RDA has today launched its new strategy, setting out ambitious plans that will see the organisation support 10,000 more participants by 2025. The plan, titled ‘Transforming lives across the UK’, focuses initially on programmes that will strengthen and sustain the existing network of RDA groups, and grow the number of centres and people that can take part.
Produced in response to growing demand for RDA’s activities, and the changing landscape of disability more widely, the strategy recognises the increasing part that RDA plays as a key frontline service in communities all over the UK.
RDA President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal said:
“This new strategy signals a moment of change and opportunity for all of us involved in RDA as we seek to rebuild and resume our work following a difficult two years. United by our goal to bring the benefits of horses to as many disabled people as possible, we have a chance to make even more of a difference to communities all over the UK.
During my visits to RDA groups over my years as President, I have seen first-hand the life-changing impact of our activities, brought about by that unique combination of participant, horse and volunteer. Now, as we look to strengthen our groups and grow our reach, we will explore new ways for people to benefit – with horses at the heart of everything we do.
To the volunteers and staff who will be embarking on this new chapter in our history, I would like to say thank you for doing everything you can to help us achieve our ambition.”
Rachel Medill, RDA UK Chair of Trustees said:
“We are realistic about the challenge. Post-pandemic, our participant numbers are down, so our first priority will be to rebuild confidence and bring people back to their previous levels of activity. At the same time, we need to build the strength and capacity of our network. Our groups will need localised, tailored support to build the strong foundations from which they can thrive and grow. We will also need the commitment of new volunteers and coaches and a strong supply of horses and ponies.
Our plan will deliver on these needs, tackling barriers to growth and creating opportunities for more people to benefit – more of the time.
RDA is uniquely placed to put horses at the heart of our nation’s health, and I feel proud to be part of an organisation which has the vision and spirit to make that a reality.”
Six key areas form the backbone of the three-year plan: resources for existing groups and centres; growth of participant numbers and new activities; the structure of RDA’s national and regional teams; support for participants and volunteers; the RDA brand and financial stability.
There will be a focus on tackling key barriers to growth, including volunteer recruitment, as well as the expansion of new activities, such as RDA’s dementia programme ‘Tea with a Pony’. RDA will also do more to engage with its participants, ensuring they can take a more active role in all areas of RDA life.
One of the first areas being tackled as part of the new strategy is the supply of horses into RDA groups. Exacerbated by the pandemic, RDA – like other equestrian organisations – has a shortage of suitable horses and ponies. RDA’s Equine Plan will address issues around the perception of RDA horses and how to create a stronger, more sustainable pipeline of equines into groups.
The new strategy recognises the increasing part that RDA can play in supporting the nation’s health through social prescribing (where primary care professionals refer patients to non-clinical services, such as volunteering). For volunteers like Mahmoud, a charity worker who is training to be an RDA carriage driving coach, RDA activities should be more recognised by the health service for the benefits they deliver:
“RDA is one of the best opportunities for social prescribing in the UK today. I’m very interested in equine therapy because it is one of the ways we can actually help people with mental health and communication problems without resorting to expensive health care.
RDA is a very important asset within the community. 90% of the clients I work with would benefit from using RDA-like services, either as volunteers or participants, because they come under the category of people with mental health problems, high risk of suicide or isolation. And I believe working with horses would benefit them directly.”
More information, including the complete strategy document and a film about RDA can be found at rda.org.uk/strategy