COURT MEADOW RDA was founded in 1977 and the wonderful volunteers and coaches have worked enthusiastically over the years to provide the experience of riding for children with all kinds of special needs. The Group is now based at Tremaines Riding Stables, Treemans Road, Horsted Keynes RH17 7EA and four riding sessions take place on Thursday mornings. We are very grateful for all the help we receive from the staff at Tremaines.
Three riding lessons are held weekly throughout the school term for up to 60 children from Woodlands Meed School, which is situated in Burgess Hill. All the pupils have a learning disability and associated developmental delay and a large proportion have autistic spectrum conditions. There are also a small number of children with special needs from other schools, who join in with these rides.
Recently, children from Step by Step, a school for children with autism in Sharpthorne, East Grinstead have joined us and come for their own riding session at the end of the morning. The children have social and communication difficulties with possible challenging behaviour and come riding as part of their community integration.
The aim with the younger pupils is to ensure their riding experience is an exciting and joyful event. The experience also helps to develop the child’s sensory skills through touching the pony and feeling its movement.
With the older children, the Group’s coaches and volunteers encourage each rider to develop their riding skills and horse care knowledge through their time with the RDA. It is very rewarding to see how much the children grow in confidence through their riding lessons and fulfil their own personal potential.
Each year in the summer term, the children enjoy taking part in the Summer Rally when they enjoy more time with the ponies. The children put into practice what they have learnt in their horse care lessons by helping to groom and tack up their ponies Riding sessions during this week are longer and if the weather is fine, the riders have the opportunity of riding out in the countryside. The final day of the rally is a celebration of all the children have achieved, with rosettes for all and some special awards too. The children work towards RDA national grades and our activities are monitored by RDA Regional and National inspections.
A large number of volunteers are required to help at the sessions and we always welcome new people to join us. Many of the riders need two side walkers and a volunteer leading the pony for each session, while in our classroom, another group of children are being taught all about horses and their tack. We are a friendly group and enjoy working together and there is no greater reward than seeing the wonderful progress the children make and the fun we all have together. At Christmas and Easter we celebrate with seasonal gymkhana games for the children and ponies.
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.
The Group is very proud of 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.
In 2017 the Group celebrated 40 years and in November 2019 as part of the national RDA 50th birthday celebrations Court Meadow were chosen to be filmed by ITV news and three of our riders were interviewed by reporter and cameraman Malcolm Shaw. What a well deserved honour for our riders and volunteers and a great advert for our Group.