A special weekend at the Riding for the Disabled Coleraine celebrated 40 years of service to the disabled community along the north coast.
Events included a reception, attended by RDA National Chair, Samantha Orde, RDA NI Vice Presidents, Willie John McBride and George Jones, NI Chair, Juliet Frazer, Gregory Campbell MP and Causeway Coast and Glens mayor Michelle Knight-McQuillan.
RDA was particularly pleased to be visited by so many sponsors, and former riders, helpers and volunteers, especially Lily Lee, Phyllis Ewing and Heather Lyons who had all been involved in the earliest days of the group.
The star, however, was Leslie Cole, who received his well earned RDA 40 year Certificate from Samantha Orde, as he has been literally involved at RDA Coleraine from the very beginning, and is still consulted even if not so physically active.
Speaking on behalf of RDA Coleraine George Jones said: “There are lots of wonderful moments and memories to recall over the last 40 years of RDA Coleraine, as seen from the displays in the room, which cover just a snapshot of the activities over the years.
“A few people in here will recall the early days in ’75, with one pony and one rider. Over the years this RDA has developed within the community, and has supported thousands of riders to develop independence, team skills, motor skills, communication, awareness, self confidence – the list goes on and on of the benefits of riding and interacting with the wonderful RDA horses.
“RDA as an organisation has embraced new and exciting challenges – Endurance, Dressage, Driving and Show jumping, and riders have loved trying them all.
“RDA Coleraine has supported riders who have competitive ambitions, we have riders who now regularly compete at both Regional and National competition level, always bringing back some bling!
“The Group works closely with Special Olympics and are proud that one of our riders competed and won gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Games in Athens in 2011.
“Many local equestrian groups hold fundraising events on behalf of this centre, and welcome RDA riders becoming involved, which provides a great opportunity to move into open competition.”
George stressed the enduring ethos of Riding for the Disabled: “But RDA is about much more than competition. It’s about supporting a rider to step out of themselves for a moment, and try something wonderful, and scary, and smelly.
“Riding like John Wayne is a very liberating experience for a child who is afraid. Sitting astride a moving mountain, that snorts and sniffs and wobbles yet somehow does what you ask it to do is a revelation.”
“Everyone in this room, and many more besides, have made this RDA amazing. Whether a valued volunteer, a club, a fundraiser, a business partner. We change lives, we invest in our community, and the welfare of those who need support is what drives us.”
The displays concluded with Louise Greer, a member of the Paralympic Ireland Training Squad, demonstrating her Dressage to music routine, during which George Jones told Louise’s story – in her own words.
Outside events during the afternoon and the next day included a Clydesdale Show, a Craft Village, pony and trap rides, archery, a Drone flying display and Pony Club display by Route Hunt and Iveagh Harriers Clubs, showjumping, a car boot sale and various fun and games activities