The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has thrown its weight behind a programme to boost the number of its volunteers.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the RDA — without them the organisation would not exist. I am confident this [drive] will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the RDA and the service we deliver to so many people,” said Ed Bracher, RDA chief executive.

The volunteer development programme kicked off last month, thanks to a £25,000 grant from the Freemasons charity.

It will include open days to drum up interest and issue volunteer handbooks. These handbooks will set out guidelines on issues such as how to manage difficult situations, marketing for groups and providing volunteer rewards.

Training will also be set up for group volunteer co-ordinators to manage new recruits. The organisation is also offering incentives such as employability and community volunteering certificates and Duke of Edinburgh Awards to its volunteers.

National volunteer development manager Rebecca Kemp, a new full-time member of staff, said: “At the RDA you can make a real difference. If you work with a child over a series of months and see their progress, it’s really worthwhile.

“This is the first time RDA has had funding to help volunteers. We hope that after three years we will have given groups the toolkit they need to continue.”

RDA has more than 23,000 participants and 17,000 volunteers. But there is currently a long waiting list for riding lessons.

The organisation anticipates that a further 1,700 volunteers, including 425 aged from 14 to 25, will be recruited within the next three years, thanks to the project.

Volunteers do not have to be horse experts as there are roles in admin and fund-raising roles.

Ms Kemp added: “The more volunteers we have, the more sessions we can offer and the more people we can help.”

For further information on how to volunteer, visit www.rda.org.uk.