A record-breaking turnout from across four counties by members of the Riding for the Disabled Association marked its Regional Conference, when Olympic medallist, eventer Tina Cook, honoured many of the volunteers by presenting awards for their achievements.
Almost 150 delegates listened to presentations and workshops that ranged from using correct bits and good horse welfare to engaging effectively with participants and understanding the work of the main RDA Board.
Gill Batt-Denzey, from horsebitadvice.com, described the effects of different bits on, not only the horse’s mouth, but consequently the head, neck, shoulders and ultimately the deportment of the whole body. A well-fitted bit results in relaxation, receptivity, flexion, balance, rhythm and outline from a happy horse.
Judy Scrine, partner in Mayes & Scrine Equine Vets, outlined the conundrum of providing good horse welfare in the modern age and how far from their original environment horses have had to move. Challenging examples of unintentional mis-treatment where ignorance often leads to ‘killing with kindness’ left everyone with a greater insight into correct horse care.
Delegates participated in an enthusiastic workshop, led by Matt Cobble from RDA UK, on ways and means of raising a group’s level of engagement with participants. He looked at different types of engagement (informing, consulting, involving and collaboration) and their relative merits according to the individuals involved.
Ideas included using names more often to personalise the approach and using cards with symbols, illustrations and emojis that some participants might find easier to understand. The ultimate aim is to ensure that ‘all participants get an excellent experience with RDA according to their specific needs’ said Matt.
Judi Singer, former Regional Chairman and a current member of the National Board, gave an insight into the workings and strategies of RDA at Board level.
Numerous awards presented included Long Service Awards for 20+, 30+ and even 40+ years. Lynda Sears from Epsom RDA topped the bill with 47 years and Epsom brought 30 delegates to collect long-service awards which is an impressive reflection of the loyalty of RDA volunteers.
The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Zac Galt of Quest RDA, Chobham and there were also two new awards – the new Hebe Young Volunteer Award (given to Sophia Collinson also from Quest and Abbi Hamilton Hopkins from Cobbes Meadow, Canterbury) and the Titan Participant of the Year Award (given to Samuel Curcio of Mid Sussex, Pyecombe, Robert Hill of Chalkdown, Staplehurst, and Bonnie Lawrence of Quest)
The Tora Bray Perpetual Award was presented to Lesley Morrill for her ‘unstinting work at both Hope in the Valley group and on the Regional Committee’. Gilly Roper, last year’s recipient, gave her citation and Tina Cook presented her with the Award. Tina Cook finished off the day’s awards by presenting Quest with The Buchan Bobby Award for the Group of the Year.
Long Service Awards:40 years and above: Lynda Seares (47) Epsom, Pam Aston (40) Epsom, Betty Grant (41) Epsom, Jill Messer (43) Epsom, Roberta Roan (40) Epsom
30 years and above: Janet Bettell Higgins (34) Kipling County, Elaine Briggs (32) Epsom, Hilarie Chantler (30) Epsom, Pamela Holmes (36) Epsom, Sue Lawrence Downham (37), Epsom, Janet McSweeney (34) Kipling County, Sue Page (30) Heron’s Ghyll, Alison Pruden (36) Epsom, Hazel Ransom (30) Epsom, Margaret Screech (35) Epsom, Dalma Williams (37) Epsom.
25 years and above: Gaynor Gibbons (25) Epsom, Sue Hammill (25) Epsom, Jo Lee (27) Epsom Elizabeth Major (25) Heron’s Ghyll, Gill Morrison (25) Godstone, Norma Sharp (25) Epsom, Anthea Shipley (25) Heron’s Ghyll.