Banbridge and Moira RDA group appeals for riders and volunteers

Lucy Best with volunteers from the Banbridge and Moira Group representing RDANI at Dublin Horse Show
Lucy Best with volunteers from the Banbridge and Moira Group representing RDANI at Dublin Horse Show

Banbridge and Moira Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association has spaces for both new riders and volunteers in September, writes Katie Jordan, RDANI Publicity Officer.

The group rides each Thursday morning at Tullynewbank riding school in Glenavy between 9.45am and 12.30pm. The morning consists of two sessions of 45 minutes, both with approximately six riders in each.

Currently half of the riders come from Lisburn Adult Resource Centre, however, the group also accepts those who come on an individual basis - adults and children are both welcome. The group can cater for most disabilities, although selection will be determined by a combination of the rider’s weight, height and disability, based on the ponies and horses available. It is unlikely that they will be able to accept anyone over 12 stone.

Anyone interested would be invited to come along and watch a session, they will then meet the coaches and discuss their aspirations and any concerns that they may have. If there is a suitable pony available then they will have to complete a medical form to determine if riding is advisable for them.

Riding offers a chance of independence and normality for those who face daily challenges in life. The movement of the horse provides constant therapy and muscle tone and balance will be improved. There will be opportunities to ride both indoors and outside, take RDA proficiency tests and compete at RDA events. The psychological benefits of being part of a sociable, friendly group are immeasurable and fun is guaranteed.

Riding for disabled people is only possible with the help of volunteers, and Banbridge and Moira group would love to hear from anyone who may be interested in joining.

New riders will start off with a person leading the horse, supported by two more volunteers, one on each side of the pony. The aim would be to have as many of the riders riding independently - however, this may not be possible for some clients. Similarly with new riders, new volunteers will be invited to observe a session to see if RDA is for them. If they would like to join, they will be asked to provide references and be checked with ACCESS NI. Experience with horses is not necessary - just a basic level of fitness, reliability and desire to help others. Training will be given in leading, side-walking or both.

Volunteering creates a great deal of satisfaction and the volunteers also have a lot of fun each morning. It is also an ideal way to keep fit - an average RDA session involves approximately four miles of walking and is much cheaper than going to the gym. Other skills are also valuable to the group - IT, fundraising, administration and help delivering the RDA Education programme would be appreciated.

In the current difficult economy, employers are on the lookout for applicants with something extra on their CVs - a volunteering position will make any candidate stand out from the crowd.

The Riding for the Disabled Association is a national charity dedicated to enriching the lives of its participants via therapy, personal achievement and lots of fun. Banbridge and Moira Group are one of the busiest of the twenty eight groups spread all over Northern Ireland.

In 2015, RDA NI celebrated their twenty fifth birthday with a visit from RDA President HRH Princess Anne. On that occasion, Long Service Awards were presented to many of the volunteers who have been helping out at RDA since the group started. The RDA still have a couple of their original riders attending the group even now.

For further information, contact Group Organiser Libby Robinson or 07763 145 294.