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2022/2023 Impact Report

Who we are:

A rider wearing a show jacket and white jodhpurs on a smartly plaited chestnut horse
Cat is an RDA Rider who competes at National level. She is also the Yard and Pony Interactions Supervisor.

The Avon Centre is a horse and nature based activities Centre supporting Disabled and disadvantaged people in Bristol and the surrounding areas. As well as being home to a well-established RDA group (Avon RDA Group) the Centre also offers a non-ridden provision called Pony Interactions which is client led, ranging from therapeutic time spent with ponies and nature to tailored alternative education supporting individuals who benefit from different approaches to education.

What happened in 2022?

A large group of people standing outside of a building. There is a horse. They are holding a giant cheque. A sign above the door reads Achievement through Riding

The Avon Centre struggled during the pandemic. Lockdown meant the Centre was forced to rehome almost half its horses, and six of twelve staff were made redundant. At the end of 2021 the skeleton team with the support of the board of trustees launched a Crowd Funder with a goal of £50,000, the success of which was essential for the Centre’s survival. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the local community, businesses and funding bodies the Centre was able to exceed this goal, raising a phenomenal  £77,373 (and almost £10,000 in Gift Aid) meaning we were able to start 2022 in a much stronger position. Thanks to the fantastic support the Centre was able to start 2022 looking to the future, investing in staff and horses and supporting more access our services.

RDA Sessions

A riding smiling

In 2022, the Avon Centre’s RDA Group (Riding for the Disabled Association) was able to support 85 RDA riding sessions a week. That’s an amazing 3,995 visits, just for our RDA sessions, supporting riders to build confidence, achieve personal goals make friends with people who have similar interests as well as gain access to green spaces. Coming for RDA lessons also enables families of RDA riders to meet people with similar lived experiences and provide mutual friendship and support.

Avon Riding Club

A horses and riding going over a show jump

On the surface, Avon Riding Club is a commercial riding school (originally established to support the Charity by subsidizing RDA lessons), however, it is evolving. The Riding Club is able to provide not only riding lessons, but a sense of belonging through pony days and volunteering opportunities to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2023 the Centre was able to secure funding to run a six week riding course for children from St James’ City farm in Gloucester, all of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, some

of whom have experienced trauma.


Three riders in competition attire. They are smiling and holding rosettes

During the period The Avon Centre has run 5 RDA competitions, 3 Dressage and 2 Show Jumping, supporting a total of 150 RDA riders from across the region to compete. The competitions are fun, help build self-esteem, confidence and resilience and make friends, as well as allowing more competitive riders to prepare for regional and national competitions.

Once again the Centre ran its popular Winter Dressage series, which is a wonderful event for new to dressage riders and horses, and is entirely volunteer led. The series raised a fantastic £6,954.93 which will help support the work we do.

A small child dressed as a rabbit, leading a shetland pony

Our new Events and Bookings Co-ordinator, who is no stranger to competitions, having competed internationally, representing Slovenia at Olympia has come in with lots of fresh ideas and 2023 saw the Avon Centre run its very first Easter themed scavenger hunt.  It saw children (and the young at heart), dog walkers and horse owners all spend time on the Centre’s 100 acres of green space, all hunting for chocolatey treats! The event was a resounding success and accessible to the whole community.

We are also very grateful to Bescoby Equine Vets for their continued support. The regularly give their time to provide educational talks which are informative and raise very much appreciated donations for the Centre. Talks always have limited spaces and are always fully booked.

Three people running in the arena

2022 saw the Centre run its very first Cool Ridings Horse Experience Day. With thanks to Sporting Heritage, who funded the day, and working in collaboration with event rider representing Jamaica, Lydia Heywood, the Centre was able to offer a horse experience day to over 30 children from under-represented backgrounds. We were delighted to welcome riders from St James’ City Farm, Gloucester, Urban Equestrian Academy in Leicester and riders invited by Lydia. There was riding, horse care, a talk from Beth at Bescoby Equine Vets and a Demo from Lydia. The event was covered by BBC Points West and Equestrian Life Magazine and we hope to be able to run another one very soon.

Alternative Education

A student in a field scooping manure

The Avon Centre is currently working with a number of schools to help students achieve equine based qualifications such as ASDAN. Through a pilot scheme called Pony Interactions, the Centre has been able to run an entirely client lead programme supporting learners who have difficulty working in traditional classroom environments. Through these programmes the Centre has been able to support over 370 learners over the 18 month period.

Community Outreach

Since 2012 the Avon Centre has been supporting disadvantaged children from a local primary school to gain regular access to nature and more recently pony interaction experience by providing access to forest school space as well as pony interaction sessions. In 2022/23 we have expanded this outreach to welcome local walking groups who enjoy our scenic woodland and then join us for tea and biscuits. The Centre is now the base for North Somerset People First’s monthly friendship group, which supports adults who identify as Learning Disabled or Autistic to come and meet in a safe space, make friends and find a sense of community. The Centre is also working with WECIL, and have provided space for them to run their DofE and are in discussions with Guide Dogs to provide a safe training space. We were delighted to support students from SGS College horticulture course in their work experience programme.

The Avon Centre has signed up as a location for Bristol Walk Fest and are looking forward to welcoming walkers from across the city to enjoy its beautiful grounds. 

Some children with Shetland ponies

RDA Annual Return Stats for 2021-2022

A bar graph demonstrating the number of weekly lessons. The busiest day was Friday with 9

A pie chart showing age range. Approximately 85% are 17 or under

A bar graph of volunteers. The majority are over 17

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