The Berwickshire Group Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is seeking new volunteers to help deliver its programme of activities, to ensure the group can maintain the number of riding sessions that it currently offers.
The group has been in existence for over 30 years, operating in a purpose built indoor school at Sunnyside near Reston. The group rides four days a week, Monday to Thursday with two sessions on a Tuesday. Sessions last about an hour for participants and half an hour longer for volunteers who assist with setting up and clearing away at the end.
Over a year the group sees an average of 45 people of varying ages and needs and ride and vault on a weekly basis during school term time. Due to demand there is always a waiting list of people wishing to attend.
Riding is beneficial to people in so many ways. It is an excellent form of exercise and physiotherapy, working muscles that are not normally used. It can also help in increasing confidence and self esteem for the riders. As well as the physical activity, participants also have the opportunity to learn about horse care and different riding disciplines and can work towards recognised achievement awards.
The running of the group depends upon having enough people assisting at sessions in order to provide a safe, stimulating and beneficial experience for riders. Currently the group has around 40 volunteers but unfortunately the numbers have been reducing of late, so to ensure it can continue to offer the same level of service, new helpers are urgently required.
The role of an RDA volunteer is extremely rewarding. The duties are varied and can cover everything from full involvement with horses, to roles which have little or no contact with the horse and involve helping riders and vaulters to get the most from their sessions.
Helping out at riding sessions involves preparing both horses and riders for riding.
In the case of horses this may mean bringing a horse in from the field, grooming and tacking- up and leading the horse to warm up before mounting the rider.
Riders may need help with hats and boots and warm up prior to mounting. In general there will always be a helper to lead the horse, whilst some riders may need one or two side walkers to assist them. There will always be an instructor who runs the session and helpers will assist riders with the instructions they receive. At the end of a session helpers will assist riders with their safety clothing as necessary, will help to clear away equipment and may un-tack horses and return them to the stable or paddock.
Prior knowledge or experience of horses and horse care is not needed as full training in the volunteer’s role is given, with refresher training and statutory courses provided at regular intervals.
Those with little or no equestrian experience will inevitably increase their knowledge as they learn alongside participants. Berwickshire Group RDA is a member of the national Riding for the Disabled Association, an umbrella organisation which regulates the running of groups, as well as providing training, advice and support.
Berwickshire Group RDA undertakes a lot of fund-raising to maintain the horses, riding facility, equipment and resources. The group welcomes and encourages volunteer to assist in fundraising activities which range from coffee mornings, quizzes and raffles to concerts and sponsored events.
Can you spare a few hours a week to help give a riding experience to disabled people in Berwickshire?
For more information or to enquire about volunteering with the Berwickshire Group RDA, please contact Sharon Baker on 01361 883863 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the volunteering page of the Group website: www.berwickshirerda.org.uk