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



Pony Club coaching conference success

The recent sell-out Pony Club Coaching Conference was a huge success, with delegates enjoying a day of learning from some of the best minds in the equine world.

The theme of the conference, held at Bury Farm Equestrian Centre, was ‘small change big difference’ and the aim was to show coaches how they can view their own training from a different angle; enabling them to get ahead and discover new ways of assisting others to reach their goals.

The line-up of morning speakers did just that, with sessions from equine biomechanics expert Russell Guire, performance psychologist Charlie Unwin, Dr. Caroline Benoist from the Neue Schule Academy and Stephanie Bradley from the Society of Master Saddlers covering wide range of thought-provoking subjects.

The afternoon began with the presentation of the inaugural Coach of the Year Awards, designed to reward those who have gone above and beyond to help Pony Club Members achieve their goals.  The Young Coach of the Year Award went to Old Berkshire Hunt Branch’s Aaron Nobbs and Linda Pearce picked up Coach of the Year for her contribution to the Cottesmore Hunt Branch.

A stunned Linda was very surprised to have been nominated, let alone short listed. She said: “I’m really humbled; it’s a great honour.” Linda continued to talk about how much she enjoyed the Coaching Conference, and how increasing knowledge positively impacts the way coaches teach.

Aaron said: “It feels amazing to have won. I’m so overwhelmed; there are so many good young coaches in The Pony Club.” Aaron said the Coaching Conference was ‘a real eye opener.’ “It’s been a really interesting day with lots of useful information.”

Aaron Nobbs, Pony Club Young Coach of the Year receiving his award.

Aaron and Linda received a keepsake glass plaque, a training bursary and products courtesy of sponsors Vydex British Horse Supplements.

Everyone gathered in the arena for the afternoon session which was delivered by International show jumper and trainer Matt Lanni. With the help of six young Pony Club riders, Matt ran two sessions; the first dealing with issues such as rhythm, straightness, rushing and refusing, and the second which covered jumping exercises to create a better way of going over a course of fences.

For more information about CPD courses for Pony Club Coaches please visit the Pony Club website at :

Successful Ride Safe event

A  successful Ride Safe event was held by Horsham and District Riding Club at Brinsbury College recently in conjunction with Alan Hiscox , who is the British Horse Society Director of Safety.

Alan has 26 years of experience as a Mounted Police Officer, and he gave a talk and video presentation about safety for riders.

He spoke of his work of corresponding with the Department of Transport, Off Roaders, Cyclists and   Driving Instructors.

Alan Hiscox explaining to a rider about riding safely.

He stressed that it is a rider’s responsibility to make themself be seen and also to know the highway code.

This was followed by a demonstration involving  Tim Briers, British Horse Society’s Riding & Road Safety Assessor and Trainer, who used three riders to demonstrate the update on the Road safety Code.

This included correct hand signals on the road, warning drivers there is something ahead your horse does not like, riding alone, problems of vehicles driving too fast or too close .

Two riders under instruction with their horses at the event

In addition he emphasised awareness of noises, including drones and low flying aircraft.

He answered many interesting questions following his talk and both Alan and Tim answered many interesting questions and at the end .

Both Alan and Tim stressed how important it  was to report any accident, incident, near-miss,  and abusiveness -even if no one was hurt-  to the British Horse Society and/ or Police.

Tim advised horse riders to obtain a Ride Safe handbook from the British Horse, saying it was full of useful information which would help people to ride safely and enjoy themselves.

The event had been held at half-term so that younger riders could benefit from the useful advise- but organisers were understandably disappointed that none attended.

The session had been scheduled so they could benefit from the event,  to enable them to take on board advice on how to stay safe in the future.

Pony Club Championships 2018

The Pony Club has announced that The Pony Club Championships will be held at Cholmondeley Castle Estate in Cheshire in 2018.                                                              The Championships are the first level event for some riders, and the pinnacle of achievement for others, and the event will showcase an incredible array of up and coming talent across five action-packed days from August 17-21 .

A Pony Club Championship celebration

Home of the annual Pony Club Championships since 2012, Cholmondeley Castle will host around 2,000 Members taking part in the Olympic sports of show jumping, dressage and eventing, alongside polocrosse and mounted games. The championships will also incorporate competitions for Centre Equitation, the Musical Ride, Horse and Pony Care and the judging of the art competition.                                                     Other key dates for 2018 include:
February 12 The Pony Club Coaching Conference at Bury Farm Equestrian Centre, LU7 9BT.                                                                                                                     March 5 The Pony Club Conference at Edgbaston Stadium, B5 7QU
April 14/15 The Dengie Winter Championships at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre, K18 2JR (incorporating the National Quiz Finals)
August 9/12 The Pony Club Tetrathlon Championships at Offchurch Bury, CV33 9AR
August 10/12 The Pony Club Polo Championships is at Cowdry Park Polo Club, GU29 0AQ (*with the Jorrocks section held on August 8 at Hurtwood Park Polo Club, GU6 7SW)
August 19 The Pony Club Endurance Championships at Euston Park, IP24 2QH
*Awaiting final confirmation.                                                                                            The Pony Club is ‘the’ starting place for anyone with an interest in horses and riding, who wants to learn and have fun in a safe and caring environment.
Membership is open to anyone up to the age of 25; from total novices to those with more experience who aspire to the highest standards of riding and horse care, developed by training, assessment and access to a wide range of equestrian sports. Branch membership is for those with access to a horse or pony, and Centre membership is for those without access to a horse or pony.

Don’t miss Ride Safe event at Brinsbury

HORSHAM & District Riding Club invites all riders to Ride Safe- an event taking place at the Brinsbury Campus of Chichester College, near Pulborough on Monday February 12.

The Ride Safe event is at the college’s Equine Centre  beside the A29 at North Heath in West Sussex, at RH20 1DL.   Please be there for 10am for a  prompt 10.30am start.

This is a Rider Responsibility Event dedicated to all aspects of riding safely, whether on  the road, in open countryside and at shows.Ride Safe covers what to wear, discussion about hazards you may encounter and how to deal with them.

It is a follow-up to the British Horse Society’s televised and highly acclaimed 2017 DEAD SLOW campaign which aimed at encouraging drivers and cyclists to “Pass Wide and Slow” – the video of which was viewed more than 2.6 million times on-line.

Slow down for horses and pass wide


Alan Hiscox, the British Horse Society’s Director of Safety, has had 26 years equine experience as a Mounted Police Officer. He will give a talk and video presentation.        Tim Briers, BHS Riding and Road Safety Assessor and Trainer (Stage 3 in coaching Horsemanship), will instruct four ‘guinea pig’ riders on the soon to be updated Riding & Road Safety Test.

The BHS has also launched the Ride Safe Awrd to provide riders with the knowledge to protect themselves and their horse. It covers all aspects of riding so it is very important that you are aware of this Award.

It is accompanied by a comprehensive “Ride Safe Guide” that teaches riders how to manoeuvre in traffic, and what to do in a difficult situation on the road. Anyone 11 years or older can take the Award at selected BHS Approved Centres and It will be essential for those just beginning their BHS qualifications.

Equisafety Ltd with their latest Hi Viz clothing and other safety wear for riders and horses, and Myrocam UK – suppliers of head and body safety cameras, have also been invited to this event.

Advance Tickets for members and non members cost £6.00 each, which includes       light refreshment.  Send cheques made payable to HDRC and your contact details to the  organiser:  Mrs Marilyn Turner, Ryersh House, Ryersh Lane, Capel, Surrey RH5 5LJ.  (Tel. 01306 711069 / mobile 0752 732 7564 after 7pm)

OR pay via PayPal on-line: and see under “Events”

Tickets on the day will cost £8 each, payment by cash only.

Pony Racing Points winners announced

The Pony Club Champion Safety Wear Pony Racing Points Series came to a close for 2017, seeing 346 pony and rider combinations taking part across six days of racing at some of the best known racecourses in the UK.
Taking the top spot with 31 points in the 128cm and under category was 10 year old Zak Kent riding Glebedale Stopwatch for the Essex Farmers’ Hunt. Essex resident Zak, who took part in six race days and won at Wolverhampton, aims to be as successful as his heroes Bob Champion and Sam Twiston-Davies.

Pony Club saddle pads

Line up of winners in the Pony Club Championships

He said: “I would like to thank my parents and my brother Bradley for their help, but most of all I’d like to thank my pony who is my best friend and my partner.                        The winner of the 138cm and under category was Grafton Hunt’s Harvey Poole, who lives in Northants. Eleven year old Harvey and his horse Warmwell Lizzie competed in five races, taking wins at Ascot and Haydock Park. Harvey, who said the win was ‘amazing’.

Exciting action in pony club polo championship

Harvey commented: “I still can’t believe it’s true that I’ve won the Championship in my first year of racing. I hope to continue Pony Racing and become a professional jockey when I’m old enough.”
Violet Barton’s Miss Wonderful lived up to her name by winning all of their 148cm and under races at Wolverhampton, Lingfield Park, Cheltenham and Ascot.                  Fifteen year old Violet, who lives in Leicestershire and is a Member of the Quorn Hunt Branch, said: “I am thrilled to have won, and doing so well has given me the confidence to ride in more flat races.” Violet, whose ambition is to be a jockey, continued to thank The Pony Club for the opportunity to get into racing, adding: “It’s the most amazing feeling and is very addictive!”
The winners and their families will enjoy a day at the ‘Jingle All the Way’ Race Meeting at Ascot Racecourse where they will also be presented with their prizes.

Pony Club taster tickets

The Pony Club year is set to end in festive style at Olympia, The London International Horse Show (December 12-18 ). There will be lots on offer including Taster Tickets for anyone who is interested in being part of the largest equestrian organisation for young people.

Visitors can pick up a Taster Ticket from The Pony Club stand – in its new location G47 – and go and experience for themselves all the fun, learning and friendship that is to be had at Pony Club.

Team Pony Club will be on hand to speak about the organisation and give details of the wide range of training and riding opportunities available across the nine equestrian sports available to members, as well as items to purchase.

Close up of Pony Club chaps

Also available on the stand will be Pony Club ‘must haves’ including Pony Club saddle pads from Nuumed, a range of Pony Club full chaps, half chaps and waterproof chaps from Just Chaps and books from superstar authors Nick Skelton, Carl Hester and Clare Balding.

Pony Club saddle pads

Alongside these will be sensational stocking fillers, including a new design lycra hat covers and pencil cases, and best sellers ‘Pete the Pony’ cuddly toys, fleece ear warmers and plastic mugs.

Olympia shoppers do not need to worry about buying heavy or bulky items, as they can be safely left at The Pony Club Shopping Drop Off point. The Shopping Drop Off is being run by an army of invaluable Pony Club Volunteers including members, parents, District Commissioners and centre proprietors, and can be found on stand GH7.

For more information about the show please visit and for information about The Pony Club contact Vicky Kangurs at

Olympia Pony Club Mini Major

The Mini-Major Show Jumping competition returns to Olympia, the London International Horse Show, on Sunday December 17 and once again promises to keep the audience on the edge of their seats

An annual favourite, the competition sees Pony Club Members aged 12 and under pair up with a top international rider to each complete a Show Jumping round in the quickest time with the fewest faults.

Annie Gibson (11)  winning at Olympia last year riding her pony Magic
Photo: Kit Houghton

The lucky riders competing in this year’s Mini Major are:
⦁ Thomas Bradburne (11 years old – Old Berkshire Hunt) riding Runaway Dolly
⦁ Sophie Wicks (10 years old – Furness & District) riding Bubbas Delight
⦁ Connie Mensley (8 years old – Quorn Hunt) riding Gemstone Sienna
⦁ Simone Leathem (12 years old – Iveagh) riding Mohill Sundance
⦁ Kym Moore (9 years old – Tullylagen) riding Smoke Gun
⦁ Poppy Deakin (11 years old – Tynedale) riding Forever Penny
⦁ Savannah Roper (9 years old – East Aberdeenshire) riding Glen Hill
⦁ Robert Russell (9 years old – Iveagh) riding Newtown Black Guy

Excitement is high amongst the eight riders who are all looking forward to riding at this prestigious show in front of the onlooking crowds.

“It’s a dream come true!” said Kym Moore, who turns 10 just a few days before Olympia. “Smokegun may enjoy making holes in his timber-built stable, but he’s my best friend and always looks after me.”

Poppy Deakin loves her pony Forever Penny, known as Sooty, who has taught lots of riders to jump including Poppy and her sisters. Poppy said “Sooty talks to me; she always whinnies when she sees me, especially at tea time.”

Sophie Wicks said she ‘could not believe it’ when she and Bubbas Delight qualified. Look out for their lucky red earmuffs, a gift to Sophie from Bubba’s previous owner.

“When we bought Bubba, Sam who used to ride him sent us his lucky earmuffs which he said he has to wear.” said Sophie “We always make sure that he has them on; he just doesn’t look right without them!”

For more information about Olympia, the London International Horse Show, go to


Pony Club celebrates HOYS double

The Oakley Hunt West Pony Club has won the Prince Philip Cup after dominating the competition over five nail-biting days at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
The team, consisting of Charlie Yates (14), Charlotte Sabatier (14), Jaimsye Bailey
(14), Sophie Grimshaw (14), Jaime Medcalf (14) and reserve Luke Grimshaw (12) won
every session they took part in to clinch victory with 124 points; a massive 24 points
ahead of joint runners-up West Hants and Eglinton Hunt.

Oakley Pony Club Action at Horse of the Year Show
Photo: HOYS

Three other teams, including Romney Marsh who finished fourth, Banwen and District
and first timers North Herefordshire also qualified to compete at HOYS after battling
it out at the Area competitions.
The final at HOYS captivated the crowds, with the teams giving it
their all to thrill spectators with some very close finishes. Classic games such as the
Bending Race race tested the Members’ control and athleticism, but the loudest
cheers were for the novelty games which included the 3D Worms game which saw a
team member dressed as a worm!
The Pony Club Mounted Games is a competition requiring courage, determination
and all round riding ability. The concept of the competition was first introduced by
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who suggested that Cavalry competitions could
be adapted for young riders on ponies in an entertaining and visually engaging
format. The first competitions were held in 1957 and the winner received the
coveted Prince Philip Challenge Trophy.


Pony Club mini-major

The Pony Club Mini-Major returned to Olympia this week, seeing Pony Club Members paired up with a top international rider in a thrilling competition to each complete a Show Jumping round in the quickest time, with the fewest faults.

Top of the tree this year was eleven-year-old Annie Gibson who teamed up with Anna Power to finish in 25.29 seconds; clinching victory by just 0.01 of a second.

The long journey from Northern Ireland was worthwhile for Iveagh Branch Member Annie, who said: “The whole experience was amazing! I’ve never been to Olympia before and the atmosphere was incredible. I met lots of my heroes, including Nick Skelton and Cian O’Connor.” Annie went on to thank Anna Power for being ‘such a good partner,’ her family for supporting her and her coach Joe Sharkey.

Special thanks also went to Iveagh DC Vanne Campbell who made the trip over to support Annie, despite being on crutches. “I’d like to qualify for the Dengie Winter League and The Pony Club Championships next!” commented Annie.

Annie has been a Member of The Pony Club for eight years and she and her pony, Lisboy Black Magic, have represented their Branch on numerous occasions. They qualified for Dublin Horse Show in July, leading to Annie receiving an Outstanding Sporting Achievements award from her school.

Annie Power in action Photo: Kris Houghton

Annie Power in action Photo: Kris Houghton

A last minute call-up proved lucky for runner up Harriet Birkby who rode alongside Lorenzo De Luca to finish in 25.30 seconds.

Eleven year old Harriet, who is a Member of the Southdown Hunt West Branch, finished ahead of third placed Amy Morris (also eleven) from the Edinburgh Branch, who was partnered by Laura Renwick.

They completed in a time of 25.82 seconds.
Members from all over the UK applied to be amongst the eight drawn to take part, and the lucky riders were selected at random to compete at Olympia in front of a sell-out crowd.

Mary Tuckett, Chairman of The Pony Club, said: “This year the Mini-Major kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Our members and their partners gave it their all which resulted in some nail-biting moments and some very close finishes. I’d like to thank the team behind Olympia for inviting us to be part of this very special event, and acknowledge the tremendous effort of the families and helpers who support the riders; some of whom travelled for several hours to take part.”