These pages are dedicated to some inspirational stories from our riders.
If you are in any doubt about whether riding is right for you, these stories will make your decision easier.
In 1981 at the age of 17, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and by 2000 had progressed to the point of being a more or less full-time wheelchair user. I started coming to Riding for the Disabled in 2000 after joining a local group called Lifestyles. About the first thing I did with them was to go to an afternoon at the Pembroke Centre that they had arranged. I had never thought of such a thing before, I was floundering a bit at that point in my life and feeling sorry for myself. It turned out to be a great afternoon that gave me a real boost. I was amazed and quite thrilled to be hoisted so easily up onto horseback for the first time in my life.
The horses I rode then were Mary and Finn, both very different personalities.
I had some lovely rides and watched the changing seasons for some months. I have begun to feel the physical and psychological benefits. I have very tight and stiff thighs which make it difficult to spread my legs, but being on horseback and just gently walking has been better for me than hours of physiotherapy. The constant motion has made me remember where muscles are that I had long since forgotten; in particular, the muscles around my trunk area. Getting to know these muscles again has in return given me more stability. But quite apart from the physical benefits, it is so nice to have something good to look forward to every week, and a feeling of accomplishment when I come home again.
I had been a patient at Salisbury District Hospital for approximately 3 years having undergone several surgical procedures. I knew that what I would physically be able to do in the future was going to be limited but was asked by a physiotherapist in the Rehabilitation Centre if there was anything I would like to attempt. I said that I had always wanted to ride but believed that with my disabilities riding would never be a option.
I became a member of Wilton RDA at the end of 2002. I arrived unable to walk independently, was introduced to mounting and dismounting backwards and rode around the arena with side walkers and on a lead rein, and then independently.
Things are now quite different.
I no longer walk totally dependent on aids. I mount and dismount using the same method as an able bodied person and I am now both a rider with Wilton RDA and a Para Dressage Rider. In July 2009 I was FEI Classified as a Grade III rider which allows me to compete in Para competitions both nationally and internationally. I was this year selected as a member of the South West Regional Para Dressage Team.
2011 is going to be an exciting year. I have been offered the use of a wonderful advanced schoolmaster called Kifran (Ren).
We hope to qualify for the Para championships and we will be going to Hartpury to compete in the RDA national championships. We will also be competing in able bodied affiliated competitions.
My transition from RDA to Para has been incredibly difficult at times due to lack of funds and suitable horses, but I would not have made it this far if it had not for the kindness of some people. I am very excited at the prospect of 2011 but this will only be made possible with the support and kindness of others through sponsorship and donations.
I would like to thank the Holbrook Hotel, Wincanton for my year's complementary membership where I have use of their heated pool, Jacuzzi and steam room which are of huge benefit to me.
My name is Janet and I have been involved with Wilton RDA for over 30 years. I started riding in 1969 at rovley Riding School then run at that time by Mick Clarke so we also go back a long way. I have always liked horses and when I was giving a chance to ride I jumped at it. In 1975 a friend told me about RDA so I started to ride there, at the time we were based at Wilton House. The first horse I rode was called Cloudy.
At this time I was still riding at Grovley as well so was getting the best of both worlds. As time went on I started to ride Side saddle and this was so better for me as I have cerebral palsy and found riding astride painful also the side saddle let me do a lot more trotting and cantering. Over the years I have taken the RDA grades up to the Silver, and also have taken part in dressage competitions and reached the National Championships twice.
I have seen many come and go, riders, helpers, and of course the horses, my favourite being Fina which was the last one I rode, who passed on in 2005.
Since then I have been helping in any way I can, I only go on a Thursday as I have no transport and have to rely on lifts for which I am very grateful (thank you Sally J, Paula, and Carol). I put the feeds up and sort out any washing that has to be done. I have made many friends over the years and was lucky to meet HRH Princess Anne twice. I have also been on the Trustee’s committee twice and I am still on the horse committee. I hope to continue for as long as I can, as I get a lot of enjoyment out of coming.
Thirteen Years of Fun!
Emily has been coming to Wilton RDA since the age of 3, when she began with The John McNeill Opportunity Group on a Friday morning having her first ride on Coco.
Ever since then, riding has been the highlight of her week.
Emily has cerebral palsy, affecting all her body, and resulting in muscle weakness and stiffness. As Emily has grown up and got bigger and so have her horses! From Coco to Granite, Oliver (her special favourite), Lundy, Welly, Megan, Stroller and Spangles: they have all patiently carried Emily around (some more speedily than others!) bringing fun and freedom and the benefit of improving her muscle strength and posture.
Emily has had various operations and broken bones over the years and, each time, getting back to seeing the horses and going riding has been a treat to look forward to – with help from all the wonderful instructors (Ali, Claire and the legend that is Pat) and fantastic helpers (special mention for Helen and family and Paul) Emily has even ridden with plaster casts on both legs when having her tendons stretched!
Now, at 16, Emily is having a break from riding, but the enjoyment, achievement, care and friendliness of everyone at RDA (horses too!) – has helped to shape Emily’s life and it is a privilege for us to have met so many wonderful and dedicated people during the past 13 years. The help and opportunities that you have given to Emily (as you do for all your riders) has been invaluable.
Thank you everyone at Wilton RDA
Love from The Silman Family
Special extra hug for Pat from Em x