It was a real honour to again attend the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) National Championships in Hartpury Gloucestershire this weekend, where Childs Farm sponsored Horse Care & Knowledge for the second year. In addition, we were invited to judge the exceptional Arts Crafts competition where the standard continues to be high, and the creativity of the disabled riders knows no bounds.
Regional trials are held throughout the year in order to qualify for this event, which is the largest of it’s kind in Europe. Participants from all over the UK & Ireland come for 3 days of intense competition against the best of their peers in many dressage classes. This is a true example of determination over ability because ALL of the riders suffer a disability, and in many cases are riding against the odds.
One rider was found staring at the results board for about 10 minutes. When one of the RDA volunteers approached her to offer her some help, the lady shook her head. Some minutes later, she announced she was unable to speak at the moment. Eventually, when she had regained her composure, she said that she simply couldn’t believe she, a disabled woman, had just come 1st in a competitive sporting event. The magnitude of this had in fact rendered her totally speechless.
I could wax lyrical about the RDA riders and volunteers for pages; these are people who have never given up, devote so much of their time and energy to others, and smile constantly in the face of adversity. Uplifting stories abound; the lady who was bedridden for 9 years until they at last found here a wheelchair that could support her disability, who then took up riding with the RDA and can now walk aided with sticks! Children who struggled to hold a cup, but after riding with reins have developed the dexterity to hold things unaided.
Whilst we were having a tour of the Horse Care & Knowledge test centre, we were lucky enough to meet Louise who was over from Ireland for the Championships. With a smile as large as a slice of melon, Louise had just achieved 94% in her test – which she was pleased with, but was 6% less than last year! Clearly severely disabled, Louise waxed lyrical about the fin she has had at this wonderful event, and all that RDA has done to help her achieve her goals.
The Arts & Crafts entries this year were again exceptional. Aided by London based sculptor & artist, Emma Johnston, she and I were charged with the most difficult task of judging. The standard was incredibly high, the content very often extremely emotive (we both had to ‘take a moment’ at one stage, so overwhelmed were we by a couple of pieces), and the skill and imagination undeniable. Oliver Pearce won the individual sculpture again this year with his extraordinary created out of bandages, depicting a horse, helper and rider in a wheel chair. A knitted horse, a pottery glazed book of thanks to the volunteers, a picture of a horse created out of the hands of the members, a charcoal of a dressage test – everything was creative, skilled and inspiring.
Currently, the waiting list to be able to ride at an RDA Group is 4 people per space. With additional funding, and most importantly volunteers, this can be greatly reduced. Donations of hay, straw, feed, tack etc are also all made good use of.
The RDA motto is : It’s what you CAN do that counts. The Childs Farm Motto: If you can dream it, you can do it (shamelessly stolen from Walt Disney!). And that’s why we love working with this charity. The RDA sums up what we believe everyone should be focusing on; our ability to achieve things, despite the odds. Think high, aim high, and suddenly it won’t seem such a great distance away. And, if you undertake to do everything with a smile and good cheer, how much more fun life is!
So, thank you RDA – participants and volunteers alike. It is a privilege to work with you and your joyful smiles, endless amounts of laughter, and terrible jokes. Childs Farm is so very proud to support you all!