Fab at 50

Throughout 2019 we are celebrating 50 years of enriching lives through horses. From our humble beginnings, when a handful of pioneers started to realise the therapeutic benefits of horse riding for people with disabilities, we have flourished into a nationwide organisation, delivering outstanding levels of coaching and therapy, not to mention fun – and still run almost entirely by volunteers.

fifty years of RDA banner
rda at 50 people

How it all began

After the Second World War, people started noticing the therapeutic benefit of riding, particularly for people with Muscular dystrophy and polio. The idea took hold, especially when the inspirational Danish rider, Lis Hartel caused a sensation by winning Silver medals for dressage in both the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, despite having no muscle function in her lower legs.

Lis’s success inspired a fledgling movement which spread to the UK. Early pioneers included the Winford Orthopaedic Hospital near Bristol, the Pony Riding for the Disabled Trust in Chigwell, Essex, and the British Polio Fellowship.

The benefits of riding for children and adults with disabilities were increasingly being realised during the 1960s. In 1963 those involved started getting together for the exchange of ideas and knowledge and in 1964 a loose organisation was formed called the ‘Advisory Council on Riding for the Disabled’ (ACRD).

By 1966 there were already 23 known disabled riding groups around the UK and the disabled riding

‘movement’ was growing. In 1969, at the ACRD AGM, a revised constitution was presented to the Committee to create what would be known as Riding for the Disabled Association or RDA. Our first President was Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, and Her Royal Highness, The Princess Anne was our Patron. The Princess became our President in 1976, a position she still holds today.

Early pioneers

Lis Hartel

Danish Olympian

Elsebet Bodtker

Rider and Physiotherapist. Inspired by Hartel to provide pony rides to young patients

stella

Stella Saywell

Stella Saywell – Brought Bodtker’s ideas to her work as a Physiotherapist at Winford Orthopaedic Hospital near Bristol

Nora Jacques

Mrs Jacques

Mrs Jacques – brought Bodtker’s ideas to the Pony Riding for the Disabled Trust in Chigwell, Essex

norah

Norah Strang

Norah Strang – member of British Polio Fellowship who, in 1959, thought some of the children disabled by polio might benefit from riding (by 1977 her Tyne & Wear RDA Group had 500 riders each week)

Jane Wykeham-Musgrave

One of Great Britain’s top International riders during the 1960s, Field officer for ACRD and on the first committee of RDA.

Sheila Shaw

Inspired to bring the benefits of riding to those that needed it, Sheila pioneered riding for disabled people at Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon, West Stowell House, Burton Hill House School and the Ponds Home

RDA history
1969
two people history

RDA formed

1976
2 people history

HRH the Princess Royal becomes RDA President, a position she still holds today

1995
RDA group

RDA celebrates Jubilee anniversary. Spirit of RDA is published

1996
group of people

Para Dressage is included in the Paralympics for the first time, withteam members Anne Dunham (who won gold in four consecutive Games), Liz Stone, Di Tubbs and Pat Straughan

2010
horse jumping

Showjumping is introduced as a new activity

2013 AM

At the Paralympic Games, held in London, all 5 of the Team GB Para riders started out with RDA

2013
accessibility mark

The RDA Tracker is launched to track and record the impact of RDA activities. ‘RDA Accessibility Mark’ is introduced to support commercial riding centres. Endurancebecomes a new activity. Carriage driving is included at the National Championships for the first time. Head of Sport England, Jennie Price, acknowledges RDA as ‘an example of excellence in disability sport’

2014
stamp

The RDA Tracker is launched to track and record the impact of RDA activities. ‘RDA Accessibility Mark’ is introduced to support commercial riding centres. Endurancebecomes a new activity. Carriage driving is included at the National Championships for the first time. Head of Sport England, Jennie Price, acknowledges RDA as ‘an example of excellence in disability sport’

2017
digger

RDA buys ‘Lowlands Farm’ to develop a National Training Centre, to train and inspire volunteers and coaches from around the UK

2018
about our history

New coaching pathway launched

2019
News banner

50th anniversary! Launch of National Training Centre