Princess Royal on call with RDA members

Riders and volunteers talk about the impact of lockdown and plans for reopening

The Princess Royal has held a virtual meeting with members of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). Her Royal Highness is President of the charity, which delivers therapy through horses to disabled children and adults throughout the UK. With all RDA groups closed, The Princess Royal was heard about the challenges faced by the charity, as well as the impact this prolonged closure is having on members.

On the call with The Princess Royal were members of the staff and volunteer working group who have been making plans for the reopening of RDA centres when the time is right, as well as a rider and parent, who both shared their experiences of being unable to access RDA during this time.

Reflecting on the impact that lockdown is having on RDA riders, The Princess Royal said: “Anything like this will I hope increase the argument that this is not an optional extra, or just a kind of fun for many of them. It really means something to their ability to live their lives.”

Paula Thomas, who rides at Penniwells RDA in London, was on the call.  Paula took part in RDA’s research into the impact of lockdown and said: “Before lockdown, going to the yard was my only outlet for physical activity and social interaction away from my home and full time work. I now work from home, home educate my daughter and have lost my main outlet of enjoyment. I have no form of physical activity. I feel like my motivation has ebbed away and truly miss the camaraderie of the whole team.”

The Princess Royal heard about the ways that normal RDA sessions are being adapted to help some groups open to a few riders, and suggested some ideas for new activities that groups could try to help them restart while social distancing measures remain in place.

RDA UK Director of Operations, Claire Milican, has been leading the working group looking at ways RDA groups can restart safely, and was on the call to update The Princess Royal on their plans. “The Princess Royal has a deep understanding of how RDA works, so she knows what challenges our groups are facing,” she said. “It was great to hear that she shares our enthusiasm for helping groups to get going again and suggested that long-lining – where you steer the horse by walking behind it using long reins – could be a good option. This is an idea we are looking into and it just shows how well The Princess Royal knows the issues and opportunities open to us.”

With many groups struggling financially without regular income or fundraising events, RDA is launching a second phase of nationwide fundraising. The ‘Resilience’ campaign reflects the differing needs of groups around the UK: those in immediate financial risk, those adapting their services during lockdown and those planning for restart.

For more information and to donate to the campaign visit www.rda.org.uk