The Accessibility Mark is a Sport England funded project launched by Riding for the Disabled Association, (RDA) in partnership with Hoof, the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) participation programme.
The aim is to provide training, assistance and accreditation to riding centres, schools and clubs to enable more Disabled people to participate in horse riding activities. Centres successfully completing the training and assessment will be given a recognised accreditation from RDA – Accessibility Mark – to demonstrate their ability to accommodate safely and competently those with a range of disabilities into their programmes.
It won’t surprise many readers that the pandemic had a profound and widespread impact on many riding centres up and down the country. Enduring various lockdowns since March 2020, the Accessibility Mark programme recognises the lengths that centres have had to go to keep supporting their communities.
It can’t be undervalued how important these centres can be for many not just in terms of physical benefits, but also as riding can be a form of therapy or a mental benefit. Being able to socialise with staff and other riders is crucial for their health and happiness.
Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial to all Disabled riders.
Teamwork makes the dream work
We wanted to highlight one fantastic centre in particular. This organisation was particularly successful at maintaining a community feel and keeping all riders engaged.
The Barguse Riding Centre based in St Austell, Cornwall is a shining example of best practice. Centre owner, Lisa Todd and her team set about coming up with interesting ways to engage with their regular riders.
The first thing they did was set up a private Facebook group for Barguse riders, which provided them with a platform to enable them to bring riders into the centre virtually through Facebook Live.
Every Sunday morning Lisa would do a live update with a walk around the yard, so everyone could see their favourite horse or pony. So that everyone could continue to participate together, Lisa also organised quizzes and workshops on topics such as tack cleaning and grooming. The workshops allowed everyone to still keep learning about practical skills and stable management, even though they were unable to actually get to the centre.
Riders were encouraged to suggest anything they would like to see in the next live session or ask questions about how the horses and ponies were coping without their regular visitors.
Jeanette Davies, whose son Rory rides at Barguse describes the support provided by Barguse as nothing short of phenomenal.
“They ran online live workshops, which were so much fun and chatted about their day with a cup of tea. We had games, competitions and quizzes. Vicky even arranged for Rory to be ‘Skyped’ by his favourite horse, Goose, on his birthday, live from the stables with a Happy Birthday banner, balloons and a candle!”
Riding off into the sunset
With lockdowns now hopefully a thing of the past, Lisa, Vicky and all the team at Barguse Riding Centre are excited that they finally feel normalcy has returned. They can, of course, all be extremely satisfied with how they supported their riders during a time that was incredibly difficult for everyone.
Right now there are 56 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country. To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk