‘Her impact is immense’: volunteer honoured after half a century’s service

  • A Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) volunteer who has been given an award for 25 years’ service has actually completed twice that time.

    Anna Power, of the Unicorn Centre in Hemlington, Middlesbrough, was praised for her “enormous” contribution to the charity, with which she has been involved since, and just before, its inception.

    “Anna, now from near Stokesley, North Yorkshire, was one of the pioneering volunteers when RDA started in 1969, and even before that,” a spokesman for the centre said.

    “Her contribution to RDA over the years has been enormous, and she still continues in a fundraising capacity today.”

    Anna said she first became interested in RDA as she had a cousin with severe disabilities.

    “In the 1960s they were kept hidden away,” she said. “I and some other friends were persuaded to go carol singing on our ponies to raise money for an experiment at Winford Orthopaedic Hospital near Bristol where a physio was convinced there were benefits from using ponies for therapy. This was considered sufficiently unusual that we ended up with our photo on the front of Horse & Hound! This was all before RDA was even thought of.”

    Anna was working in London in the mid-1970s, and found there was an RDA group at Knightsbridge barracks.

    “By this time RDA had been going for a few years and there was a bit of framework to what we were doing,” she said. “The bonus to this group was that we got to have a free ride as the ponies had to be collected from stables in Bayswater and ridden across Hyde Park. One week when there was a hiccup and no ponies, one of the guardsmen volunteers got permission from his commanding officer for us to have a conducted tour round the stables and other facilities at the barracks. Another memory was muck disposal; everything got swept or barrowed to a spot where heavy doors were lifted up and you just tipped into a skip underneath. The loose boxes for the drum horses were massive and had extra reinforcement.”

    Anna moved with her family to North Yorkshire in the 1980s and joined the Gt Ayton & District RDA group, where she “played a leading role helping with lessons and on the committee until it amalgamated into the Unicorn Centre group in 1998”. She continued at the Unicorn Centre as a coach for many years, and is an “enthusiastic fundraiser”.

    Pat White, chair of the Unicorn Centre trustees said: “Anna’s contribution to RDA generally, and in particular to the Unicorn Centre, has been outstanding. We’re so grateful for her hard work and commitment and the impact she has made on people using our services has been immense.”

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