The first ever National Training Centre for RDA will be officially opened in Warwickshire on 12 June by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
Princess Anne is President of the RDA and a patron of the centre, which will bring together, train and inspire the charity’s volunteers and coaches from all over the UK. The opening event, sponsored by Childs Farm, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the charity, which is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through horse riding and carriage driving.
The RDA’s new home is based at the Lowlands Equestrian Centre in Shrewley and the charity hopes it will deliver an important service to the Warwickshire community. The Centre already provides horse riding opportunities to 100 disabled children and adults from the local area – a number the charity hopes to double in the coming months. On the commercial side, Lowlands Equestrian Centre also offers group and private riding lessons to the general public, and is already proving a popular venue for arena hire.
Princess Anne, who will enjoy a tour of the new centre during her visit, said: “RDA has built a world-class reputation on the strength of its expertise, coaching and horsemanship. These are strengths that must remain at the heart of everything we do in the coming years.
“The National Training Centre will ensure we can maintain our high standards and develop our training programmes to ensure the best possible experience for RDA’s riders and carriage drivers long into the future.
“As RDA looks forward to the next 50 years, this National Training Centre will draw on all the experience and strength of community in RDA to create a vital and inspirational focal point for learning of which we can all be proud.”
Ahead of the opening, local MP and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright visited the National Training Centre. Writing about his visit he commented: “The impressive centre is located at Lowlands Farm in Shrewley, which falls within my constituency, and we are fortunate to have the charity rooted so firmly in this area. The new centre marks a significant development for the RDA and I am confident that it will be a national asset which will help them in their excellent work.”
Over recent years, the charity, which helps 25,000 disabled children and adults, has further developed the range of activities it offers as well as the areas of training provided to volunteers – including equine welfare, safeguarding, disability awareness and volunteer management. In addition, the RDA’s 18,000 qualified coaches and volunteers are supporting ever more complex forms of disability, especially in the areas of multi-disability, learning disabilities and mental health problems.
Paralympian superstar Sophie Christiansen CBE, who boasts eight Paralympic gold medals, is also a patron of the new centre – a commitment made in recognition of her local RDA centre in Berkshire, which helped her rise to stardom.
The world number one said: “As someone whose life was transformed by learning to ride with RDA, I am delighted to be able to support this national training centre.
“I was lucky enough to be taught by a series of inspirational coaches, without whom I would never have discovered a talent for riding.
“RDA could see my potential as a young athlete and supported me every step of the way to the Paralympics. However, ‘achievement’ does not have to mean a gold medal.
“It could be teaching a rider to sit up straight so they can go on to live independently or to be able to communicate to others to help on the journey to employment. Coaches can change lives.”
The centre is home to the four existing RDA groups which currently operate there, plus stables and grazing for 20 horses, indoor and outdoor arenas and training and conference facilities. The charity’s staff team will also relocate to the site.
It also boasts a working yard with indoor and outdoor arenas and classrooms to provide the ideal environment for hosting practical training sessions, workshops and demonstrations as well as events and competitions.
The focus of training will be putting riders’ and drivers’ needs first, and the RDA insist that this message will be at the heart of everything that happens at Lowlands.