The first Accessibility Mark conference took place at Rein and Shine Riding Centre in Wiltshire, with representatives from all accredited centres invited to attend.
The Accessibility Mark scheme was launched by Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), in partnership with Hoof, the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) participation programme to encourage those who do not already partake in equestrian activities or would not usually have the opportunity to do so, to experience the many benefits that riding can bring.
The day’s events were designed to offer the chance to share experiences as well as provide the opportunity for continued professional development through a series of talks and practical demonstrations.
Leading the demonstrations was Sally-Anne O’Neill who is one of a team of Accessibility Support Officers, and she has been instrumental in the introduction of Showjumping to RDA and regularly delivers training and events.
Heading to the outdoor arena, the first demonstration focused on warm-up exercises for riders, mounting and dismounting, which is one of the most common problems faced by riding schools providing lessons for disabled riders.
During the second demonstration Sally got to share her thoughts on her specialist subject, with an insightful demonstration on polework and an introduction to showjumping, this was particularly useful in providing new ideas that centres can bring to their own Accessibility Mark sessions.
Rein and Shine kindly provided the use of two of their ponies during both the demonstrations.
Two guest speakers, Jennie Espiner and Dom Chambers gave informative talks on understanding and supporting students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the RDA Tracker.
Jennie has worked in education for more than40 years and has been lucky enough to work in a broad range of contexts and settings: colleges, schools, prisons, ex-offender and probation hostels.
As an Action for Inclusion Facilitator for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight she has worked extensively at local, regional and national level to develop provision for learners with additional support needs and particularly those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Dom works as a Tracker Manager at RDA National. The RDA Tracker is a simple to use holistic tool, to track and provide evidence of the changes and outcomes that are delivered through riding. The Tracker shows at a glance where and how much change has taken place during the period of riding. Insights from the Tracker can help identify future targets and goals, enabling centres to tailor lessons and activities accordingly. Tracker information can then be shared with family, carers and schools not only providing the opportunity for a rider to share their achievements, but also for others to build on any changes outside of riding.
The conference was also attended by Bronte Wadge-Dale from The Pony Club who was on hand to talk to the centres about Young Equestrians in partnership with HOOF and also Catherine Holland and Jodie Bratchell, BEF Regional Participation Co-ordinators who were available to discuss HOOF product and participation.
The feedback from the centres that attended was that the conference was hugely beneficial, for networking with other centres, learning the latest techniques on how to deal with the challenges faced by disabled riders, ideas for different type of lessons and how they are structured to finding out how other centres run their Accessibility Mark sessions.
There are currently 26 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk