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RDA Celebrates 50 Years at National Championships

Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 by Sasha Melia

The celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of RDA are set to be in full swing throughout the RDA National Championships which take place at Hartpury College in Gloucester on July 12 -14.

RDA’s flagship annual event brings together hundreds of competitors of all abilities in events including carriage driving, Countryside Challenge, dressage, show-jumping, vaulting and showing.

Marking its own 25th anniversary in 2019, the Championships have grown bigger than the Paralympics and Para World Championships combined.

Riders from all over the country compete, having qualified at regional competitions and leave not just with the odd rosette, but with a sense of achievement and a few new friends.

The opening day will feature a special anniversary parade to recognise all the activities that RDA has developed over the past 50 years, focusing on everything from holidays and education to the achievements of its participants and the importance of its volunteers.

A number of RDA’s 50 Faces will be participating in the action at the Championships. Here, Anne Brown tells us her own inspiring story and about what it is like to compete in the amazing atmosphere at Hartpury.

“I was always animal-mad as a child but only started riding when my own children were small. Luckily they were as horse-mad as me but I gave up when I was diagnosed with MS in 2003.

Six years later in 2009, I started riding with RDA as a challenge to test my boundaries as there were so many things I could no longer do.

I have still yet to find the boundaries with riding. I might not be able to walk to the end of my street but I can get on a horse and ride a couple of miles over ground that my mobility scooter would never be able to manage.

As well as participating as a rider, I volunteer and I am a Regional Participants Representative. Most people have heard of me as I am known as the old woman that got the RDA slogan, ‘It’s what you can do that counts’, tattooed on my bottom as a crazy fundraising idea!

RDA is now close to the heart of my whole family as my daughter is a volunteer trainee assistant coach and my granddaughter, who has autism, participates as a rider and in vaulting.

2019 will be the fourth time that I have competed at the National Championships at Hartpury.

I will be competing on the final day of the event in the Grade Three Championship Test and also the Grade Three Freestyle Dressage to Music riding Basil, a wonderful 15h Connemara cross, owned by the amazing Evelyn Lapsley.

Evelyn very kindly lets me ride Basil and even drives the lorry and acts as groom!

The championships are one of the most amazing things I have been to. The atmosphere is great and disability is so commonplace there that everyone just ignores it and speaks to the person behind it.

We are all there with a common purpose, to compete against ourselves and to revel in the love of horses and the freedom they can give us.

If someone does well, there is fantastic support and congratulations all round because we all know how good it makes the person feel and how good it is for your self-esteem.

In this world of disability we are faced with many ‘can’t do’s’ and getting good marks or good comments is a ‘can do’ which is good for everyone!”

You can read Anne’s story, and meet the other 49 Faces of RDA at


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