New research has proved what has long been known by participants and volunteers — Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) activities have tremendous physical and mental benefits.

Eighty per cent of riders taking part in RDA groups experience physical improvement, according to new research from the charity.

The “RDA tracker” measured change in six areas: confidence, enjoyment, relationships, communication, physical changes and horsemanship. In every area, riders showed a significant improvement.

Riders were scored on each area at the beginning of the process and again at the end.
Alongside the physical improvements, 82% showed improved communication skills and 90% demonstrated growing confidence and enjoyment.

Duncan Sangster is a physiotherapist who works with the RDA in Dundee.

It’s great to have solid statistics,” he said. “We can see the progress, but it was quite surprising to have such an improvement in scores.”

The pilot study started in January and lasted four months, targeting children in six groups. The RDA is now looking to roll out the study to 500 riders nationwide.

One parent said: “Her communication skills have improved and she is less distracted than she was prior to coming to the centre.”

Results were analysed by gender, age, disability, class size and the number of sessions attended.

Denise Robertson of the RDA said she was “delighted”.

“Not only have we demonstrated the tracker’s ‘usability’ as a tool for our groups, but we can put some robust figures next to the anecdotal evidence about the benefits of riding with us,” she added.

The results will be used to boost publicity and fundraising, as well as enabling volunteers to tailor their training.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (18 July 2013)