This year The Avon Centre is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its first RDA lessons.
The Centre, which is based on the outskirts of Bristol, opposite Blaise Castle, started life as an RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) Group back in 1983.
The RDA Group was founded by Stella Saywell, a physiotherapist at Winford Orthopaedic Hospital, who recognised the benefits of horse movement as a method of delivering physiotherapy to patients - primarily children - recovering from polio. The Centre has gradually increased its facilities, horse and rider numbers, volunteers and estate size since that time, to a peak of 25 riding horses and almost 180 RDA riders every week in March 2020.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic forced the Centre to shut its doors to riding and also to rehome several of its horses. There were even concerns that it would not be able to reopen.
However, following a successful Crowdfunding Campaign in 2021, and the hard work of the staff team, the Centre was able to return to working with RDA riders and start planning for the future.
“We were overwhelmed by the support we received for our Crowdfunder,” said Claire Evans, the Centre’s senior administrator. “It just goes to show the importance it holds in so many people's lives. The community came together to support us and we are very grateful.”
So far this year, the Centre been able to support 90 weekly RDA riders and 20 young people enjoying the therapeutic benefits of working with a small Shetland herd. The Centre also works with three school groups, supporting students to work through unmounted equine based ASDAN course.
Additionally, the Centre has increased its reach to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds to also be able to access the positive benefits of spending time with horses and nature.
“For many participants, their riding lesson is the highlight of their week,” said Kim Langbridge, the Centre’s RDA Co-Ordinator. “They have made friends, participate in a physical activity, learn new and transferable skills whilst enjoying the benefits of spending time with horses.”
To celebrate their 40th Anniversary, the Centre is running a number of events. These include an Afternoon Tea at BAWA on September 30th and, "Fighting Fit at 40!" – an invitation to supporters, riders and volunteers to fundraise by doing 40 things to celebrate the 40th Anniversary.
“This is a celebration,” said Andy White, the Centre’s Chairman. “And it is very important that we recognise our past achievements. However, we are also looking to the future and how we can support even more people. We still need everyone’s support and are so grateful to everyone who contributes to the success of this wonderful community.”
The Avon Centre will be sharing lots of different ways to celebrate over the coming months, including ways you can get involved. Be sure to follow the Centre on Facebook so you don’t miss out.
The Centre looks forward to working with businesses and other organisations to mark this milestone, if you are interested in finding out how you can collaborate please get in touch.