Disabled people have more opportunities than ever to take up horse riding after the groundbreaking Accessibility Mark scheme reached a significant milestone.
Sparsholt College in Hampshire this week became the 50th equestrian centre to receive Accessibility Mark accreditation, meeting all the criteria set out by the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) for it to host programmes for disabled riders.
The RDA and the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) launched the accreditation scheme in 2014 to work with riding centres with the aim of opening up more opportunities for disabled people to participate.
Accessibility Mark started out as a unique pilot project with a small number of centres contributing to equestrian sports’ Olympic and Paralympic legacy, to build on the phenomenal rise in awareness of disability sport that London 2012 created.
The idea behind commercial riding centres attaining the accreditation is to encourage them to open their doors to more disabled riders after extensive research found that there is a high unmet demand for riding opportunities for disabled people.
The accreditation also offers each centre and its staff support, giving advice and guidance drawing on the extensive expertise of the RDA on everything from appropriate lesson planning to the use of specialist equipment.
Lead Accessibility Mark Support Officer, Lizzie Hill said: “When we launched the project four years ago we knew there were centres who felt they needed more support but we couldn’t predict how popular they would become.
“The centres we work with are really trying to open their doors to more disabled clients and we are definitely seeing a difference in numbers of people taking up the sport, and also a growth in confidence of those centres we work with.”
The milestone is particularly significant as the RDA head in to their 50th anniversary year in 2019, with events planned throughout the year, including the opening of the new National Training Centre.
Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that they offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure they provide a first-class service and a hugely beneficial experience.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk