MORE than 80 members of the Riding for the Disabled Association from across the South East converged on the Haven Centre in Crawley Down for the region’s recent annual conference.
This year, delegates heard from two inspirational guest speakers with Tim Puddifoot, Corporal of the Horse for the Household Cavalry, whose topic was ‘Training the Military Horse’ and David Hamer, co-ordinator for the World Class Development Para-Equestrian Dressage Programme who spoke about Training Opportunities for Talented Riders.
David Hamer outlined the selection process and training programmes behind the outstandingly successful para-equestrian dressage teams that continue to dominate the international arena post the Paralympic Games. He said a key element was the need to ‘learn how to win’ instead of first riders being taught how to lose.
“Once you have truly overcome your fear of losing, then you’ll win” he said. But he also stressed that talent is not enough and he told of the host of other factors that help shape and contribute to a champion.
Tim Puddifoot gave an insight into the training programme required for a military horse and rider to meet the ceremonial duties of royal and state occasions. He ended with his top tips on winning a horse’s trust sufficiently to train it to lie down. This feat is now only used in displays, but dates back to when wars were fought on horseback and riders and horses had to hide themselves before an attack.
In addition, delegates heard from an informative panel which tackled the issue of fundraising. It featured representatives from the RDA’s South East corporate sponsor Cowan Architects, Sainsbury’s and RDA National Office. As each RDA Group is run as a separate charity, fundraising is essential to finance the valuable work that they do on the ground or in the saddle.
Phillip Mumford, Managing Director of Cowan Architects, which sponsors the RDA across the region, suggested groups should try to approach companies that already might have a natural synergy with them. He used Cowan Architects as an example, saying: “One of our particular specialties is in the care market, transforming living spaces for people with disabilities – so obviously we are a good match and readily committed to the RDA’s wonderfully inspiring work.”
Sally Pointing from Chichester RDA was awarded the coveted Tora Bray Perpetual Trophy for her tireless contribution to the running of the group that went ‘above and beyond’ the normal. Belinda Wilkins of Walberton, near Chichester, nominated Sally for the award, saying: “Sally has endless patience. She brings out the best in riders and inspires them to achieve. She never concentrates on what they can’t do but what they can do. She volunteered to help with the newly formed Chichester group nearly 30 years ago.
“Sally ensures that every rider who wants ride with the Chichester Group is given a chance, no-one is turned away and the group has a very wide range of ages and abilities all enjoying the pleasure of riding. She bought and cared for Rosa, the Chichester RDA horse, transpporting her there and back for each session.
“Bella has now replaced Rosa, who has retired many years after receiving her long service record. Sally also transported Rosa to the Kingley Vale sessions for years. She has ensured the future of Chichester RDA by allowing youngsters to hold the reins and take the sessions. They in turn aim to copy her outstanding qualities as leader.”
There was also the opportunity at the conference for delegates to meet runner Sam Cooper, who is raising funds for the region by competing for the first time in the London Marathon in April.