While lockdown has been tough for many people, those who rely on Riding for the Disabled groups for their only weekly physical and/or social activity have found the shut down especially hard to cope with. H&H finds out more...
Prolonged closure of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) groups is having a negative impact on a large number of members’ confidence, and physical and mental wellbeing.
The RDA surveyed 3,382 members, including riders and carriage drivers, family members, carers, teachers and volunteers.
Of these, 80% said being unable to access the RDA has had a negative impact on their physical wellbeing, 77% said this is true of their mental wellbeing and 75% said this is affecting both.
More than half (59%) said they have noticed a drop in confidence, 51% said it has affected their social skills and many also had worries about returning when the time comes. These include concerns over fitness and confidence levels, as well as social distancing and hygiene.
While many of the RDA’s 500 groups have been keeping in touch virtually, only a small minority have been able to reopen recently, to offer riding solely to those who do not require additional support.
“The impact of RDA group closure on individual members cannot be underestimated,” states the report.
“This prolonged period of inactivity and isolation is being felt across the organisation, among both participants and volunteers.”
The study adds many respondents say RDA is the only physical and/or social activity they take part in weekly.
“Although the population generally may have found new ways to exercise or socialise during lockdown, for RDA members that isn’t always possible – indeed, many people come to RDA precisely because it is the only physical activity they can do independently,” adds the report.
“This is leaving many members without access to any exercise or social life during this time.”
It found confidence levels to be the most significant area of concern among volunteers, with 63% saying they felt a drop.
The results also showed that the horses are the aspect of RDA that members miss the most.
“I cannot express how much I miss riding and the horses,” said one respondent. “My physical health has declined significantly and I am now back on medication that riding means I don’t normally take. I am also missing doing the only form of exercise I can do independently.”
Another member added: “Before lockdown, going to the yard was my only outlet for physical activity and social interaction away from my home and full-time work.
“I now work from home, home-educate my daughter and have lost my main outlet of enjoyment. I have no form of physical activity.
“I feel like my motivation has ebbed away and truly miss the camaraderie of the whole team.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated what impact the necessary closure of RDA establishments has had on its riders, staff and volunteers. It is so much more than a riding stables and has had a far-reaching impact on us all.”
Recommendations from the study include “restart roadmaps” to help members return and increased communication.
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