Mid Sussex RDA group celebrates return to riding as Covid restrictions lift

Horse riders, coaches and volunteers from Mid Sussex RDA were thrilled to return after the lifting of UK lockdown restrictions.

Staff welcomed seven special needs riders back to Chestnuts Riding School, Pyecombe, on March 30 with a variety of games, races and exercises.

Chairman and coach Ruby Grimshaw said they were able to restart quickly because the coaches had all taken intensive training in August last year after the first lockdown.

“It was wonderful,” she said, adding that the riders were happy to get a special rosette and to be back with the horses.

The Mid Sussex RDA group was excited to return on March 30. Picture: RDA

“We were expecting the riders to be a bit nervous and worried but they were all up for it and they just loved it.”

Ruby, who lives in Brighton, said that horse riding helps special needs children and adults by strengthening their core muscles, improving their balance and boosting their social lives.

“Covid has brought out the need for meeting up with people and earnest friendship,” said Ruby, adding that RDA provides this and benefits children who have trouble talking to others.

She said that a horse is a friendly and comforting animal that is often used in therapy.

“Horses seem to know how you feel,” said Ruby, adding that autistic children who don’t want to speak, for example, will talk to a horse.

“I’ve got one child to talk to the horse and through that she’s started talking to me, which is lovely.”

Social distancing rules mean that Mid Sussex RDA can only take back ‘reasonably independent’ riders at the moment, said Ruby.

Normally, they would have two people walking beside the riders, but at the moment they need to train one carer, or one person from the child’s social bubble, to assist.

Regional chairman Pauline Roestenburg said: “The past 12 months have been a particularly difficult time for the 36 RDA groups in the south east.”

They have been operating intermittently on a limited basis, Pauline said, adding that this has had an impact on riders’ wellbeing.

But she said that Mid Sussex RDA is ‘leading the way for the region’ and has worked hard to restart weekly sessions safely.

“We look forward to seeing all our brilliant riders back on board as soon as possible,” Pauline added.

Mid Sussex RDA hires horses from Chestnuts Riding School and is one of more than 500 groups in the UK that belong to the National Riding for the Disabled Association.

Find out more at www.midsussex-rda.org.