Equestrianism provides the most para sport opportunities in the UK, new research by disability charity Leonard Cheshire has suggested.
The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is largely behind this, providing access to horses for more than 25,000 people with the help of 18,000 volunteers and coaches.
The research looked at para sport clubs in the UK, what they offered and their geographic location. It found that almost 500 (16%) of the 3,149 clubs listed on participation campaign Parasport’s website were connected to equestrian sport and that clubs were well spread across the country, including urban areas. For example, there is an average of 13 clubs within 10 miles of every London postcode.
“Great Britain’s Paralympic success in para dressage is in no small part thanks to RDA,” said RDA communications manager Caroline Ward.
“Indeed, several of this year’s team heading out to Tokyo started their careers at their local RDA group. Our reach across the UK offers young people and adults the opportunity to take up horse riding and carriage driving to achieve a personal goal – be that for therapy or fun. And for some that goal means a gold medal or two!
“We are very grateful to Leonard Cheshire for looking into this and highlighting the reach of RDA groups across the UK. We are often located in more rural areas, where the provision of other activities may be quite limited, enabling us to inspire and support more disabled people into equestrian sport.”
The research comes days ahead of the opening ceremony for the 2021 Paralympic Games. Of the 98 gold medals won at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics, 12% were in equestrian events. A strong British contingent has arrived in Tokyo ahead of this year’s Games, with the aim of adding further medals to that total.
“Through our extensive work within the disabled community, we have been able to see what a huge impact accessible clubs, sports and other life opportunities can have,” said Leonard Cheshire chief executive Ruth Owen.
“Charities like Leonard Cheshire can play their part in providing and promoting the opportunities out there. We’d also urge clubs to [register] on the Parasport website. It’s a vital resource for young disabled athletes inspired by the Paralympics.”
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