News catgories


What Riding For The Disabled Association Means To Me

Posted on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 by Sasha Melia

2019 has been a very special year for Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and throughout this anniversary year the 50 Faces campaign has been highlighting the amazing people that make the organisation so diverse and inspiring.

As the year draws to a close we decided to catch up with a few of the 50 Faces to find out what RDA means to them.

Yolanda Hansford

Yolanda Hansford began riding with Yeovil and Sherborne RDA in 1974 on the recommendation of her orthopaedic consultant as a form of therapy for scoliosis.

Having been born with a narrowing of the aorta, throughout childhood Yolanda was in and out of hospital, and discovering RDA was the first time in her life that she felt in charge of something.

Following open heart surgery for the third time, Yolanda was diagnosed with lung disease and was devastated to have to give up riding. She then discovered RDA Carriage Driving that enabled her to carry on life with her beloved horses, regularly competing, going on carriage driving holidays and even representing her RDA Group at Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Said Yolanda: “I became Regional Chair for RDA in the South West last year, which has enabled me to not only champion the work RDA does, but at the same time be able to give something back. After all, the RDA has given me so many wonderful experiences and memories that will last forever.”

Lesley Morrill

Lesley Morrill has been a volunteer at Hope In The Valley RDA since 1985. She has taken on a number of tough challenges to raise much needed funds for RDA, even becoming a member of the 100 Marathon Club.

Completing 100 marathons in two years and six months, Lesley became the oldest woman to start doing marathons and reach the one hundred mark.

The challenges helped remind Lesley of the difficulties faced by RDA riders on a daily basis.

Said Lesley: “We all have different reasons for volunteering with RDA but for me it is the joy of seeing the riders succeed and helping someone to be a part of something. It’s not about rosettes; it is about what you can do for someone to give them a better quality of life.”

Mike Butcher

For Mike Butcher, horses have always been a release. Growing up in a complicated family environment meant he has always appreciated the benefits of spending time with horses.

After leaving school at 16 he had one ambition and that was to work with horses and he was introduced to RDA when he volunteered as part of a college course. This inspired Mike to become an RDA Coach as with his experience he could see how he could help the riders progress.

One of Mike’s proudest achievements is the pivotal role that he played in introducing show jumping as an RDA discipline, adding an exciting challenge to RDA sessions.

Said Mike: “I am always proud to see riders improving year on year at the National Championships. I see all the benefits of RDA – it’s proven, it’s a fact, with the help of the excellent structures they have in place, RDA works.”

Sam Cyrus

Sam Cyrus is a participant and volunteer at Wormwood Scrubs RDA. She began riding about 30 years ago and would cry every time the volunteers tried to take her off the pony.

After leaving school she began volunteering and has just completed her British Horse Society Certificate in Horse Knowledge.

Said Sam: “RDA has encouraged me to push me out of my comfort zone, to do things that I have never done before. RDA has helped me to believe that I can do anything.”

For further information visit

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Foraging – Things to be mindful of

Posted on Thursday, October 24, 2019 by Sasha Melia

Throughout the year there are various foods that horses can forage and whilst there are a few that are safe favourites, such as blackberries and cow parsley, sometimes it can be hard to know what is safe for them to eat and what isn’t. Some plants lurking in our fields and hedgerows can be toxic and horses are not always discerning when it comes to their choices. It’s always best to be prepared, especially during autumn and winter, when horses may be foraging more. In Autumn as the leaves begin to fall, one particular risk is Sycamore Poisoning, a potentially fatal illness caused by horses ingesting Sycamore seeds.

Sycamore poisoning

Sycamore, or ‘helicopter’ seeds as they are sometimes known, fall mainly in the Autumn and Whilst it is a clear sign that the weather is changing and the colder nights are approaching, Sycamore seeds can be very dangerous for horses and potentially fatal.

Atypical Myopathy is an illness caused by horses ingesting Sycamore seeds. It can affect horses of all ages and it is particularly common during autumn. Research in the USA has revealed the cause to be a toxin called Hypoglycin-A.

The most common misdiagnosis in cases of Atypical Myopathy is colic, as the first symptoms can appear very similar.

The disease is characterised by acute damage to the horse’s respiratory, cardiac and skeletal (or postural) muscles and symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Heart problems

  • Considerable pain that can result in the horse lying flat out

Petplan Equine Ambassador and Veterinary Surgeon Juliette Edmonds comments, “cases of Atypical Myopathy are thankfully rare, but we do see a rise in those affected during autumn. This is associated with the change in weather conditions. The illness is often fatal, supportive treatment can be given, but there is unfortunately no cure.  Symptoms range from obvious lethargy and weakness to sweating and signs similar to Colic. Horses affected by the illness may become so weak that they are unable to stand and their urine will appear red/brown as the muscle breakdown products are excreted”.

As always, prevention is better than cure,” adds Petplan Equine Ambassador and Veterinary Surgeon Katie Preston. “The best way to reduce the risk of horses ingesting sycamore seeds is to not allow turn out if the pasture is encompassed by a Sycamore tree and remove the tree if you can. Although some seeds carry the toxin and others don’t and some horses can tolerate it to a certain extent while others can’t, I would advise not even risking it.”

For more information on Sycamore poisoning, head to the Petplan Equine website

If you are concerned about your horse or feel they are showing any symptoms of Atypical Myopathy call your vet immediately.

07.04.2018. , Cranbrook, Kent, England. Petplan Photoshoot. Stephen Bartholomew/Stephen Bartholomew Photography

07.04.2018. , Cranbrook, Kent, England. Petplan Photoshoot. Stephen Bartholomew/Stephen Bartholomew Photography

18 August 2015, Petplan Photoshoot Stephen Bartholomew/Stephen Bartholomew Photography.

18 August 2015, Petplan Photoshoot Stephen Bartholomew/Stephen Bartholomew Photography.


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