RDA National Championships returns

Biggest event of its kind in the world for disabled horse riders and carriage drivers returns to Hartpury University and College, Gloucestershire 

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships are back after an absence of three years with an action-packed event that celebrates the achievements and determination of RDA participants from across the UK.

From Friday 15th July – Sunday 17th July, Hartpury University and College, Gloucester will host over 350 participants and 180 horses taking part in a programme of ridden and non-ridden competitions. Competitors will have qualified in the discipline of their choice via regional qualifying rounds hosted at local events earlier this year.

“This is the biggest event of its kind in the world for disabled horse riders and carriage drivers” says Anne Coney, RDA National Championships Chair “After a difficult time when Covid prevented the Championships from running, we are delighted to be back at Hartpury once again and are grateful for the wonderful facilities and support that they provide. Last year’s Virtual Championships were a great success under the circumstances, but we are all looking forward to the excitement of being there in person.  A total of 83 RDA Groups are represented at this year’s National Championships in 96 classes across the 3 days and we even have our first competitor making the trip from Jersey this year. With the hundreds of participants, families and supporters, we expect a great party atmosphere.”

14-year-old competitor, Khianna Lucas-Young demonstrates just how much RDA has transformed her life. Khianna was diagnosed with leukaemia in March 2016. She endured years of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and long stays in hospital and then in 2020 was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition where the immune system damages the spinal cord and the optic nerves, leaving her completely blind and unable to walk.

Despite medical professionals advising that she would never walk again, in November 2021 Khianna started riding at Bradbourne RDA in Kent. “It’s the best thing,” she said. “It’s great for me physically and more importantly for my mental health. I’m still completely blind but to be able to ride is amazing.”

Jenna Leight, Khianna’s coach, explained that when Khianna started riding with the group she was in a wheelchair and could only walk a few steps with a lot of support. “Khianna has amazed us with her ability to learn and progress over the short time she has been riding. Everyone who has been part of Khianna’s riding experience at Bradbourne is thrilled that she has qualified to compete at Hartpury this year, a very well-deserved result!”

Dressage plays a significant part in the National Championships, with a variety of classes on offer for all levels of experience and is an opportunity for riders to show the judges, parents, friends and helpers what has been achieved during RDA sessions at their local group. 

Alongside the Championship dressage classes, supported by Dodson and Horrell, there are opportunities to ride a Freestyle to Music or Pairs dressage test, adding to the experience for riders and entertainment for the audience.

For the first time at this year’s National Championships, a rider in each grade will ride a British Dressage Intro test in front of British Dressage judge Sandra Edwards. This gives riders the opportunity for feedback on the test and builds closer links between RDA and British Dressage.

The British Dressage Para riders will be giving a demonstration on Friday 15th July.
Carriage driving is well represented at the National Championships and is becoming increasingly popular at RDA Groups, and is supported by Red Gorilla International. Driving specially adapted carriages and accompanied by a qualified coach, carriage drivers will be judged on a dressage test and a course of obstacles and cones.

RDA show jumping, supported by Oliver Wight EAME LLP, gives participants valuable opportunities to take part in RDA competitions and proficiency tests and is now offered by 130 RDA groups. RDA show jumpers and BS Para show jumpers will be competing at the National Championships and showcasing just how much can be achieved; participation in RDA show jumping is predicted to soar in the coming years.

The breadth of RDA activities is demonstrated by the endurance, vaulting and showing classes that take place across the three days. Whilst a relatively new addition, RDA Endurance is now a much-enjoyed activity in over 100 RDA groups and has become hugely popular, with levels to suit all abilities and riding environments. This discipline is supported by JM Finn. Vaulting takes place with teams of 6 and aims to improve the vaulter’s balance, co-ordination and confidence and is supported by Childs Farm. Whilst showing is still in its infancy at RDA, it will be represented by three classes as well as the popular SIEB Search for a Star, and is also supported by Oliver Wight EAME LLP.

But perhaps the competition that best exemplifies the benefits of RDA activities for participants of all abilities is the Countryside Challenge, supported by Trefoil Guild. With its focus on achievement, progression and enjoyment, the Countryside Challenge is a development of skills acquired in RDA sessions. The course is based on school movements, dressage, show jumping, endurance and of course fun, designed to both stimulate and challenge the rider. During the course, riders can put their skills to the test through challenging tasks, posting letters, bending around obstacles, picking apples from the trees and walking along the bridle path before going through the gate. Steering, balance and confidence are all put to the test whilst encountering sheep, hens and a duck pond! With 98 entries, this class will produce worthy winners.

Non-ridden classes include Horse Care and Knowledge and the Arts and Crafts competition, with thanks to Childs Farm and LifewithArt respectively. Both activities are open to all members of an RDA group. Horse Care and Knowledge is a fun, theory-based achievement class and the popular Arts and Crafts competition is a great opportunity for anyone who is unable to attend the Championships, to participate in the event.

RDA Chair Rachel Medill MBE is excited about attending her first National Championships. “Every region has run regional qualifiers and the photographs from those have reminded us all why we’re engaged in this amazing organisation. It is a testament to past events that we have over 200 volunteers helping run the Championships and that doesn’t include the hundreds of supporters and family members who will be with us. This will be my first championships and I’m both excited to be here and immensely proud to be joining a world leading event that brings so much enjoyment to so many. The RDA National Championships wouldn’t be possible without its brilliant sponsors. Through their support we are able to provide an opportunity for our participants to compete at a national level. RDA extend their thanks to the sponsors of each discipline, and also a special thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery.”

For the first time, the RDA National Championships will be live streamed free of charge from Friday July 15th to Sunday 17th July by Horse & Country TV.

The Championships can be watched, live, throughout the weekend at https://horseandcountry.tv/liveevents

Horse & Country (H&C) are delighted to be offering live coverage from the 2022 RDA National Championships at Hartpury. Members of H&C+ can tune in from 15 – 17 July to watch a variety of classes live and on-demand.
H&C+ is available to purchase worldwide from just £5.99*/month. Find out more about the service, here: https://horseandcountry.tv/subscription
*Please note, pricing may vary depending on your country of residence.