Riding for the Disabled Associations’ (RDA) National Training Centre based at Lowlands Farm in Warwickshire has gained its Accessibility Mark accreditation following a training day held for the centres’ coaches.
In partnership with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), RDA launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with commercial riding centres with the aim of opening up more opportunities for disabled people to participate in riding.
Opened by RDA President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in 2019, the National Centre provides a home for RDA where coaches and volunteers from across the organisation can learn new skills and share best practice.
RDA Groups use the National Centre as a base to gather for events but on a daily basis the centre is run as a commercial equestrian establishment which is why it was important to gain Accessibility Mark status.
All RDA Groups are independent charities but the National Centre is not a registered charity as there isn’t an RDA Group based at the centre, however it is hugely important that the flagship of RDA upholds the values and standards that are at the very core of everything RDA does.
Due to COVID restrictions the training had been delayed but two years after its grand opening the team at the National Centre were finally able to fulfil the criteria to secure the Accessibility Mark accreditation.
The training day was led by experienced Accessibility Mark Support Officer (ASO), Lizzie Hill. Lizzie played a big part in the founding of Accessibility Mark and regularly teaches RDA sessions herself so has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to any potential new centre.
Accessibility Mark training covers three main aspects, mounting and dismounting, leading and side-walking and knowledge and understanding of disabilities, all of which are extremely achievable in a commercial setting when the correct procedures are followed.
The training involves a mix of theory and practical sessions and two of the centres riders very kindly took part in practical demonstrations of different techniques. Lizzie also provided and insight into future ridden activities, improving the riders balance/position and the horses’ way of going which will benefit riders in their learning.
RDA National Training Centre Manager, Beth Beale said: “It was wonderful to finally be able to participate in the training so the National Training Centre can gain Accessibility Mark accreditation.
“The accreditation is important for the centre to ensure that the home of RDA maintains the world class reputation of the organisation.
“Most of the team already had previous experience of teaching disabled riders but the training served as a great refresher course on good practice.”
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 56 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk