Founded in 1977, the volunteers of Court Meadow RDA work tirelessly, providing 3 lessons of riding weekly throughout the school term for up to 60 children from Woodlands Meed School and LVS Hassocks. From January 2014 we have been based in Albourne at the HMSEA Equestrian Yard.
The Group endeavours to involve their students in as many outside events as possible; it is ambitious and thrives on encouraging each rider to develop their technique and confidence. and develop their competitive skills, thus allowing them to interact with other similar groups from across the South East and nationally.
There are two riding sessions each week during term time. The first is on Wednesday afternoons, when the Nursery class of 2-3 year olds are introduced to the sensation of sitting on a pony and its movement, sometimes from the confinement of a wheelchair this is a significant shift . The fitting of safety helmets can be a challenging moment for pupils and instructors but all steps are taken slowly to consolidate the learning process to ensure that they are comfortable and at one with the pony. The aim is to ensure that their riding experience is an exciting and joyful event. It also helps to develop the child’s sensory skills through touching the pony and feeling it’s movement.
The second session is held on Thursday mornings from 9.30 to 11.30, Having already been introduced to riding on Wednesday afternoons, more advanced lessons are possible. A large number of volunteers are required to cover the sessions, not only to help get the ponies ready for riding, but to encourage riders to gain confidence and achieve their own personal goals. Some riders may need two side walkers and a leader for safety reasons, so that at any one session of six riders at least 18 helpers plus the instructor are needed, whilst in our classroom further groups of students are being taught horse management and tack care by yet more volunteers.
While some of the pupils may develop sufficient skills to represent their Group and Region at competitive level, the primary aim is to help each child at an individual level to grow in his or her confidence, and fulfill his or her own personal potential.
An RDA physiotherapist gives advice to local RDA Groups, demonstrating exercises that can help strengthen bones and muscles, as some pupils are unable to sit upright unaided. Parents are encouraged to join in with the Group’s activities.
Our riders work towards RDA National grades and our activities are monitored by RDA Regional and National inspections.
Each year in the summer term, extended riding sessions are held where the riders get more hands-on time with the ponies, learning grooming and stable yard skills. Riding sessions during this week are longer and if the weather is fine, the riders have the opportunity of riding along local bridle ways. At Christmas and Easter seasonal gymkhanas are held, complete with Father Christmas and Easter Bunnies (or chicks), and parents and teachers are invited to come along and join the fun.
In September 2004 the Group had the pleasure of welcoming HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony to mark the granting of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service. The Group was honoured to be selected as one of only 100 recipients nationally in 2004.
2017 saw the Group celebrate 40 years of operation.
The Group is very proud that several of its riders reached a standard high enough to qualify for entry in the Special Olympics in 2005 and 2010. On both occasions there was much celebration when Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were proudly brought back to West Sussex.