Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has launched its impact report for the year 2020-21, including the complete closure of all its groups across the UK during the nationwide lockdown. Writing for the report, RDA’s President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal talks about the ‘unprecedented challenges’ faced by the charity, and the ‘devastating impact’ lockdown had on its beneficiaries.
In March 2020, all RDA groups across the UK closed their doors for the first time in the charity’s 51 year history. The National Office also closed, with a core staff team continuing to work from home, while others were furloughed. Central support for specific activity areas was curtailed, and resources diverted to help meet new and emerging challenges.
Fundraising for groups became an immediate issue, with events cancelled and no income from riding and carriage driving sessions. New challenges emerged as the crisis continued: care for horses, the isolation of participants and the drop in volunteer confidence.
The report highlights the quick and decisive response from RDA UK to meet the emerging needs of its groups. A grants programme swung into action to support those in immediate financial risk. Regular briefings and updates helped groups to stay informed during a fast-changing situation. Educational and fun resources were produced to enable participants to ‘take part at home’ and a volunteer task force was established to provide leadership and expertise for a safe return to activities when possible.
In her introduction to the report, Princess Anne references the creativity and innovation shown by RDA and its groups in finding ways to adapt activities, to allow beneficiaries to benefit from spending time with horses even if they couldn’t ride or carriage drive within government guidelines.
She writes: “Within this year of restrictions, RDA has found ways to adapt: introducing new activities and keeping the joy of horses alive for many thousands of people – even those isolated at home.
We have demonstrated our ability to embrace change and find opportunity in adversity. I have spoken to coaches who have introduced adapted activities that will make a lasting impact on their group, and riders who have benefited from spending time with horses in new ways. Family members have been trained as helpers – bringing parents and siblings into the RDA experience like never before.”