To celebrate its 50th anniversary year in 2019, Riding for the Disabled Association is marking the milestone through its 50 Faces campaign, telling the stories of some of the amazing people who make RDA the extraordinary organisation it is today.
Designed to challenge preconceptions about disability and volunteering, and to celebrate the diversity and inclusiveness of RDA, 50 Faces features a collage of portraits, as well as the surprising and often moving stories of horse riders, carriage drivers and volunteers from all over the UK.
“A 50thanniversary could be a time for looking back, but we wanted to celebrate where we are now, as leaders in disability sport, and also look to our future – helping even more disabled people to benefit from time with horses,” says Caroline Ward, Communications Manager at RDA UK. “50 Faces is an engaging and interactive way for people to find out more about what we do – and will hopefully inspire more people to get involved.”
Here we meet…
Phoebe Boyce first experienced horse riding when she was eight-years-old before she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Due to her undiagnosed condition, Phoebe found new experiences difficult and felt miss understood.
School was also challenging for Phoebe, who would often bottle up her feelings only for them to explode at home and as she is hyper-sensitive to noises and smells, her teachers found this difficult to understand.
Phoebe, from Derbyshire and her family, including mum Abi were hugely relived when she was finally diagnosed.
A few years later Phoebe began to think about horse riding once again and discovered RDA’s website when googling about horse riding for disabled people.
In April 2017, Phoebe started riding at Scropton RDA Group. Her first lesson was a group ride, where she was led by a volunteer so they could assess how capable she was.
Phoebe progressed really quickly and widened her knowledge by reading books and watching You Tube videos in her spare time away from the stables.
After a few months of riding,even though she is allergic to horses Phoebe joined the stable club and started volunteering on a Saturday morning, helping out with the other children and looking after the horses, which boosted her confidence and helped her make new friends.
She is now a member of the Scropton RDA Team and participates in showjumping and dressage, qualifying for the RDA National Championships in 2018, where she finished 7thin her showjumping category.
Phoebe said: “The thing about RDA that makes me keep coming back is the feeling of a community and being a part of something. The staff and volunteers are all so kind and I love the thrill of horse riding and learning new things. Also, I have made lots of new friends.
“Being part of RDA helps me in other aspects of my life as it gives me something to look forward to during the week and I have gained so much confidence with meeting new people and being more independent.
“I feel I challenge misconceptions about disability because many people don't realise I actually have a disability, as it's invisible. RDA treat me the same as everyone else, I get the support and help I need to improve my riding and I feel included, unlike at other places where I feel like an outsider.
“Many people with autism find it hard to socialise, and although I also have these difficulties I still enjoy volunteering and meeting and helping all the riders.”
Phoebe’s mum, Abi is incredibly proud of her achievements: “It is nice for Phoebe to do something independently without me around. When she started volunteering, I could drop her off and then come back later.
“To be able to leave her somewhere she is safe and happy is wonderful. She has made new friends and even researched and found the 50 Faces campaign herself and wanted to be included.”
You can read Phoebe’s story, and meet the other 49 Faces of RDA at www.rda.org.uk