The Worshipful Company of Loriners, a guild based in the city of London, who traditionally make bridles, bits, stirrups, saddle trees and other equestrian equipment, is a long term supporter of Riding for the Disabled. This year they sponsored a national award for educational and therapeutic activities within RDA Groups.
Omagh RDA was chosen out of the 486 RDA Groups as the one which demonstrated the most activities across the board in these areas, an achievement which delighted club chairperson Gwen Garrett.
“ In Omagh we recognise that riders develop far more than just riding skills during their time with us. We pioneered many of the educational programmes offered to RDA by ASDAN, an educational programme developing and awarding body, whose programmes are widely used in vocational and special needs education.
“This enabled the Group to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our riders in a wide range of areas, including national curriculum subjects which are taught through horse based activities.”
All the riders at Omagh RDA have the opportunity to take part in these programmes in addition to the RDA Proficiency Tests, which provide a system of progressive practical learning in riding and stable management skills.
Gwen Garrett continued, “We have developed programmes to enable young volunteers to acquire nationally recognised qualifications to prepare them for employment or to add to their CVs for university applications.
“We offer volunteering opportunities for large numbers of young people every year through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, Young Equestrian Leaders and Millenium Awards programmes. The Group provides training for other RDA Groups throughout Ireland and across the UK.”
“The therapeutic benefits of Riding for the Disabled are widely recognised, but difficult to quantify. National RDA has developed a tracker system to enable us to record progress in several areas, confidence, physical skills, communication and social interaction. Here in Omagh we took part in the pilot scheme producing the largest sample of over thirty completed trackers in the trial period, all of which demonstrated improvement in all areas.
“As part of our activities we include craft work and creative art work and writing with our riders producing some exceptional work. We have had the winning craftwork at national level for the last few years, for group and individual work” said Gwen.
The Omagh group has over 110 riders who ride regularly, with up to eighty riders attending weekly during the school terms. They have riders from a wide geographical area, covering Tyrone, Fermanagh and Co Derry and provide a wide range of riding experience from purely therapeutic exercises to training to prepare riders for national and international competitions.
“ We have a training programme to enable riders to move from RDA to Para Training, bringing internationally recognised coaches to the Group to work with our riders. We provide mentored work experience placements for young people with special needs to help them prepare for employment. We also provide horse care and practical stable management sessions for young agricultural students from the South West College,” Gwen Garrett concluded.