Cotswold Riding for the Disabled at Cheltenham Racecourse

Cotswold Homes looks at the great work that Cotswold RDA's bespoke therapy centre carries out.

If the North Cotswolds is synonymous with horse racing, then the jewel in the crown of the Sport of Kings is undoubtedly the racecourse at Cheltenham, currently undergoing a multi-million pound expansion programme, where excitement culminates to fever pitch at the Festival each March.

Many tens of thousands of enthusiasts congregate from all over Britain and Ireland to witness the Gold Cup, the grand finale of four glorious days’ horse racing. 

In amongst the pressing crowds will be Cotswold RDA’s plucky volunteers with buckets, who this year braved the freezing cold to raise over £10,000 from generous punters - most of whom, said helpers, had tales of woe in backing the wrong horses but gladly gave their last few coins to support this worthy cause! 

Perhaps few of these visitors will realise that the Cotswold RDA is based at the racecourse, where the charity has founded a bespoke centre that offers fantastic therapy and fun to people with a wide range of disabilities. 

Founded in 1965, the Jackie Brutton Riding School started with just 12 riders who rode on borrowed ponies for two half days a week – celebrating their 50th anniversary as a member group of National Riding for the Disabled this year wth a visit from Princess Anne. The centre now has nine ponies ridden by 180 people of all ages and disabilities, all supported by 120 volunteers - and is still looking to expand.

“Our aim is to ensure all our riders can aspire to achieve a goal, no matter what that might be.  For example, if we can encourage a child or an adult who suffers with autism to communicate and help them make sense of the word, to say walk on for the first time or to spend thirty minutes in the saddle, or even hold their reins, then we know we are making a difference.”

The sense of achievement and enjoyment experienced by disabled riders is profound. After as little as twelve weeks over 80% of riders report greater physical strength and balance, improved confidence, skills and enjoyment in activities, a positive change in their ability and willingness to communicate during lessons and demonstrably improved relationship building skills extending beyond lessons to school and home. As the charity proclaims – it’s what you can do that counts!

The operation costs £140,000 per annum so the charity is always looking for interesting ways to find those funds, from trust foundations to small local fundraisers, but relies most heavily each day on its band of committed volunteers. 

“The charity is very grateful for every hour of time donated towards our cause, knowing how the horses and ponies will light up the faces of our disabled riders, enhancing their day more than words can describe and providing them with the unique opportunity to achieve that mobility only Cotswold RDA can offer. This is what dreams are made of, and is nothing short of life changing for all involved."

“Volunteering at Cotswold RDA couldn’t be easier.  We have loads of different jobs that need doing so volunteers are bound to find something that suits their skills. We ride from Monday through to Thursday and on Sunday during school term.  How many hours volunteers are asked to put in is entirely flexible but the first step is to complete our Volunteer Application Form.”

Cotswold RDA receives no direct grants and relies entirely on the generosity of individuals, businesses and charitable trusts to undertake their activities. There are many ways to make a donation and whichever option you choose, Cotswold RDA truly values all the support it receives. 

With your help, Cotswold RDA can:

  • Provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to find out what they can achieve.
  • Deliver life-changing physiotherapy to more children and adults with disabilities.
  • Offer more chances for independence, social inclusion, confidence building and fun.

T: 01242 584420