In 2019 RDA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the success of the Accessibility Mark scheme is testament to the charity’s work in breaking down barriers and making riding a sport for all.
The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with riding centres with the aim of opening up more opportunities for disabled people to participate in riding.
The theme for RDA’s 50thanniversary year is ‘challenging stereotypes’, which is exactly what Accessibility Mark centres strive to achieve on a daily basis.
Here we take a look at just how Accessibility Mark is helping to change misconceptions about disabled riders’ participation in equestrian sport.
There is the perception that in order to be a successful centre for disabled participants there is a need for expensive specialist equipment and facilities. More often than not a few simple, inexpensive changes at the centre combined with relevant training will open the doors to a wider range of participant.
Many of the centres that go on to become successfully gain their Accessibility Mark accredition have initial apprehension about their ability to teach disabled riders, yet following training and guidance from an ASO (Accessibility Support Officer), centres learn what can be achieved.
One of the most common false impressions in terms of disabled people learning to ride is that the horses and ponies must be old and steady, meaning that some riding school horses would be unsuitable for teaching disabled riders. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as genuine all-rounders make the best school-masters for disabled riders and instructors soon become aware of how versatile the equine members of their team are.
The very ethos of Accessibility Mark is creating an environment of ‘inclusive sport’, where disability is no obstacle to achievement and the focus is very much on ability not disability.
Perhaps the most positive influence on challenging stereotypes is through the achievements of the riders that participate in lessons at Accessibility Mark centres.
Achievement can be measured in different ways, with tools such as the RDA Tracker measuring improvement in communication, physical changes, relationships, horsemanship, confidence and enjoyment.
The RDA Endeavour Awards also celebrate any goal set by the participant and coach or the RDA proficiency awards which are progressive tests that allow participants to learn about horse and pony care and riding.
There are currently 51 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk