THe Berwickshire branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association (Berwickshire RDA) celebrated the tenth anniversary of its indoor riding school at Sunnyside Farm, Reston on Friday.
Berwickshire High School pupils Lisa Borthwick, Adrian Purvis, Daniel Yule and Trevor Hanley, who have been learning vaulting at Sunnyside as part of their ASDAN module in Animal Care, treated well wishers to a display of what they have learnt since the beginning of September by performing impressive balancing moves whilst riding the very handsome Big Guinness.
Branch leader Margaret Morgan told spectators that the indoor riding school had been hugely beneficial over the last 10 years. She explained: “We started with it in 1999 - we had had a terrible year weather-wise, and rode only two days between Christmas and the summer holidays for one reason or the other. My husband was sick of me moaning about it - he said ‘shut up moaning and go and build an indoor school’ - so we did!”
Margaret said turning the idea into a reality had been a long process, but definitely a worthwhile one.
“The first two years was hard work because we were fundraising,” she said. “We thought we would never manage it but we did, we built the school and it has been an amazing success.”
For more than 40 years, RDA has been delivering opportunities for therapy, achievement and enjoyment to people with disabilities. Founded as a National Organisation in 1969, RDA now has over 500 Member Groups across the UK - together, these Groups help 30,000 people take part in riding, carriage driving and vaulting activities.
The Berwickshire group was started in 1982 by four ‘founding mothers’ - Johanna Wright, Barbara Brown, Jane Cowan and Jenny Leggate - three of whom were at the indoor riding school’s birthday celebrations. Margaret thanked them for their “foresight and energy” all those years ago, which makes the group what it is today.
During the last 10 years, the Berwickshire RDA’s popularity has increased substantially, as more adults and children in the region became aware of its benefits.
Margaret said: “In 1999 we were only riding two mornings a week, but people realised what a great thing RDA was, there was a huge demand and now we ride five days a week, with two sessions on a Tuesday.”
The Group currently has 23 vaulters and 20 riders, helped by over 40 volunteers, and between six to eight horses.
“We’re working with big horses because little people can ride big horses but big people cant ride little ponies,” Margaret explained.
“Riding is hugely beneficially for people with disabilities,” she insisted. “The benefits are extensive, from coming to a new place and meeting new people, to getting contact with an animal. They get exercise, they get the opportunity to take part in a sport, it improves balance and coordination, memory, and teaches them new skills.”
The RDA works across the spectrum of disabilities and age ranges, with the focus of its work to ensure that each individual has the chance to derive a direct therapeutic benefit and the opportunity to achieve personal goals.
The indoor riding school’s 10th birthday served as a double celebration for the Berwickshire High School ASDAN pupils, who recently entered a collage into the Arts and Crafts class at the National Championships - and won by a country mile.
Berwickshire and Roxburgh MSP John Lamont presented them with their rosettes and medals. He said: “I was very pleased to be involved in the Berwickshire RDA’s recent 10th birthday celebrations. It was a fitting tribute to the tremendous work of the organisation in Berwickshire over the years.
“Berwickshire RDA’s work in the area in recent years has allowed a huge number of young people to enjoy the benefits of riding, regardless of their disability. This is, in no small part, down to the hard work and selfless dedication of the loyal volunteers who allow the charity to operate to successfully.”
He added: “I hope Berwickshire RDA continues going from strength to strength in the years to come.”
And there was further reason to celebrate, when Ken Taylor of Eyemouth band the Podlies presented the Group with a cheque for £100.
Introducing him, Margaret told the assembled gathering that this was the second cheque the Podlies, who raise a huge amount of money for charity, had donated to the Berwickshire RDA.
Presenting the cheque, Ken thanked the Group for inviting him to see the display. “I was really impressed,” he said. “It was first class. This is a small contribution to what you do, and I’ll tell the rest of the Podlies the good work you are doing.”