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Group aims to rebuild after devastating loss of three horses to grass sickness

By Emma Stenhouse

A Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) branch that suffered the “devastating” loss of three horses to grass sickness is hoping to expand its herd and get back on track.

The West Lothian branch, which had catered for some 60 adults and children, lost eight-year-old Jack, seven-year-old Rosie and three-year-old mule Daisy from its herd within three days in May.

“The loss was devastating to everyone in our group, and just so unexpected,” group chairman Neil McIntosh told H&H.

“Daisy had been born onsite and while not used for lessons yet? was much loved by all, and always protective of our young participants.

“Jack and Rosie had lovely natures and so many of our volunteers felt a special bond with them. Jack in particular was very chilled out and enjoyed cuddles from our volunteers and participants.”

Jack

The loss means the group cannot now provide as much riding as it would like.

Trustee Don Whyte said: “Two of the horses were our bigger ones, and this has meant a lot of our older riders have not been able to get out much this season.”

The charity usually manages to raise funds to cover its costs by running an annual fun day, but it is now considering a different approach.

“We are going to create a sub-committee whose job it will be to look at routes for us to bring in the money we need to get things up and running again,” added Don.

Ideas have so far involved a sponsored walk, a 50th anniversary celebration for the RDA, and a Just Giving page.

The fundraising target is £8,000 which will cover buying new horses, loss of income and settling vet bills.

Because the group, run by an 80-strong volunteer team, only has access to an outdoor school, lessons tend to run from May to October. Over the winter, focus shifts to fundraising.

After the money is raised, comes the challenge of finding suitable horses. Don said: “We can’t just go out and get any old horse, it must be a specialist type with the right temperament.”

Neil said the aim is to be “fully back up and running for the 2020 season.”

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This is the first time the grazing used by the West Lothian RDA has been affected by grass sickness. The group is working with its vets to decide on the best management plan for the herd.

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