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Di Pettet has won the Regional Qualifier Dressage Championship Test. May 19th 2019

Left, Di on Timmy at a show at Cholderton. 

The pair were just getting to know each other and they did really well together.

Right, Di going to the ring at the Regionals,Wellington.

Timmy and Di came First. Grade 6 RDA Dressage Championship Test

Walk, trot and canter. 130.9 out of 170.

Here Joan Patterson, who read the test out for Di walks alongside and

Juliet Grieve walks behind, Juliet is Timmy's carer and she supports Di

with preparation and attendance at shows.

Andover RDA 47th AGM

November 2018 By Joan Patterson


Andover Riding for the Disabled 47th AGM welcomed over seventy Members and Supporters on Wednesday on 21st November including Councillor Martin Hatley, Deputy Mayor of Test Valley, and his wife Deputy Mayoress Mrs Joanne Hatley.

The Chair, Mary Childs, welcomed all attendees and the evening commenced with an informative and arresting presentation given by Sean Cannon, Head Teacher at Icknield Special School for children with severe learning difficulties, which is a co-educational school with 85 children aged between 3 and 19 years. 

Andover RDA’s association with Icknield goes back over 45 years and three of the Andover RDA Rides are associated with children from Icknield who were the very first participants in Andover RDA.

Sean began his presentation by thanking Andover RDA for all the enjoyment and benefits the pupils get from their Rides. He then went on to describe the School.

"‘Icknield is a happy school where everyone is valued for who they are. We are passionate about providing an inclusive education. We value all students as unique and nurture their talents. We enable students to achieve to their best ability in a safe environment and to grow into the finest individuals they can be."


Sean described the teaching methods and activities provided by the school and concluded with, "there is no such word as can’t, it is simply about how much help you need’."

In answer to the question as to how many referred children are turned away each year, Sean commented that the school, built in 1966 to accommodate 20 to 20 pupils, has been extended to the maximum and can now hold up to 85 children meaning that some 10 to 20 referred children cannot be accommodated each year.

Mary Childs, Chair of the Andover Group of the RDA, reported that there are over 100 active volunteers and around 80 participants from 4 local special schools as well as Adult Riders from Enham and other adult provision for the disabled. Mary thanked all volunteers for their continued help. 

Mary reported that the Sparsholt Ride, which enabled significant reduction of our Waiting list, has now become an Accessibility Mark Centre, retaining strong links with the RDA and enabling RDA referrals.

Mary made special mention of the volunteers, 16 of them, who kindly bring along their horses to be used in RDA Rides to supplement the 10 RDA horses and ponies used and also thanked those volunteers who care for the RDA horses.  

Mary delivered the Treasurer’s report which concluded that the Group was in a very sound position. Andover RDA is very grateful to all who have donated and fund raised over the past year. Mary noted that we may need to spend significant amounts of money in the future to accommodate the 12 Adult riders in the Abbotts Ann Ride.

Our Constitution requires that one third of our Trustees stand down in rotation at each AGM and may offer themselves for re-election. The re-election process was managed by Maureen Wood, an Andover RDA Coach. The committee remains unaltered.

LONG SERVICE AWARDS - Mary asked Jennie Loriston-Clarke, President of Andover RDA, to do the honours of presenting an award to Joan Patterson for 10 years of Service. In addition Juanita Coulson has a certificate for 5 years service.

The final topic of the evening was an entertaining and anecdotal talk given by Ralph Beckett, a very successful racehorse trainer. Ralph started as a stable lad in 1989 and has travelled extensively with his work. He trained 105 winners from Windsor House in Lambourn before taking ownership of Kimpton Down in 2010 and has achieved well over 500 winners from Kimpton. He considers that his best result has been with TALENT and SECRET GESTURE in the 2013 Oaks and then SIMPLE VERSE, the first filly since 1992 to win the St Leger in 2015.

The very successful evening concluded with a buffet supper provided by the volunteers.

More information - visit



(and "go it alone!")

Summer 2018

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.

Gabbie McHenry Ride Leader.

(Sparsholt College Equine Centre Manager)


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.Find out more about Equine courses and apply now here!

RDA Supra Regional Conference

April 2017

            "Beyond Boundaries"

     Newbury Racecourse  

A large contingent from Andover RDA


Whilst we were having coffee it was good to look out over the race course and then watch the helicopter bringing HRH The Princess Royal who attended all the morning sessions.

Our Andover Group

By Mary Childs

Chair and Organiser


What a great year we have had at Andover RDA! We have had lots of lovely sunshine, wonderful children and adults riding and driving and 99 fantastic volunteers. Thinking about our volunteers, we are so very lucky to have you all.


We appreciate the schools that we work with very much. The skills and dedication that staff have at Icknield, Norman Gate, Mark Way and Wolverdene ensure that the children who ride with us are safe and cared for.


This year we have done some further work with Icknield school which helps to populate 3 of our 4 children’s rides. Head teacher Sean Canon will speak at the AGM and I went to speak to the staff earlier in the year. In addition, Elspeth O’Donnell, our regional RDA physio, spoke to the Icknield staff too. Alex and I attended the Icknield Jazzy Fest with ponies Solo and Bel, which was held on a lovely summer’s day. The idea is to build on the understanding that we have between us, which I feel is already very high. As well as physical and emotional wellbeing, riding offers our children a lot of fun. Andover RDA and the schools that we work with are in a special partnership.


We enjoyed our evening at the Hawk Conservancy giving pony rides. We were with children from special schools from around the Andover area plus young carers. Next year we need more ponies however as the waiting line was never satisfied with four ponies!


Our sponsored riders continue to enjoy our support. We would like to help more people in this way. The scheme helps disabled children and adults by part-funding horse riding lessons. We sponsor one competing para equestrian adult plus two young people at the moment. Do let us know if you have any ideas about who may benefit. The lessons must be supported by the riders’ own friends and family (transport to and presence at lessons) and is a funding only opportunity from Andover RDA, outside of our usual volunteer supported sessions.


The adult riding participants have had a challenging year settling in to what has become a larger ride with Abbotts Ann. Many thanks go to Penny and her volunteers for accommodating the riders from Frenches Farm. It seems to be working although there are further hurdles to jump ahead (pardon the analogy!) as Abbotts Ann must find a new home from which to operate. We are working on a resolution, we don’t think we need to panic, but there is much to do. Meanwhile the riders are currently all safely accommodated, and they are enjoying their riding.


Sparsholt has now officially become an Accessibility Mark Centre which is marvelous. It is what we always wanted for them and they now take referrals that we are unable, at present, to accommodate. This is the last time that they will appear in this review and we wish them every success in their work with disabled participants in the future. One of the real benefits to RDA of the Accessibility Mark scheme is that it engages young able-bodied people as volunteers with disabled riding and para equestrian sport, hopefully laying down future volunteer resources.


You will all remember that the Driving Group has been through a period of change and that we continue to work on helping it to flourish. Jenny and Lynda are doing an amazing job. We have Martin, as mentioned in their piece (above), who will become a new coach and we look forward to seeing Jacky Hensman again soon. Although I think that the task of taking on the organisation of the driving was daunting for Lynda and Jenny, they have risen to the challenge wonderfully.


Fund raising activities this year have included a film about the Indian Rebellion and a walk by CoolLED staff in Andover, plus some of us too, along the Test Way. We intend to repeat our 2016 Race Night next year on March 29th  2019. It was great fun and I am sure that the next one will be too.


We are in a healthy financial position; however, I anticipate the need for substantial expenditure as we resolve where the new home for our adult riders will be. As a result, we do need to fund raise and any help in this would be gratefully received.


As usual the Andover RDA Trustees and significant others have been beavering away ensuring that our Charitable Incorporate Organisation arrangement is completed (thank you Joan and Mark), that our new safeguarding requirements are met (thank you Kathy Cook), that we have absorbed the dreaded GDPR requirements (Joan, Kathy and me), that our accounts are balanced (Mark again!). Our ponies and horses monitored and cared for (thank you Jo Strong), our coaching team is trained and up to date (thank you Jules Ursell) and that we are First Aid trained (thank you Kate Vernon). Our Ride/Drive Leaders, Alex, Penny, Juliet, Gabbie, Gilly and Hinny, Elizabeth, Jenny and Lynda have worked so very hard, as always, and they have produced a highly effective, skilled and enjoyable service for our participants.


Our coaching team is growing with Maureen Wood having become an RDA Group Coach. Many congratulations to her and to Ruth Kay, who has also been approved as an RDAGC. All the coaches do a great job, the others are Penny, Barry, Elizabeth, Carolanne, Jules, Sarah, Gilly, Hinny, Jacky C, Jacky H, Martin, Margaret and me. It is a very rewarding thing to do, it is one of my favourite parts of RDA volunteering. And I’ll say again this year, it isn’t too daunting, you get lots of help, so if you would like to become a coach please, let me or Jules Ursell know!


As always do contact me or Joan if you need any information about anything. Again, thank you for your involvement no matter how great or small. It is because people care about Riding and Driving for the Disabled that the organisation manages to deliver such an important and successful service to, this year, 81 participants. Your time is very precious, and we appreciate it very much.

 Mary Childs

Volunteer Training

June 2018 - Julie Payne

“Riding, quite literally, keeps me alive”.

By Mary Childs















Julie’s condition is multiple system atrophy (MSA).  She grew up in a completely un-horsey family. As a child Julie would sit on the doorstep of someone who owned a horse, to ask if she could help her to feed it!  


Before MSA struck her, Julie evented to advanced level, show jumped at grade B, competed in dressage up to inter. II and did international endurance. “I have ridden all my life and have the muscle memory that riders who were born with their condition don’t have,” she says. Consequently, as an RDA coach, Julie advocates that care must be taken to observe and utilise what riders already have in place; traditional riding aids may not work.

Julie’s giant German shepherd, Obie, is in training as a support dog. Currently, he takes off her socks, helps load the washing machine and turns on taps.

Julie has a successful Para-equestrian career despite her challenging health issues. In August 2017 she won the team title at the European Championships in Gothenburg. She has partnered Sophie Christiansen, riding the famous brilliant black mare Athene Lindebjerg.

Since Julie was diagnosed she has completed numerous charitable challenges, hair raising abseiling and “hard core” mountain climbing to name but a couple.

A determined and valiant character, Julie was with us at the Volunteers Evening at Sparsholt College together with her horse Pandora and, of course, Obie, who became jealous that she was talking to us! He is clearly devoted to his mistress. It was an inspirational evening and for those who attended, memorable.

Many thanks to Sparsholt Equine Centre, Gabbie and her team for hosting the event.

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