14-year-old Bradley Albans has become the first Accessibility Mark rider at Grove House Stables in Misterton to gain his Grade One Riding and Horse Care certificate.
Bradley from Retford, Nottinghamshire, has learning difficulties as a result of a brain injury that he suffered at birth as well as epilepsy and was recommended to try horse riding as a form of therapy by his physiotherapist.
He has now been riding at Grove House Stables for five years and has built up a fantastic rapport with Andrew Stennett, the owner of the stables and a coach who holds the Level 4 Equestrian Coaching certificate, the highest level of coaching qualification from the British Equestrian Federation.
Bradley’s achievement is all the more impressive considering he was dead set against horse riding and wouldn’t even brush a Shetland pony on his first visit to the yard, in fact it took at least four visits to just familiarise himself with horses before he would even consider getting into the saddle.
“Even once we managed to convince Bradley to get on the horse he was happy to ride but still wouldn’t touch the horse – how things have changed.” said Rachel Albans, Bradley’s mum.
Together with his carer, Jed Pedley, Bradley now attends for a lesson once a week and with Andrew’s help, his confidence has grown as well as his love for horses. It helps that Jed is a horse lover too, so it is a weekly treat they can enjoy together.
Riding has helped enormously with Bradley’s posture and core strength, progressing from being hunched over to being able to sit up straight in the saddle.
As well as providing more opportunities for disabled people to learn to ride, through Accessibility Mark riders can work towards RDA Proficiency Tests that form part of a wider RDA Educational Programme.
The tests are a real motivator for participants as well as the volunteers and staff as riders develop their skills and their achievements are rewarded.
Andrew set Bradley the goal of working towards his Grade One Riding and Horse Care certificate. With the help of Jed, Bradley began learning about different parts of the horse and the saddle and bridle, as well as how to approach a horse or pony safely. Basic horse care is also tested, including an understanding of what a horse eats, drinks and where it lives.
During the riding section the participant is required to demonstrate a balanced position in halt and walk, show they can hold the reins in the correct manner and complete a simple riding exercise.
Partnered with his favourite horse, Taz, Bradley passed the test with flying colours and was thrilled to receive his certificate to a huge round of applause from the members of the Grove House Stables Pony Club.
“Andrew has really connected with Bradley and as a result he has come on in leaps and bounds, his bedroom is full of the rosettes that Andrew has given him.
“He was so proud of achieving the certificate and has talked about it for days after.” said Rachel.
Andrew is keen to encourage more disabled riders to take up horse riding to experience its therapeutic, physical and social benefits:
“Bradley is a great example of what can be achieved and through Accessibility Mark we have access to fantastic resources, including training and educational tools from Riding for the Disabled Association. This ensures that we are delivering lessons of a high standard to disabled riders and working towards achievable goals.”
Together Andrew and Bradley have high hopes for the future, their ultimate aim being to one day qualify for a class at the RDA National Championships.
Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial to riders of varying levels of disability.
There are currently 51 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk