With equestrian centres once again buzzing with riders, Accessibility Mark centres nationwide are beginning to welcoming participants back into the saddle. The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with riding centres with the aim of opening up more opportunities for Disabled people to participate in riding.
Following one of the toughest years ever, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for riders who have finally been reunited with their favourite equine friend and for centres that badly need the financial injection from paying customers.
For many riders the impact of not being able to ride has been immense as their weekly riding lesson is the highlight of the week, providing physiotherapy, social interaction and a distraction from the challenges of everyday life.
One rider that has really missed spending time with horses is 53-year-old Mo Vesty who has been riding through Mike Kidd Horse Power Ltd at Wrea Green Equitation Centre since the autumn of 2015, having been on their waiting list for a year.
Mo has two forms of arthritis in both her legs and requires leg braces to help her walk. The condition means that her joints can dislocate up to 35 times a day, which Mo herself clicks back into place having been taught the technique by a sports physiotherapist.
As well as the arthritis, Mo has asthma and a tracheal condition that affects the muscles of the wind pipe.
Not being able to visit the stables during the endless months of lockdown had a profound effect on Mo, leading to a decline in both her mental and physical health.
Without the exercise that riding provides, Mo gained weight and her posture became much worse but perhaps the biggest impact was on her mental health as Mo became depressed as a result of not being able to spend time with the horses and interact with Chris and her team.
Said Mo: “During lockdown I found it incredibly difficult to not have access to the stables. Being around horses means a lot to me and I find spending time with the team at Wrea Green so uplifting.
“It feels great to be back and to feel part of the team again, they made me feel so welcome, even just little things like opening the gates for me when I arrived, it’s like I had never been away.”
Having gained her RDA Grade 1 and 2 in Riding and Horse Care, Mo plans to progress with training for Grade 3 now restrictions have been lifted and she is back in her happy place.
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.
There are currently 51 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country, to find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk/rda-groups/