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Spring Meadow Tuesday and Wednesday

We have now successfully relocated to Spring Meadow and we are hugely grateful to Mary and Rob Childs
for lending us these beautiful paddocks and for all their hard work in preparation and maintenance. After a few false starts, we finally managed to get both Tuesday and Wednesday rides going in early June. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces and catch up with our wonderful volunteers and we were even blessed with some glorious sunny days!


On Tuesday mornings, Jules Ursell coached 3 children from Icknield School followed by 3 from Mark Way School. Only one of the children from Icknield refused to ride even though almost none of them had ridden previously and all of them did exceptionally well. In fact, one of the children who was very difficult to manage at first (to the point where we almost gave up) really settled by July and the school sent a lovely email thanking us and letting us know how thrilled they and the child’s mother were at his progress. Icknield will be sending the same 3 children this term. The Mark Way children were a delight and did amazingly well. They all attained their Level 1 proficiency tests by July.

The Wednesday group started with only Icknield School as Norman Gate had staffing issues. Icknield brought along 6 children who alternated each week so that 3 rode one week and the other 3 the next week. Sadly, this meant that each child only had 2 sessions in the end but they all did very well in spite of Milly deciding to buck one child off in our first session. Luckily no damage was done and she was a real trooper and got straight back in the saddle. She even wanted to come back! Ruth Kay did a wonderful job coaching and managed to get all the children engaged even though most of them had severe learning difficulties.

Sadly for us, Ruth has been snapped up by Test Valley School as an assistant teacher and so will be unable to coach RDA in the foreseeable future. Mary very kindly agreed to take over her role and we hope that Siobhan Booth, who will be shadowing Jules this term, will soon gain coaching status.

The Autumn term was somewhat stop/start due to the pandemic as Icknield had huge problems with staff and children testing positive. However, they did send children whenever they could and we managed four sessions with them on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Mark Way were able to send the same lovely 3 children as before who progressed to their Grade 2 and showed us what RDA is all about with their clear delight in riding. Icknield brought 3 children on both Tuesday and Wednesday and all of them progressed. Frankie, in particular, who had real balancing issues when she started, improved enormously. Milly has become too unpredictable for us to continue to use as an RDA pony, possibly due to her back issues. We managed with just Smarties and Molly who continue as stalwarts of Andover RDA and Jules kindly brought along the beautiful Timmy for the Tuesday sessions. We have decided post pandemic to remain with just 2 RDA ponies and one borrowed pony. It has become increasingly difficult and logistically complicated to find pony carers and our volunteer numbers are too low to safely coach more than 3 or 4 children at a time. Both Icknield School and Mark Way have accepted this and been very accommodating.

Unfortunately, Norman Gate are only able to send 12 children or none due to staffing issues so we are no longer able to accommodate them. However, we have had many requests from parents of home taught children and have formed a group of individuals who we can coach after the Icknield children on a Wednesday. In honour of our Golden Anniversary this year, we have called this group The Golden Ride.

Hopefully, this year things will run a little less bumpily especially now that the volunteers and ponies (and me) have had a chance to remember how everything operates! A huge thank to those wonderful ladies who have turned up to help and keep smiling through the trials of rain, challenging children and ponies and somewhat unpredictable attendance from the schools. It IS worth it, as the smiles on the children’s faces always remind us!

Alex Hanbury-Williams

Ride Leader