A 60-year-old stroke patient is now walking without a stick after six months of riding with the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

Annie Collins last rode in her 20s but started again with Lambourn RDA last November on the advice of her social worker.

Mrs Collins had been partially paralysed by a stroke on 12 May 2012 leaving her with left side weakness, especially in her hand and fingers.

“Riding has enabled me to walk without a stick because it has strengthened my core muscles. I haven’t used a wheelchair for months or a stick since before Christmas,” said Mrs Collins.

Her husband Stuart can’t believe the transformation in his wife since she started riding again.

“Annie had shut herself off from the world, but when she started riding again her confidence and poise came back. She was a different person,” he told H&H.

The rest of the family noticed the change in Annie last Christmas after six weeks of riding.

“She could do so much more, there was a massive difference,” said Stuart.

Annie has a private half an hour lesson each week at Lambourn RDA with instructor Frances Lochrane, who is the south region chairman and one of the region’s coaches.

“Within a couple of weeks of Annie coming to us she had stopped using her stick and her whole demeanour changed – she is much more positive. Riding appears to have helped her enormously,” said Mrs Lochrane.

On 20 May Annie qualified at the RDA southern regionals for the RDA National Championships at Hartpury College on 13-15 July. Annie will be riding Ant in the lead walk dressage test and is one of four riders from the group to qualify.

“Frances and her staff are so friendly,” said Annie. “It’s a wonderful place, no-one should be afraid of trying riding again.”

The group has six horses ranging from 12.2hh and 15.3hh catering for the 40 riders and 40 essential volunteers. Entirely self-funded, the group needs to raise £60,000 a year to keep going.

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After moving to new premises at Manor Farm all the sessions are now full and there is a waiting list, but there is a new session planned once more volunteers and another coach can be found.

This week (21 June) Annie was presented with an achievement award for her determination to succeed after her stroke at the RDA Fun Day at Wellington Equestrian Centre.

On the day 25 riders from RDA groups across the south region took part in dressage and handy pony competitions at the fun day before going for a ride in the woods.

“Today has given me the belief again that I can do it and riding is the one reason to get up in the morning. I am at my happiest sitting on a horse,” said Annie afterwards.

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