Waiting lists grow as struggle to find suitable RDA horses and ponies continues

  • Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) groups are still struggling to find suitable horses and ponies, as waiting lists continue to grow.

    In April H&H reported that the charity was facing a nationwide “crisis” to find horses and ponies. At the time RDA equine and competitors coordinator Emma Bayliss said groups were “crying out” for younger, healthy, athletic horses. Increased demand and prices for horses, as well as a misconception of the types of horses and ponies the charity was looking for, added to the problem of sourcing horses – and seven months on, the situation has not improved.

    Wyfold RDA instructor Diane Lee told H&H the South Oxfordshire group is operating with a reduced number of horses as two have retired and one is injured.

    “We’ve been looking for a horse for around four months now, and in the first month there was literally nothing that fitted the bill. The last couple of weeks we’ve been to view four or five so it feels like the supply is starting to come through but the prices are still through the roof. What would have cost us £3,000 or £4,000 a few years ago is now going to cost £8,000,” she said.

    “It’s a real challenge, obviously we’re a charity and our funds aren’t unlimited. At the moment we’re at full capacity and having to turn riders away because we haven’t got enough horses.

    The group, which has a waiting list of 30 riders, is looking for a 15.2hh horse and a 13.2hh pony.

    “It’s a tough ask but we’re looking for a horse and pony who are calm and as unflappable as they come, well-mannered and gentle to handle, but equally not something that’s dead to the leg,” said Diane.

    “They also need to have a degree of schooling. Some of our riders will happily just walk around but we also have riders who are quite physically fit and want to take their riding to a higher level and want to be able to do a dressage test.”

    Wyfold RDA volunteer Joy Skipper said “it’s so lovely” seeing what horses and ponies can do for disabled riders.

    “It feels crazy that we can’t help more people. There are probably horses out there but for some reason we can’t find them and people still think we want old retired horses,” she said.

    Ms Bayliss said RDA equines can come in “all different shapes and sizes”.

    “But what they do need to have in common is to be fit and healthy with the ability to physically and mentally adjust to our participants’ needs. Our activities can range from dressage to carriage driving, vaulting to showjumping and everything in between. They must be able to pass a minimum of a two-stage vetting and of course have that extra sprinkle of unicorn about them,” she said.

    “We have many policies within RDA to protect equine welfare; our volunteers and coaches are trained from entry level on equine knowledge up to biomechanics as an advanced coach, so whether you choose to sell or loan your equine to RDA, you can be assured they will receive the best care while providing a life-changing service.”

    Anyone with a horse or pony suitable for the Wyfold group is asked to contact Diane at info@wyfoldrda.org.uk, or for other RDA groups contact Emma at ebayliss@rda.org.uk.

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