About The Avon Centre
The Avon Centre is an equine and nature based activities centre on the outskirts of Bristol, opposite Blaise Castle.
Formerly known as The Avon Riding Centre for the Disabled, The Avon Centre has recently expanded its charitable objectives to include disadvantage as well as disability, and we hope this will help us to reach even more people than before.
The Avon Riding Centre was founded by Stella Saywell, one of the first physiotherapists that were involved in therapeutic riding even before the formation of the Riding for the Disabled Association in 1969.
For over thirty years, Avon Riding Centre for the Disabled provided the positive experience and proven therapeutic benefits of horse riding to children and adults with a wide range of complex special needs.
The Avon Centre is recognised as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for disabled riding regionally and throughout the UK. The Centre enables around 200 disabled children and adults per week to benefit from a carefully structured programme of riding sessions, amounting to 7,500 individual rides annually.
We work with people living with over 30 different forms of difficulties: learning difficulties, neurological conditions, sensory disabilities and those on the autistic spectrum. They range in age from 4 to 78.
Riding helps people with disabilities in many ways: simply sitting up straight on a horse provides physiotherapy and core strengthening exercise without the need to coordinate or understand complex movements. Improved core strength means better balance, improved mobility in everyday life.
Riding is so much more than just physiotherapy. Horses are natural animal therapists, with huge empathy; they also give their riders access to the outdoors and nature, in our beautiful woodland; the opportunity to learn a skill – and take part in sport – boosts resilience and confidence. All this in a friendly, accepting environment and with the opportunity to make like-minded and often life-long friends.
Non Disabled Riding
Bristol Horse Riding provides lessons for riders age 8 and above. Beginners lessons are limited, most lessons are for riders who can work in trot. We have an indoor and outdoor school, a full set of show jumps and extensive hacking. Group lessons have a maximum of 7 riders. We have a full size simulator to work on specific areas of improvement.
We welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to know more about our work. Why not contact us or, better still, drop in for a coffee and chat in our café and see for yourself the amazing work that the charity undertakes.
Beyond The Gait
During the Covid pandemic The Avon Centre developed a new, non-ridden, Wellbeing activity working with a small team of rescue Shetland ponies to support people's emotional health. This allows people access not only to equine facilitated learning, but also to the beneficial effects being in nature in over 100 acres of woodlands and pastures.
Meet The Team
The Centre has a dedicated team of Staff, Trustees and Volunteers.
Charity Development Officer
Meet the Trustees
Vicki Long - Chair
Vicki is a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Association of Corporate Treasurers with a background in Corporate Finance, Treasury and Accounting across a range of companies. Vicki has a passion for horses and is a regular volunteer at the RDA Lessons provided by the The Avon Centre RDA Group. Vicki is currently Chair of the Board and also provides support with corporate governance, financial strategy and accounting matters. Vicki is also a Trustee for the Bristol Rugby Community Foundation.
Kate Leahy - Treasurer
Kate qualified as a Chartered Accountant at PwC in Bristol and worked primarily in Audit and Assurance within the Commercial and Charity Sectors. In 2011, Kate moved to Triodos Bank to help set up their Internal Audit and Risk management function in their UK division and then moved into their business banking team. Kate is currently the Finance Manager for local charity Paul’s Place which enhances the lives of physically disabled adults.
Kate has always been passionate about horses and the benefits they bring to individuals physical and mental wellbeing and want to ensure these benefits are accessible to all.
Kate is also a trustee for Avon Wildlife Trust.
Juliet Allan-Jones - Secretary
Juliet is a commercial procurement manager working at The Ministry of Defence.
Juliet is a former real estate lawyer and worked in the in-house legal team at a large landowning charity for several years.
Juliet would like as many people as possible to enjoy the centre, and experience the therapeutic benefits that the horses and land provide.
Partners and Affiliates
Diana is a chartered accountant having qualified with Grant Thornton within the audit team. She then transferred to the corporate finance team where she spent four years advising on a range of corporate transactions. Diana has spent the last nine years working at Triodos Bank within the corporate finance team providing lead advisory services for charity’s, social enterprises and ethical businesses and helping them to raise finance through the bank’s crowdfunding platform.
Daniel is a second career lawyer, currently working as Legal Counsel for a financial services company in Bristol. Daniel previously worked in the City in telecommunications. Before relocating to the South West, he volunteered at Mencap where he helped young adults with disabilities learn everyday life skills.
In addition to The Avon Centre, he is also a Trustee for the Luckington Children’s Playground Charity.
Daniel brings his legal knowledge to the Board along with a commitment to support the positive experiences that The Avon Centre provides to its beneficiaries.
Hannah is an experienced HR Professional, being a Chartered member of the CIPD and a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Starting her career at Orange PCS, Hannah supported the joint venture with T-Mobile from a people perspective, to launch the newly created brand, EE. Hannah has since moved to BT when she leads the Talent & Development function for the Consumer Business.
Hannah has been passionate about horses from an early age, and has directly experienced the therapeutic benefits that horses can offer. This has driven Hannah’s commitment to helping to make equine assisted activities more inclusive, readily available, and accessible for all.