Zoom calls and pony fitness plans: How Epsom Riding for the Disabled is surviving lockdown


Lockdown is a difficult time for Epsom Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

The charitable organisation, which provides horse rides for people with disabilities including mobility issues and autism, are working on a recovery plan to get moving again.

“We operate a riding stables of around 14 horses providing rides for of all age groups and disabilities,” says chair Ray Lee, explaining how the organisation worked in a time before lockdown. “We have about 300 riders who come down on a regular visit, we do about 3,000 rides a year in total.”



Ray Lee says the charity is hoping to take steps to return to normality

The charity’s website explains that costs are £3,000 per month, and as a result of lockdown they are not taking in any money as they are unable to provide rides, as many of the potential riders are at a higher risk when it comes to coronavirus.

Ray says: “We’re a fully volunteer-run organisation. It’s not just about the individual ride, but learning about things like pony care, dressage lessons.”

The charity is independent and relies on volunteers to run. They praise the work of some of their donors who have helped cover their costs, including Epsom Rotary, and they have always kept ride money low for maximum accessibility, but horses are expensive to maintain, with vets’ bills.

For now, communication is an important part of what they do, especially for their session leaders that take the riding sessions, who do everything from Zoom sessions to social media advice on grade work.

Ray says: “They have been keeping in touch with their riders. For a lot of our riders, the relationship with horses is important as well, they want to know they’re still there. Make them feel as though the stables might be shut, but there’s still a lot going on and the place will still be there once they’re back.”

They are also looking at the next steps of how they can ease things back to normality, not least getting the horses, who have managed to put on some weight recently, back into shape.



Epsom RDA volunteers maintain the grounds during lockdown

“They’ve quite enjoyed the last few weeks off, and all the fresh grass that’s coming through, so one or two of them have got a bit of weight they’re carrying. We’re starting a fitness campaign for the horses, so they’re ready to take a saddle again.”

The next stage would be about easing people are moderately independent back into riding the horses, people can mount without the direct need for helpers. But the majority are the final group who need more assistance.

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Ray says: “There are those that we have to do quite a bit of contact work with, because we’re helping them on or off horses. We’ll be following the national government guidance and the national RDA UK advice on when will be the right time to come back, and what we need to put in place to make that happen.”

He praises the group of around 200 volunteers for their work throughout the challenging time, although easing back to normality will be a big challenge itself.

You can support the work that Epsom RDA do on their JustGiving page





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