Welcome Back Di!

It has been a challenging time during the coronavirus pandemic, but we are thrilled that one of our para-equestrians, Di, is now back in the saddle! Below, Di shares her thoughts about her return to riding with the RDA- it is amazing the impact that horses can make!

"I’ve been riding. I’ve ACTUALLY been riding! You’ve no idea how good it felt! It’s been a long 9 months since I last sat on a horse, but finally I’m back!!! And back on the lovely Timmy who I have competed, and who I adore. He is such a character.

The last 2 years have been difficult, first with the pandemic lockdown, then I had a serious relapse and couldn’t drive far. When lockdown permitted it, I started riding again in March 2021. This only lasted 3 months as I then had various health problems and things at home that needed all my energy to sort out.

Riding today has given me such a boost mentally after a dreadful 2 weeks which ended with bad depression – but now I am SMILING again! The last 2 years have been dreadful for me, I have felt so isolated. I have missed my riding so much – and my friends at Andover RDA - it is my therapy and keeps me feeling happy.


Anton Rotary Club

A massive thank you to the Anton Rotary Club for their generous donation of £1000! Pictured here is Jackie on Jack receiving the cheque from Richard of the Rotary Club. This kind donation will go a long way with helping local Andover Riders with disabilities.

For more information on the Anton Rotary club, follow the button to their website below.

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Now, I’m determined to keep going and represent Andover RDA in their 50 th Anniversary year, at the RDA Regionals in May. It has given me something to aim for. Thank you Andover RDA."


Christmas Wreath Fundraising

A big thank you to Liz Snowdon and her friends including Posy, Sarah and Ellie, for making and selling beautiful Christmas wreaths! An impressive £500 was raised for Andover RDA. All this was possible through Liz’s mother, Sheila Shipway, who suggested our charity to Liz. Sheila was a volunteer some years ago and we are grateful for her continued support!

2021 AGM

The Annual General Meeting of the Andover branch of Riding for the Disabled took place on the evening of Wednesday 24th November. The meeting was well attended and the guests heard how ARDA has not only managed to survive the difficult months of the pandemic but has actively continued an Adult Ride with those adults that need minimal direct physical support. From June this year our participating schools have also begun to bring their children along to sessions. The reason why this work is so important is clear - the delight of the children, the improvement of their skills, the enthusiasm of the adults and the friendships that are made. The coming year is the Golden Anniversary Year for ARDA – 50 years helping disabled people enjoy the therapy and fun of horses.


After the meeting, the audience were treated to a talk by Liz Brown, one of the marvellous British Team vets. Liz gave a fascinating insight into the Preparation and Management of Horses at Olympic Games. There were many questions about how the horses were flown to Tokyo and whether or not they were bothered by air travel; apparently as long as they have hay and water – and lots of carrot treats – they are completely content. Liz also told her listeners about the many ways in which the horses are acclimatised to the hot and humid conditions to keep them in top condition including washing down with ice water and having horsey tents with showers. And how at the end of their events they have a couple of days to simply eat grass and roll around before the journey home. Liz made a very important point which resonated with the audience – that there are members of the British Paralympic team whose only access to horses when they were younger was with Riding for the Disabled. And look where they are now!


Volunteers are essential in every area of RDA life, from coaches on the rides to cake bakers for fundraising, and we always need more. Whatever skills you can bring, giving your time to your local RDA group will mean that more disabled people can enjoy the therapy and fun of horses. We welcome volunteers of 12 and over (although our sessions operate during school hours), there is no upper age limit and we need a wide range of skills – not just with horses. RDA is a diverse organisation and we are at our best when we bring together people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.


Andover RDA Golf Day

The Andover RDA Golf Day on the 16th of September at Tidworth Garrison Golf Club was a complete success! Thanks to all our supporters, over £10,000 was raised. All funds make a difference in helping us continue our work in helping riders with disabilities.

Here is the winning team “Thunder” who won the Golf Pro shop voucher prize. Mark Hyson, Mike Strong, Rob and Mary Childs and Jaci Abdollahzadeh were a great organisational committee and thanks to Tidworth GGC and everyone who helped on the day.

From Pandemic To Paralympics!

 A Zoom talk by Sophie Christiansen CBE on January 28th 2021. 


Sophie is a British dressage rider and currently an eight-time Paralympic champion having won multiple World and European titles. In 2016, following her success at the Rio Paralympics, she was placed fifth in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, the highest placed female and Para athlete. Sophie is currently in training for selection for Tokyo and also works as a software developer at investment bank, Goldman Sachs. You will know Sophie as an active disability campaigner. During the evening, Sophie shared insights on training and competitions in the lead up to the games and all aspects of her life and how it comes together to allow her to compete. We had many questions which Sophie answered for us; the evening was a great success. Proceeds went to Andover RDA and Sophie's Gold Club.




Virtual London Marathon

In October, Sionhan ran for Andover RDA. Siobhan was very geared up, trained to the hilt and psyched up to run the London Marathon last April. When the lockdown happened many were disappointed  and felt the anti climax keenly as their plans to raise money for charities everywhere were dashed and our volunteer and supporter Siobhan was no exception. Thankfully Siobhan did not lose heart, she kept going and the Virtual London Marathon provided everyone with something to aim for last October. Siobhan did brilliantly and ended her run in St Mary Bourne at the Spring Meadow field with some of our ponies.

We were very grateful, she raised a really good sum for us and showed fortitude on what was a truly horrible rainy day! Her lovely husband Jon was a great support to her. We gathered several bubbles of 6 supporters along the way to cheer Siobhan on!

Regional Qualifier Dressage Championship Test

Congratulations to Di Pettet who won the Regional Qualifier Dressage Championship, in the Grade 6 RDA Dressage Championship Test Walk, trot and canter. 130.9 out of 170.


Left, Di on Timmy at a show at Cholderton. The pair were just getting to know each other and did really well together.​

Right, Di going to the ring with Joan Patterson, who read the test out for Di, and Juliet Grieve walks behind. Juliet is Timmy's carer and supports Di with show preparation and attendance.



This year we celebrated our supporters and our group of 85 volunteers. In fact, at the AGM, I wanted to draw attention to YOU!  Most of us volunteer for RDA because alongside our love of ponies, love and compassion for people and wish to “give something back” we also thoroughly enjoy it! It is surely enjoyment which enhances any activity for the charity and the quality of experience for participants.


National RDA is 50 years old this year and Andover RDA will follow suit in 2022. Those who knew Dinah Murdoch and her friends, who began the Andover Group in 1972, find this hard to believe! Since that time hundreds of people in the Andover area have volunteered with us. I often meet people who say “Oh! I used to volunteer with Andover RDA!” Younger ones have been occasionally enticed back again!


The closure of the Carriage Driving Group was very sad. It was a blow, an unavoidable one and a not unexpected one, but a blow none-the-less. Thankfully Hayley, our remaining carriage driver, is happily placed with the Ashe Warren Carriage Drivers.


There was concern when Monxton Ride needed to find a new home. Frenches Farm, with Charlie and Anna White and Emily Fiddes have been so very helpful with the setting up of the ride there and finding ponies to use. I look forward to reporting on progress.


Abbotts Ann Ride has also had challenges as their riding arena became squeezed at the Old Rectory. They have started at the new Pegasus and at the moment that looks to be a success. Juliet Wells’ Monxton Ride needed the Pegasus ponies in the past, kindly lent to them by Emily Green when it was a riding school. Now that the business is a livery yard only, there are no ponies for the Monxton Ride but there is a nice new arena surface for Penny’s Ride from Abbotts Ann. Thanks go to Candi Soames, Pegasus’ new owner.


Joan Patterson, our hard-working Honorary Secretary announced that she and Tom were moving out of our area - a sad day indeed! Joan is still a trustee until the AGM, she has worked very hard on the hand over to Amanda Hoare who has stepped in to the breach, thank heavens! We all look forward to working with Amanda and we welcome her aboard.


Debbie Butterworth, a teacher from Icknield School, contacted me last year about sensory pony experiences. Gilly and I welcomed several very disabled children in wheelchairs at the Walker’s farm, Hare Warren. There were moist eyes all round as the children’s animation and attention increased and a grumpy Squirrel pony went completely soppy, closed his eyes and enjoyed the halting attentions of the children, struggling to reach his soft nose and face.


The new Wolverdene initiative, which seeks to use sensory pony experience with younger school children, began in the Autumn. Thanks to Elizabeth for helping us to develop that idea with Sarah Couch, Wolverdene Deputy Head.


Elizabeth and Joan have involved the Wolverdene children in the RDA Arts and Crafts and The Big Write competitions. Elizabeth is also involving schools with an RDA Creative Writing event. This will be our own Andover event, supported by National Office. Thank you, Elizabeth for these initiatives, extending the variety of what we can offer to schools and riders.


Maureen Wood and Ruth Kay are now full RDA Group Coaches. 


We were delighted to once again support Di Pettet at the Regionals and the Nationals. RDA horse Timmy and Di very much enjoy their time together! Glancing back through this review I see that Di features quite often in it which demonstrates the variety of her involvement with Andover RDA! Juliet Grieve is Timmy’s carer and she has been a tremendous support to Di.


Race Night was great fun and was supported by Lloyds Bank colleagues who not only managed to secure some extra funds for us but worked tirelessly throughout the evening and made a huge difference to the running of the event.


Our fundraising next year was to be an event planned for March, a quiz entitled “Our Country Life.” Khalid Aziz has agreed to be Quiz Master. The idea, when we finally manage to stage this event after Covid 19, is that we will have categories of questions set by local people of knowledge. If you have a countryside expertise, I may ask you to set some questions! 


We have been so pleased to welcome Maureen Wood to our Trustees board. The Trustees board must become more executive; there is a lot to do with the modern requirements for running RDA and a Chair and a Secretary are not enough people to do all of the work! Maureen will take responsibility for our relationship with the Charity Commission from Joan.


I am so grateful to people like Kathy Cook, who although not a trustee, takes away some of the burden. Her work on child and vulnerable adult protection is essential, elegantly done and so very important to us.


As always thanks to our other Trustees, Mark for his unfailing work as a treasurer, Joan for everything that she did while she was with us and Amanda for stepping in to the breach as secretary, Jo for her overseeing of the ponies and horses that we are responsible for and Alex and Penny for their enthusiasm, problem solving, great sense and Ride leadership. Thank you Carolanne for unfailing support and Christmas card provision.


And then thanks to our other Ride Leaders, Elizabeth, Juliet and Gilly and our coaches, Maureen, Jules, Barry, Sarah, Ruth and Elizabeth, Gilly and Hinny. Lastly thank you to all of our volunteers and supporters. Also, to our horse and pony carers, and to our well-wishers, those who help us with funds and who find marvellous ways to support.


We must never forget the schools and carers who bring our participants to us and help us in sessions too. They all do such a fantastic job for our marvellous, courageous and wonderful participants! They are why we do what we do.



Sparshold College achieves Accessibility Mark Accreditation


Having joined Andover RDA in May 2017 Sparsholt College is delighted to have secured Accessibility Mark accreditation by becoming an Accessibility Mark Centre to expand its services to disabled people.


Many of the College’s full time Equine students enjoyed being part of RDA group sessions, gaining valuable experience volunteering as ride leaders, side walkers and training to become coaches themselves. This brought the students insight into working alongside others who have difficulties and disabilities which they found not only rewarding but inspiring

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), launched the Accessibility Mark scheme for riding centres with the aim to open up more opportunities for disabled people to participate in riding. Through the Accessibility Mark Centre initiative, we have been able to successfully train our coaches, who already hold BHS qualifications, to partake in this life transforming venture.

The College will continue to work closely with the RDA to gain further training and advice. However, by becoming an Accessibility Mark Centre, the hope is that this will enable more students to join as volunteers and become involved in a variety of ways.  The centre will also be able to host additional lessons and expand the offer beyond the current weekly group lesson.  

Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that they offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure they provide clients with a first-class service and an experience that aims to be hugely beneficial.


Sparsholt College’s Equine Centre partner with Andover RDA 

Practical programs to encourage adults with disabilities to participate further in the equestrian field.

Gabbie McHenry, Equine Centre Manager at Sparsholt College says: “Sparsholt are honoured to be a part of a life-transforming programme by joining the Andover RDA. There are numerous therapeutic benefits of riding including improvement in strength, posture, balance, coordination and mental well-being. Bringing a community of like-minded people together to experience all of these physical and mental benefits is a fantastic privilege for us and our students.”

Having hosted the Australian Paralympic Equestrian team in their 2012 Olympic Games pre-training, the Equine Centre at Sparsholt College is a fantastic facility for adults and children with disabilities to learn or develop their riding and horse care skills. Mary Childs, Organiser at the RDA said: “We feel that the resources, knowledge and expertise at Sparsholt provide a wonderful opportunity for disabled riders. Whether they want to ride for fun or they want to compete in the para equestrian industry, Sparsholt College has everything to help them enjoy and succeed in achieving their goals.”

The new partnership unlocks a new and interesting opportunity strand to Equine students at the College too as they are actively involved in the running of these new courses, volunteering their support with the aspiration to eventually become qualified RDA coaches. Gabbie strongly believes this extra-curricular involvement will help to provide students with the key skills to get them started in their careers. She explains: “Volunteering provides our students with invaluable hands-on experience and offers them key transferable skills, immediately advancing their options within the equine industry after completing their qualifications.”

The Equine Centre at Sparsholt College is currently offering a range of riding and non-riding programmes through the RDA national charity, ran both in the arena and hacking to incorporate various elements of horse care.

Interested in becoming an expert in the Equine industry? Sparsholt College’s courses range from Level 1 through to Postgraduate degrees to ensure you turn your passion into a career.