Get yourself active blog

Mr Williams – The Perfect Horse

Thursday 23 November 2017

Here we find out how a mechanical horse named after Robbie Williams is providing a stepping stone for disabled riders to achieve their goal of riding a real horse.

A mechanical horse called ‘Mr Williams’ is helping disabled riders at a Cumbria riding school to gain confidence in the saddle.

Mr Williams has been part of the equine team at Happy Hooves Riding Centre since 2014, when owner Alison Noble purchased him realising he was a valuable asset for their equine therapy courses, and he was the only mechanical horse in the area at the time.

As an Accessibility Mark accredited centre, Happy Hooves also saw the benefit that Mr Williams, could bring to their disabled clients.

Riding for the Disabled Association, in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation’s participation programme, launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with commercial riding centres with the aim of getting more disabled people to participate in riding.

There are many advantages to riding a horse simulator for anyone learning to ride but there are particular benefits for disabled riders, providing a safe and controlled way for riders to gain confidence before riding a real horse.

Getting on a horse for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you have a condition that limits freedom of movement or are easily distressed by changes in your environment.

Mr Williams, the mechanical horse at Happy Hooves Riding centre.

Unlike with a real horse, the instructor can remain in complete control, so if the rider wishes to stop, they can do at the push of a button. This can prove helpful when teaching riders with learning difficulties, who can also make sudden movements and noises which could unsettle a horse or pony.

Mr Williams will progress from walk to canter, offering the same life like action of a horse, with a therapeutic lateral action found in all of his gaits, which can improve muscle tone and strength.

An interactive visual screen enables riders to experience riding through different locations that range from a stroll through a village, to a hack through the woods or even a canter on the beach. Along the way there are milestones and features that allow the rider to engage with the environment, such as posting a letter or visiting a farmyard which is a useful educational tool for those with learning disabilities.

The interactive screen allows riders to experience riding through different locations and can be a useful educational tool for riders with learning disabilities.

The aim is for riders to progress to riding a real horse but for some this is simply not possible as their muscles are too weak. However, the simulator still provides the opportunity to get involved and take part in a physical activity.

Alison explains the importance of the mechanical horse to the clients at Happy Hooves:

“We cater for a wide range of disabled riders from children to adults with learning difficulties that vary in severity. Mr Williams gives them an insight into what it is like to ride a real horse, helping to develop confidence, muscle strength and coordination, as well as a real sense of achievement.

“If the rider gets tired easily we can take a break whilst they are still mounted, giving the instructor time to adjust their position and posture to help them attain a more natural position.”

Mr Williams gained his name as Alison is such an avid fan of the singer Robbie Williams.

“Giving him a name helps bring him to life and riders develop a fondness for him in much the same way as riders form a bond with a real horse.

“Looking to the future we are hoping to be able to purchase a hoist so more riders can enjoy the benefits both physically and mentally from riding a mechanical horse,”

added Alison.

There are currently 40 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit

If you are disabled and would like to take part in our research about how physical activity and sport is presented to disabled people then click here, and you could receive a £15 Amazon voucher.

Join Swim England’s free Just Swim membership and get the most out of your swimming!

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Swim England launched their Just Swim membership earlier this year, aimed at supporting individuals across the country to get more out of their swimming.

It is free to join as a member and is perfect for anybody focused on a personal swimming goal, looking to improve their technique, or working on their swimming fitness.

If you join Just Swim, you can enjoy lots of exclusive benefits, which include:

You can find out more about our Just Swim membership here, or you can join for free online here.

Take part in our research and receive a £15 Amazon Voucher

Rural Business Awards Success For Accessibility Mark Centres

Friday 10 November 2017

Two Accessibility Mark accredited riding centres have received recognition at the Rural Business Awards (RBAs) 2017.

Divoky Riding School based in Somerset was judged the winner in the Best Rural Sporting Business category, with Radway Riding School based in Warwickshire crowned runner-up.

Pat Bishop from Divoky Riding School was presented with the prestigious award at a glittering awards ceremony held at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey that was compered by Jules Hudson of BBC Escape to the Country fame.

The only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural businesses, the awards are now in their third year and are run in partnership with the Country Land and Business Association  and Amazon.

Judges felt Divoky was an inspired business with ‘excellent social credentials’ which successfully combined teaching with grazing and conservation.

Divoky Riding School is a BHS Approved riding school on the Mendip Hills between Frome and Shepton Mallet, providing riding opportunities for all, including disabled riders. It offers BHS qualifications plus training to children who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), or partially excluded from school, in equine studies or land management. The school also works with the National Trust as graziers on the Large Blue Butterfly site at Collards hill, using riding school ponies.

Riding for the Disabled Association, in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation’s participation programme, launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with commercial riding centres with the aim of getting more disabled people to participate in riding.

Pat Bishop from Divoky Riding School said,

“Since I started Divoky Riding School in 1999 we have steadily grown our team and our facilities to become a really successful business. With outstanding coaches, our students get the very best training and our location in the Somerset countryside is ideal.

“For our work to be highlighted at the Rural Business Awards is a wonderful achievement and I’m delighted to have picked up the award on behalf of our team.”

Radway Riding School were thrilled to be announced runner-up in the same category, with the judges commenting on their fantastic stability and financial growth, as well as making a massive contribution to engaging young people and providing opportunities to introduce them to the equestrian sector, both riding and working.

Maggie Boswell from Radway Riding School said,

“The competition for this year’s Best Rural Sporting Business was really tough and we’re really happy to be taking home the runner-up prize. It has been great being involved in this year’s Rural Business Awards programme and maybe next year we’ll be back and go one better to take home the top prize.

Maggie Boswell and Jane Holdsworth from Radway Riding School who were judged runners up in the Best Sporting Rural Business Category at the Rural Business Awards 2017

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 it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial.

There are currently 38 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit

For more information contact Jacqueline Spouge or Tim Smith at TSM on 01724 784600.

Take part in our research and receive a £15 Amazon Voucher

Minister announces new partnership to support disabled people being active

Friday 10 November 2017

Former Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health and now the International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt MP has unveiled plans for a pioneering cross-sector scheme to give disabled people and those with long-term health conditions better access to physical activity opportunities.

The cross-sector initiative – to be led by ukactive, Sport England, Disability Rights UK and the English Federation of Disability Sport – will aim to remove barriers to physical activity for disabled people so they can tap into its myriad benefits.

Speaking at the ukactive National Summit in Westminster last week (November 1st) the former Minister said:

“The aim of this partnership is to create a cultural shift and change in perceptions around disabled people’s participation in physical activity, and to create a national ambition within the physical activity sector to become more inclusive for disabled people.

In order to accomplish this, the partnership is developing a project which will take an holistic approach to the sector.

The scheme will identify the baseline of current activity levels, facility usage and sector engagement, and bring together insight from disabled people and operators within the sector. It will explore the customer journey that disabled people experience and – as The Minister noted detail “the difficulties disabled people experience in participating in physical activity”.

The initiative will also create flagship sites with six operators – PureGym, David Lloyd Leisure, Everyone Active, Virgin Active, Greenwich Leisure Limited and Places for People – who were praised by the Minister for supporting the development of the scheme. They will test, validate, and promote the changes that can be made to improve disabled people’s active use of leisure facilities.

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK, said:

“Disabled people are less active because they have traditionally been excluded from the leisure industry and other physical activity provision. They have told us that the barriers they face include lack of information, support and physical access. We look forward to being part of this partnership with ukactive, Sport England and English Federation of Disability Sport to break down the barriers that exclude us.

“At Disability Rights UK we work hard to ensure that disabled people have the same rights as others to live good lives and play an equal part in society. We feel that our involvement in this exciting new partnership will help us towards achieving this vision.

“I look forward to the work the partnership will do to open up leisure facilities to all disabled people, it signals a positive change in approaches to engaging disabled people which we are really happy to see. On a personal level, I look forward to being able to go into leisure facilities and actually use the equipment and activities available.”

You can read the whole press release with quotes from ukactive, Sport England and the English Federation of Disability Sport here.

For further information, please contact ukactive Head of Communications Jak Phillips on 07958 119320, or email: 

Social workers needed to support with health and wellbeing research and receive a £25 gift voucher. Find out more.

Applications for the London Marathon 2017 for Disability Rights UK – Open Now

Wednesday 8 November 2017

DR UK is now recruiting runners for London Marathon 2018 and we need you!

Are you eager to make a difference? Ready to make a change for the people with disabilities across the UK? We are devoted to campaigning to strengthen and protect disabled people’s rights and you can help us to raise money to support the work we do. The money that you raise goes straight back into the work the charity does in supporting some of the most disadvantaged people in society. We receive no government funding for our core work so the money raised really does make a difference!

Join #TeamDRUK and apply to run the Virgin London Marathon! By joining us you will receive:

  • Running Vest or T-Shirt
  • Fundraising advice, ideas and support
  • Weekly emails for encouraging advice and training tips
  • Your Story published on our website

Any Questions?  Contact Chelsey on: 0207 250 8196 /

REGISTRATION FEE £150                                     MINIMUM TARGET £1700

*If you reach £1700 or over, we will return your registration fee*

Don’t Fancy Running the Marathon but want to come along and Cheer with the team? Email me with your details and we can arrange for you to join our squad of volunteers on the day ready and willing to cheer on #TeamDRUK

Take part in our research and receive a £15 Amazon Voucher

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Get Yourself Active and the University of Birmingham want to find out what you think about how information about physical activity and sport is presented to disabled people.

You can do this in your home. It would take in total about 15 minutes of your time.

The project

Disability Rights UK has partnered with University of Birmingham to conduct a study into how we produce knowledge and information about physical activity aimed at disabled people.

Our findings

Disability Rights UK has been working with partners in disabled people’s user led organisations to develop models of practice to support more disabled people to be active locally. The evidence we will gather from this research will help us to understand how disabled people want physical activity knowledge to be communicated.

Who should take part in the research?

We would like to hear from you…

  • If you consider yourself disabled and affected by one or more of the following impairments: amputation, spinal cord injury, restricted growth, Cerebral Palsy, visual impairment, hearing impairment
  • If you have been unable to take part regularly in physical activity or sport for a while
  • If you are over the age of 18

How to get involved

Get in touch with us if you are interested in taking part in our research and give us your name and the best way for the researcher to contact you. We will then arrange a time for you to take part in the researcher from your own home. Once your bit is done you will receive your £15 Amazon voucher. You may also randomly be selected to receive £100 Amazon Voucher!

Who to contact

Eva Jaarsma – Research Fellow at University of Birmingham


Read more about the partnership between Get Yourself Active and the University of Birmingham.