RDA volunteers recognised for their services with honours

Albert Clyde BEM - Coleraine Group
Albert Clyde BEM - Coleraine Group

Here, at the Riding for the Disabled Association Northern Ireland, we know that we would be lost without our volunteers.

More than 1,000 of them help us to offer weekly sessions to 1000 disabled riders and drivers every single week at 28 groups across Northern Ireland.

Avril Nicholl MBE - Ballyclare Group

Avril Nicholl MBE - Ballyclare Group

Without them, none of what we do would be possible and we are so grateful to every one of them, from those who look after the horses and ponies to those on the regional committee who help us maintain our title as the busiest RDA region in the UK each year. This is why we are so pleased that two of our volunteers have had their efforts formally recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Hear they tell us a little bit about themselves and their work with RDA NI.

Avril Nicholl MBE - Ballyclare Group

I’m originally from Londonderry, moving to 
Ballyclare, Co Antrim 48 years ago.

About 35 years ago my sister-in-law, Maureen Warwick, a member of the Mid Antrim RDA Group, invited me to join the Ballyclare Group as a helper. I was a complete novice having no experience with horses being a “city girl”. However, with the help and support of the fantastic instructors I soon learned what was required in horse and rider handling.

I’ve been Ballyclare Group organiser for around 30 years and I would like to thank everyone involved in nominating me for this accolade. This award is without doubt the highlight of my career within the RDA. Although I’m receiving the award, it’s the volunteers of the Ballyclare RDA who deserve the credit.

I am absolutely delighted and humbled at receiving this award. However, I look on it as recognition of the dedicated work we all do in the Riding for the Disabled Association.

Albert Clyde BEM - Coleraine Group

I am pleased that my colleagues have nominated me for this Award, but in reality, RDA is a team organisation, and I see any award as much as a team award as to any individual, and as an extension of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service achieved by RDA Coleraine in 2006.

I was recruited into RDA Coleraine in 2002 soon after I retired as director of estates and resources in the local college. Thanks to my role there I was suitably experienced to work with the team overseeing the planning, design, implementation and delivery of the new RDA Causeway Coast Arena Project. The new arena enables the weekly delivery of about 100 riding opportunities to people with physical, learning, social and emotional difficulties.

The motivation to volunteer and give time to RDA Coleraine is very easy to explain. Over the years that I have been involved, I have seen more than 1,000 persons with a disability attend and benefit from their involvement in RDA Coleraine – you only need to look through our many pictures of happy faces and see the delight to remain inspired to continue. I have a great respect for the many volunteers who offer their time and talents to deliver all aspects of the RDA programmes, and have made many lifelong friends through RDA Coleraine and beyond.

I hope the award will help to heighten the profile of RDA Coleraine, and encourage more volunteers and potential riders to become involved.

Background information on the Riding for the


The Northern Ireland region of the Riding for the Disabled Association currently has 28 groups, 1,000 volunteers and 1,000 riders and drivers. By working directly with 18 care centres and 40 schools, along with individuals, the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) seeks to help those who will benefit most from the therapy achieved through horse riding while encouraging riders to reach their full potential and compete at the top level.

The advantages of horse riding come in many forms ranging from building muscle tone to encouraging self confidence and improving balance. For children and adults with learning disabilities and mobility problems the RDA provides access to one of the very few outdoor activities available for the disabled community.

At the moment the RDA are keen to recruit new volunteers who would be able to give up some time to help with weekly sessions, or horse owners who would be willing to loan their horse/pony for these riding lessons.