disabilities, RDA has flourished into a nationwide organisation, delivering outstanding levels of coaching and therapy, not to mention fun – and still run almost entirely by volunteers.

Today, RDA’s horses benefit the lives of over 25,000 disabled children and adults. With fun activities like riding and carriage driving, it delivers therapy, fitness, skills development and opportunities for achievement – all supported by 18,000 volunteers and qualified coaches at nearly 500 RDA centres all over the UK.

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To receive press releases about individual ‘faces’ or to arrange interviews, receive images etc, please contact Caroline Ward (cward@rda.org.uk) or Beth Randles (brandles@rda.org.uk) 01926 492915