South Downs RDA group’s new home

South Downs Riding for the Disabled group has announced that it has sadly had to relocate from Bridge House Equestrian Centre at Slinfold, due to redevelopment of the site.

The group’s new home is at the Horsham and Mid Sussex Equestrian Academy (HMSEA) at Albourne near Burgess Hill, West Sussex, where it runs three sessions on Wednesday mornings.

The group enjoyed five very successful and happy years at Bridge House during which time the owners, Liz and Chris McIlwraith, and wonderful liveries there, so kindly loaned their ponies to the group. Also they were always incredibly supportive.

However HMSEA has extended a very warm welcome to the group and all of its riders, and after the upheaval of the move all are settling nicely into the new surroundings.

Amanda with RDA horse Beau
Photo: South Downs RDA group

The group is now on its summer break but everyone concerned is looking forward to getting back in the saddle on September 12 and are eager to encourage new volunteers and local organisations and companies to get involved.

South Downs RDA will have a stand at the Albourne Village Show to be held on the village green at Albourne on Saturday September 1 2018 from 12noon to 4.30 pm and would be delighted to chat with anyone interested in joining the group or just learning more about the work they do.

The group has an impressive history, for it was founded in 1977 and operated not far from the South Downs at Upper Beeding. Three decades later it moved to the equestrian centre at Brinsbury College and in 2013 moved to Bridge House Equestrian Centre at Slinfold.

Now it is well settled at Albourne. where the ideal facilities, with outdoor and indoor schools,enable itt o operate year round and for its riders to enjoy riding outside in good weather.

On Wednesday mornings, it runs three riding sessions, offering riding opportunities to adults and children with quite a broad spectrum of disabilities from brain injury to autism and dyspraxia.

The ratio of volunteers to riders is necessarily high.   For every rider the group need a volunteer to lead the horse and at least one side-walker to walk (or run!) alongside the rider, to give guidance and to offer support and reassurance

The riding experience can be hugely rewarding – it can be exciting, or have a calming effect, it can give freedom,  and a unique experience of movement never possible ‘on the ground’ and for many just a very special interaction with the ponies and horses which are at the centre of everything the group does.

Carolyn Heitman, Chairman of our group explains “we need a specific type of horse that can cope with the differences that come with disabled people.   We have to do a lot of work with the horses to prepare them.  Even something as simple as having two people walking alongside a horse, whilst being ridden, is unusual for a horse, and can be unsettling for them”.

Whilst part of the Riding for the Disabled Association, which is a national charity, each group is run as an individual charity, and as such it is self-funding, and all members of the group are volunteers.

See the group’s website:  and also Facebook or ring Carolyn Heitman on 01403 711867   Also see Facebook@SouthDownsRDA



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