A Connemara pony has been donated to the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) by the British Connemara Pony Society (BCPS) in honour of the society’s Diamond Jubilee.
‘Jubilee Jim’ was officially presented to the president of the RDA, the Princess Royal, at Gatcombe Park on Friday 18 January.
The six-year-old gelding was found by Peter Fitzsimons, chairman of the society’s Diamond Jubilee committee, after much searching for a suitable RDA pony.
Mr Fitzsimons told H&H: “We tried several ponies before we decided on Jim. He just has the most fantastic temperament, even the Princess commented on how placid he was at the ceremony. He is ideal for the RDA.”
Jubilee Jim was bred in Ireland and arrived in England as a yearling. The BCPS spent the year fundraising, organising events and requesting donations, to raise enough to buy Jim for the RDA.
To mark their 50th anniversary 10 years ago, the BCPS donated a pony to the RDA. So for the BCPS diamond jubilee, which was celebrated in 2007, members wanted to repeat the gesture.
RDA centres across the country applied for the new pony to join them. A long list of applicants was whittled down to 40 and then to a shortlist of five. The final five went to Surrey to see the pony and to prove that they were the most suitable.
The BCPS finally decided that Jim would be go to Newbury RDA in Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire.
Mr Fitzsimons said: “All five deserved the pony, but Newbury succeeded in convincing us that they were the right centre for Jim.”
Newbury RDA currently has about 60 disabled children from local schools riding at the centre and run riding lessons five days a week. They have seven ponies in work and around 100 volunteers.
Newbury RDA chairman Jo Stevenson-Hamilton said the centre was surprised and delighted to learn it had been selected to receive Jubilee Jim.
“He is a beautiful pony with the perfect temperament to work with disabled children,” she said. “We are most grateful to the BCPS for all their hard work fundraising in order to buy him for RDA.”
Ms Stevenson-Hamilton added: “He’s getting on very well at the centre. Obviously he’s still very young so we are doing lots of schooling with him at the moment.”
BCPS chairman Anne Harries said: “We get such pleasure from our own ponies and we hope that Jim will be able to bring that enjoyment and therapy to everyone at RDA Newbury.”