RDA UK Fortnightly Newsletter

Keep up to date with RDA UK with our fortnightly newsletter.

Please share with your Group, volunteers and participants.

Page Last Updated: May 22, 2024

Rachel and Mel’s Yorkshire Visit

Rachel King has recently joined the RDA UK team as our new Volunteering Manager, bringing a wealth of experience and passion for supporting groups with recruitment, training, development, and recognition of volunteers. She is looking forward to collaborating with RDA groups to enhance their already incredible work and supporting them to achieve their goals.

Last week, Rachel, along with Melanie Parry, our Volunteer Coordinator, visited Wakefield RDA and North Ferriby RDA in Yorkshire, introducing Rachel to the inspiring world of RDA Groups. 

Wakefield RDA 

Rachel wearing a white polo neck and brown waxed jacket, smiling to camera standing outside a stable, with a black pony with a white blaze looking over the door.

Rachel meets Bill the pony at Wakefield RDA

‘My third week at RDA ended with my first visit to a very snowy Yorkshire! On the 8th of February, I visited Wakefield RDA where Melanie Parry introduced me to Carol and her team (including Bill – what an absolute gent!). A big thank you for having us & giving us your time and showing us around – even in the snow! It’s amazing to see the incredible work you are doing! I absolutely love how much I am learning in each & every conversation with RDA volunteers. 

North Ferriby RDA 

My Yorkshire trip was rounded off with a visit to North Ferriby RDA and all I can say is wow – what a special place. From the moment I walked through the front gate I felt welcomed, and I quickly understood why this is a safe space for so many – participants and volunteers alike. It was great to see some young volunteers in action on the yard, and I particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the group and where it all started. I loved hearing young people’s stories and all about their achievements, as well as the teams’ individual journeys as RDA volunteers. 

Their passion for offering more than just riding at this group absolutely shone through and it was clear to me that people & animals from whatever walk off life could find their place here. To the passionate & dedicated people making this happen and making an impact on so many lives – thank you again and again. I look forward to hearing about all your successes this year and visiting again sometime soon, hopefully in the sunshine!  Dolly & the donkeys made me feel especially welcome (even cheeky Chad who tried to have a munch on my coat). 

Rachel standing in an open yard, next to a pony with a long brown forelock and white face.

Rachel meets Dolly at North Ferriby RDA

Mel looking to camera, standing outside next to a small brown donkey. Mel wears glasses, a stripey scarf and a long blue puffer coat.

Mel meets one of the North Ferriby donkeys

I am really looking forward to connecting with more RDA groups and volunteers over the coming weeks & months to learn from your experiences, and support you in our mission to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities through horses.   – so let me know if you would like a visitor!’  

To get in touch with Rachel… 

e: rking@rda.org.uk 

Page Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Gillian Yarrow Celebrates 50 Years of RDA Service

Gillian Yarrow being presented with a 50 Years of Service Award by North Regional Chair, Pauline Harrison. Gillian and Pauline stand at the centre of a semi-circle of volunteers from Carlise RDA Group.

Gillian Yarrow being presented with a 50 Years of Service Award by North Regional Chair, Pauline Harrison


On the 11th of January 2024 Gillian Yarrow, the Group Chair of Carlisle RDA Group, was presented with the RDA’s 50 Years of Service Award for Volunteering. The award was presented  at a Group lunch by North Regional Chair, Pauline Harrison. Gillian is a dedicated volunteer who for many years has supported participants and volunteers alike through countless competitions, being a regular attender at Regional Qualifiers and the RDA National Championships at Hartpury. In 2023, Gillian’s group celebrated it’s own 50th anniversary, as well as being the host of the North Regional Qualifiers where previous Chair of Trustees and now Honorary Life Vice President, Sam Orde, presented Gillian with an Over and Above Award.

Pauline Harrison, North Regional Chair said:

“I was honoured to present the ‘Long Service’ award to The Chair of Carlisle RDA Group, Gillian Yarrow. Over the fifty years Gillian has inevitably had life difficulties but her dedication, commitment and determination to helping others through RDA never wavered. She has influenced and helped to improve the lives of so many. 

Gillian said to me “I have enjoyed my RDA experience so much, it has taken me so many different places and given me so much“. 

That is typical of Gillian’s outlook and why RDA owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”

Congratulations to Gillian and thank you for your continued dedication to RDA.


Page Last Updated: January 24, 2024

Emma’s Gold Award

Emma receives her Gold Horse care certificate. She is wearing a Christmas Jumper.

Emma receives her Gold Horse care award at Barrow Farm RDA.

Congratulations to RDA participant Emma, from Barrow Farm Riding for the Disabled, on being the first their participant to receive a Gold Award in Horse care.


Emma has cerebral palsy and has been riding at Barrow Farm since she was 15 years old.  Now 10 years later, she has competed successfully both regionally and nationally.    

During the last couple of years some physical difficulties have made riding more difficult for her and she has started carriage driving, which she now loves. Emma has been the Rider Representative on the Trustees since 2012.  She has spoken at fundraising talks for local groups, e.g. Round Tables and has helped at training sessions for volunteers. During the pandemic she was successful in gaining both her Bronze (October 2020) and her Silver (July 2021) Horse Care Awards.  She has been working towards her Gold Award since July 2021.  

The Gold Award consists of 7 modules: 

  • Describing a horse 
  • Grooming 
  • Feeding 
  • Daily care of a horse 
  • The healthy horse 
  • Tack  
  • Farrier  

Emma was helped with her learning by all the coaches at Barrow Farm RDA and would like to thank them for their teaching, their enthusiasm and their support.  They all wrote reports on her knowledge and these were submitted in a portfolio with photos and videos. Emma immersed herself in her learning, taking time to talk to and observe farriers, physiotherapists and saddlers at Barrow Farm and at Ingatestone Saddlers. Her dedication to achieving this award has been amazing and it is very much deserved. 

The award was given to her at Barrow Farm by Barbora Hallam-Skalova, Interim Director of Business Improvement from RDA National during the Barrow Farm Christmas Volunteers’ lunch 2023.  She also received a congratulatory video from Sophie Christiansen, Gold Medal Dressage rider and Emma is now a member of Sophie’s Gold Club.  

Page Last Updated: January 11, 2024

The Cavalier Centre

Philippa Fairhall and Mel Parry on a visit to The Cavalier Centre

Philippa Fairhall and Mel Parry on a visit to The Cavalier Centre

On Thursday 16th November, Mel Parry, our Regional Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator (Yorkshire), and Philippa Fairhall, our new Philanthropy Manager at RDA UK, visited The Cavalier Centre to find out more about two projects run by the group; Stable Relationships (a 12 week 1:1 programme for young people aged between 8-18 with social and emotional problems) and Steps (a 12 week programme delivered in small groups, aimed at out of work adults).  


Both projects focus on emotional wellbeing, mental health and growing confidence and social skills and are drawing in individuals with little to no previous experience of horses.  


It was wonderful to hear firsthand from Rachel Lambert Jones and Jane Johnson the transformation effect of the projects and both Mel and Philippa were very grateful for their time, their shared knowledge and the tour of their amazing centre.  The news of the group’s “Kings Award for Voluntary Service” had just been made public the day before, so it was great to celebrate that and congratulate the whole team on such a prestigious recognition!

Page Last Updated: November 30, 2023

A Visit to Lambourn RDA

On 7th November, our new Philanthropy Manager, Philippa Fairhall, visited Lambourn RDA to meet the team and their Tuesday participants.  It was a busy and enjoyable visit on a beautifully crisp, autumnal morning, with Philippa able to see a group of 7 children from a local special school take part in stable-based activities and riding, as well as two individual riders – a pre-schooler and a young adult – have sessions with their coaches, tailored exactly to their needs.  It was wonderful to chat with teaching assistants, parents and participants and see how much the sessions meant to everyone.  After the morning participants had left, the team also took time to celebrate volunteer Aaron’s 23rd birthday together.  Aaron is a key member of the team, having been a rider with RDA Lambourn since he was 5 years old and the winner of his class at this year’s National Championship’s Countryside Challenge. Aaron has now finished his college course (which included his passion, equine care) and volunteers with the group in various roles up to 6 days a week.  Aaron’s quiet confidence around the horses and his friendship with his fellow volunteers was a clear example of, “It’s what you can do that counts”.  

A huge thank you to Frances Lochrane and whole team who hosted Philippa; it was a great learning experience for Philippa who, new into her role, was very keen to see our work in action before meeting major donors around the country and getting them fired up about our work.

Page Last Updated: November 30, 2023

The Pat Straughan Award 2023 – Khianna Lucas-Young, Bradbourne RDA

Pat Straughan Winner 2023 Khianna Lucas-Young being presented her award by Barbora Hallam-Skalova at the South-East Regional Conference.

Pat Straughan Winner 2023 Khianna Lucas-Young being presented her award by Barbora Hallam-Skalova at the South-East Regional Conference.


On the 25th of October 2023, the Pat Straughan Award was presented at the South-East Regional Conference. The winner of such a prestigious award this year was Khianna Lucas-Young from Bradbourne RDA.  


7 years ago, aged 7, Khianna was diagnosed with leukemia and began a long course of chemotherapy that ended in August 2018.  Soon after she relapsed which resulted in more chemotherapy and radiotherapy before a bone marrow transplant in February 2019, during which time she was in hospital for five months. 

After her treatment, Khianna’s life returned to a “sort of normal” and she returned to school, but on 1 March 2020 she woke and wasn’t able to walk.   She was rushed to hospital but within a few days she was paralysed from the neck down and completely blind. An MRI resulted in a diagnosis of neuromyelitis optical – inflammation of the spinal cord and optical nerve. Khianna and her nan spent the whole of the first Covid lockdown together at Kings Hospital followed by lengthy rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville.    

In November 2021 that Khianna started riding at Bradbourne, having never ridden before. At first she was in a wheelchair, and she rode on the lead rein, but she learned the letters of the school almost immediately and, with speakers and volunteers at letters, she was soon riding independently and finding her way around the indoor school. Just 5 months after her first riding lesson, with immense motivation, concentration and love for what she was doing, Khianna competed in her first dressage test in Walk in April 2022 at Felbridge. Her coach walked around the arena with her, and she did an amazing test. Her next test in May was in an arena on her own at Plumpton and it was here that she qualified for the National Championships. However, it was not to be as it was the weekend of the 2022 heatwave and Bradbourne made the difficult decision not to attend.   

Khianna no longer uses a wheelchair, though her mobility is still compromised, and she never regained her eyesight, and in September last year she began to learn to trot. She was utterly determined to compete in a Walk / Trot test for the Regional Qualifier and to continue to challenge herself.   

What is particularly amazing about Khianna is her always positive attitude, her love and appreciation for her RDA pony, Patch, and the way she inspires every single volunteer who has met her.  She is courageous and full of laughter and humour but committed to improve and push herself to achieve. Though she is nervous before competitions she has a determination that is not often seen, especially in someone so young and who has experienced such life changing illness.    

Khianna qualified at the Regional Dressage event this May at Hickstead and many were in tears. She went on to compete at Hartpury, riding an incredible test and finishing 1st in her Walk & Trot Class.  What an incredible achievement and what a testament to her courage, warmth and beautiful nature. 

The award was presented by Director of Business Improvement at RDAUK, Barbora Hallam Skalova. Barbora said: “I felt truly privileged to be asked to present Khianna with her award. It’s moments like these that remind me of the incredible joy and impact that comes with working for RDA. It’s not just a job; it’s a privilege to be part of such a meaningful community. 

Citation written by Khianna’s Coach, Jenna Leight, SE Region Coach 

Adapted by Pauline Roestenburg, SE Region Chair 

Page Last Updated: November 15, 2023

The Dudley-Smith Award Winners 2023

Helena Vega-Lozano and Ann Miller, Maryculter Carriage Driving group, presenting the Dudley-Smith 2023 Award

Helena Vega-Lozano and Ann Miller, Maryculter Carriage Driving group

Susan Dudley-Smith Award Winners 2023: Ann Miller, George Masson and Arthur Ingram with pony Brodie

Susan Dudley-Smith Award Winners 2023: Ann Miller, George Masson and Arthur Ingram with pony Brodie














The Dudley Smith award is presented to volunteers who have gone ‘over and above’ in supporting carriage driving. This year’s recipients were Ann Miller, George Masson and Arthur Ingram of Maryculter Carriage Driving group who worked tirelessly through the winter, (in the North East of Scotland) to train and prepare their new pony Brodie for assessment so the group would be able to resume in the spring. They were nominated by the Regional Driving Rep for Grampian and Highlands, Diana Milligan, who herself was recognised by Ann Miller as having given huge support to the group.

The award was presented at the recent Grampian & Highland regional gathering by Helena Vega-Lozano who spent 2 days on a visit to the region where she visited the ARC Hippotherapy  and the Highland  Groups as well as spending the afternoon with  45 coaches and  volunteers at the Gathering.

Page Last Updated: November 15, 2023

A Day with the Royal Forest of Dean RDA

October 2023

At National Office at RDAUK, it is essential for members of staff to get out into the volunteer network, to connect with our members and see the people that our activities directly benefit. On the Thursday the 19th of October, Barbora Hallam Skalova Director of Business Improvement at RDAUK, visited the Royal Forest of Dean Driving group. She was also joined by the new Chair Elect Helena Vega-Lozano, Regional Driving Rep Anne Coney and Regional Chair Rachel Vaughan-Johns – who also organised and hosted the visit.  

Barbora’s Travels… 

Well, what can I say, it was simply wonderful to see a group of volunteers so dedicated to our cause! We were greeted by Elizabeth Stephens, and I met with experienced coaches and volunteers, who take care of administrative tasks, logistics, health and safety, escort and most importantly make the most wonderful cups of tea with an array of biscuits.  

I also had a go at driving the carriage under the watchful eye of experienced coach David. It’s much harder than you think, but I really enjoyed it. The most wonderful experience of the day was to see the sheer delight of the participants- some even sing along! 

I know how important role RDA play in lives of many, but to go out there and see it, it’s really heartfelt and makes everything we do worth it. 

Barbora Hallam Skalova and David carriage driving.

Barbora Hallam Skalova, Director of Business and Improvement, and David carriage driving.


Helena Vega-Lozano carriage driving with the Royal Forest of Dean Group.

Chair Elect Helena Vega-Lozano having a go at carriage driving with David.

Anne Coney carriage driving.

National Championships Lead, Anne Coney and David carriage driving.

Page Last Updated: November 1, 2023

Building Relationships and Exploring Partnerships in Scotland

September 2023

Team RDA touring the equine facilities at SNEC.

Team RDA touring the equine facilities at SNEC.


The Edinburgh and Borders Region recently hosted Lisa Davies, Head of Communications & Insight, and Sam Dixon, Trusts Fundraiser, from RDA UK. Accompanied by Kim McCutcheon, Regional Chair and Barbara Manson, Trustee, they visited West Lothian Group, Ravelrig Group and Muirfield Riding Therapy (MRT).

The trip was designed to show the differing Group operating models at work, and showcase the breadth of RDA activities on offer, within the Region. The team met with volunteers and participants, including National Championships competitor Margaret Lupton, from Borders Group. In addition, representatives from the Region, National Office and MRT met with the Scottish National Equine College (SNEC) to discuss a potential equine training partnership (subject to securing funding).  

Sam Dixon measuring how many hands high she is!

Sam Dixon measures up at SNEC!


Lisa said: ‘It was an inspiring and insightful trip for those of us new to RDA. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience at work within RDA Groups, and really helpful for us to be able to see this in action; build relationships; and gain a greater depth of understanding. We’re very grateful to Kim for facilitating this visit, and for everyone who gave us such a warm RDA welcome’.      


Page Last Updated: November 1, 2023