Princess Anne praises ingenuity and resilience of groups across the UK
Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) held its 51st AGM, chaired by the charity’s President, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. In a first for the charity, the meeting took place on Zoom and was livestreamed on YouTube. Hundreds of members tuned in from around the UK to watch the event, which also included an awards presentation for volunteers and riders.
In her President’s Address, The Princess acknowledged the challenges that RDA and its 500 member groups have faced since the start of lockdown in March. She recognised the dedication shown by the charity’s volunteers and coaches to ensure that RDA’s commitment to disabled people has not suffered.
The Princess, who previously ‘met’ with volunteers and riders on Zoom during the first lockdown, spoke about the individuals throughout the organisation who have shown great leadership in helping RDA to adapt and innovate throughout this period.
RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher also acknowledged this point, saying he has ‘never been more proud to be part of RDA’ than during this year.
“My main message is one of thanks to everyone in the RDA community – collectively, you have done so much to support each other during this crisis,” he said. “When I look back over 2020 I will, of course, remember a time when we all felt the stress, uncertainty and frustration of what was happening. But I will also remember a time when our community really pulled together and supported each other.”
Private meeting with President’s Award winners
After chairing the AGM, The Princess moved to a private break out room to meet winners of The President’s Award – RDA’s most prestigious award for over 30 years ‘above and beyond’ voluntary service.
Award winner Lynne Munro said: “At first the idea of a virtual awards ceremony was strange but actually turned out to be a great experience. A couple of practice sessions helped too! We each had lots of individual time chatting with Princess Anne in a relaxed, friendly and personal way with lots of anecdotes and laughter too. The only downside was no photograph with The Princess but that is a small price to pay for what was, for me, the most exciting thing to happen in my kitchen during lockdown!”
Ed Bracher said: “Thank you to all of these volunteers for their amazing service to and support for RDA over the years – we are blessed to attract volunteers to this organisation who not only stay with us, but also do incredible things to take us forward.”
President’s Award winners
Susan Robson joined Richmond and Catterick Group in 1983 chairing the group between 1983 and 2000 leading them through some tough times. Throughout her 50 years involvement with RDA Sue has held positions at group, county and regional level. Her greatest achievement has been in the practical help she has given to disabled people throughout the region with whom she has a natural empathy having had her own challenges with dyslexia. These she has overcome through willpower and a dogged determination not to let that limit in any way what she can do.
Jane McMurray is one of the founders of RDA in Northern Ireland and started Lisburn RDA in 1975 . The Group continues to provide riding for pupils from Parkview to this day.
Jane’s lifelong association with horses and wide experience have been invaluable both at group and regional level where her contribution should not be underestimated. She has never held an official regional post but for many years no Dressage Competition, Holiday, or Day Out took place without Jane’s help, quietly working away in the background assisting wherever she was needed, always ready with a kind word and encouragement.
Brigid Hamill was one of the founder members of Windsor and Ascot Driving Group in 1975 and is still supporting the group today. The group started with donkeys and jubilee carriages and now has three lovely ponies – over 40 volunteers and currently 13 drivers. She has recently given up coaching, but she can still be seen busy helping, head holding and assisting participants at the sessions. She is a great “mother” figure in the group, always there with a listening ear, supporting the team, and has given so many people over the years the opportunity to enjoy driving.
Lynne Munroe first met the RDA in 1974 as a placement activity during her physiotherapy training in the East End of London working with disabled children riding horses. Over the years, Lynne has touched every part of RDA at Group, County and National levels. She is a “doer” who will put her hand to any aspect of the daily delivery of tuition, support and encouragement to both participant and volunteer alike. She has helped to develop vaulting as a core RDA activity. The Cavalier Centre in Shropshire, where she is a regular coach, has benefitted from her careful guidance.
Isobel joined the Winton Group as a volunteer in 1977 four years after it was founded. She did a variety of roles and became Chairman in 1990 and remained in that role for nine years.
The group was very active during this period, raising substantial funds, owning a minibus, and taking disabled children on holiday each year. Isobel was called upon to take the Chairman’s role again in 2008-2014 and was County Chairman from 2011-2015
One of her proudest memories is when a Winton Group rider won a silver medal at the Special Olympics in Shanghai, China in 2007.
Anne has run and worked at Barrow Farm since its start in 1976 – she has taught and supported hundreds of disabled people to appreciate riding and driving. Through her enthusiasm, determination and dedication Barrow Farm has progressed from 12 to over 140 riders and drivers each week. She has been involved in all aspects of running the organisation and has trained and developed many RDA coaches. Anne has also contributed to RDA at County and Regional level. She has taken part in and run many training courses for coaches and volunteers.
For over 30 years Lesley Furnell has dedicated herself to RDA through her expertise as a physiotherapist. Lesley moved from her previous group to Shiresmill Riding Therapy Centre in 2000. Qualifying as a Group Coach in 2004, she has worked tirelessly displaying endless patience and care with all participants. For nearly 10 years she has held Group governance roles and been a key player in increasing activities, improving training for volunteers and developing funding streams.
As Regional Physio from 2004 to 2016, Lesley travelled extensively capturing the latest thinking and developments, readily passing on that knowledge and understanding to the Region and RDA nationally. She was a member of the International Coordination Group representing RDA and presenting papers at HETI conferences worldwide. Throughout, she has encouraged many young therapists to get involved with RDA.
Lesley has channelled her energy into qualifying as a Coach Developer, part of a successful Regional Coaching Team.