Get yourself active blog

Cerebral Palsy Sport launch the Around Britain #CPCan Challenge for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

Thursday 14 February 2019

March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. It’s a time for celebrating and educating, and Cerebral Palsy Sport are recognising the month by sharing the impact of its work and setting a new exciting fundraising challenge.

Around 2-2.5 in every 1000 children in the UK are born with cerebral palsy, and there are an estimated 30,000 children with cerebral palsy in the UK.

Cerebral Palsy Sport have today officially launched the #CPCan Challenge, a challenge open to everyone to walk, cycle, swim, throw, kick or jump as far as possible during the month of March, with the target of a combined distance of the British Coastline – 17,819.88km.

Stories of the challenge will be shared through the Cerebral Palsy Sport website and social media platforms, and donations can be made through the dedicated Just Giving page.

Cerebral Palsy Sport are also encouraging people to use the hashtag #CPCan throughout March – a positive message to everyone that those with Cerebral Palsy can achieve amazing things and reach their own goals. There is even a special #CPCan photo frame for anyone to use during the month which can be activated here. Further fundraising ideas for March can also be found here.

Cerebral Palsy Sport is the country’s leading national disability sports charity supporting people with cerebral palsy to reach their sporting potential and putting people with cerebral palsy and their families at the heart of everything we do.

Our 2019 Sport Development programme consists of many events and activities that will provide opportunities for children, young people and adults to access sport, often for the first time who can then continue to participate on a regular basis. To find the full list of events we have planned please click here

Sign up to the #CPCan Challenge today here.

For further information, please contact Sally Drummond, National Disability Sport Engagement Officer: sandydrummond@cpsport.org  or 0115 9257027 or visit the website www.cpsport.org.

In other news: New dementia-friendly physical activity and sport guide.

New dementia-friendly physical activity and sport guide

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Sport England and the Alzheimer’s Society have collaborated to produce a guide to support the sector to get people with Alzheimer’s and dementia more active.

This guide is being used to equip the physical activity and sport sector with the resources and knowledge they require to unite against dementia.

It aims to inform and educate individuals and organisations so they have a better understanding of dementia and how it affects people. It also provides tools and guidance so that the sector can help more people affected by dementia lead more active lives.

Approximately 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia and they face countless barriers when becoming or remaining active, preventing them from reaping the benefits that being active brings.

By becoming dementia-friendly, leisure centres, gyms, sports clubs and community centres can enjoy the benefits of improved customer experiences, increased revenue, better staff retention and help those with dementia to live happier, healthier lives.

The project as a whole is part of Sport England’s £1.3 million investment of National Lottery money into the Richmond Group of Charities, who work with those with long-term health conditions, to help them get active.

Download the ‘Dementia-friendly sport and physical activity guide’ here. 

In other news: Inclusive Sports Programme Ends Successful Year With An Award Win

Riding for the Disabled Association marks its 50th anniversary year with its 50 Faces campagin

Monday 7th January 2019

To celebrate its 50th anniversary year in 2019, Riding for the Disabled Association is marking the milestone through its 50 Faces campaign, telling the stories of some of the amazing people who make RDA the extraordinary organisation it is today.

Designed to challenge preconceptions about disability and volunteering, and to celebrate the diversity and inclusiveness of RDA, 50 Faces features a collage of portraits, as well as the surprising and often moving stories of horse riders, carriage drivers and volunteers from all over the UK.

“A 50th anniversary could be a time for looking back, but we wanted to celebrate where we are now, as leaders in disability sport, and also look to our future – helping even more disabled people to benefit from time with horses,” says Caroline Ward, Communications Manager at RDA UK. “50 Faces is an engaging and interactive way for people to find out more about what we do – and will hopefully inspire more people to get involved.”

Here we meet… Phoebe Boyce

Phoebe Boyce

Phoebe Boyce first experienced horse riding when she was eight-years-old before she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Due to her undiagnosed condition, Phoebe found new experiences difficult and felt misunderstood.

School was also challenging for Phoebe, who would often bottle up her feelings only for them to explode at home and as she is hyper-sensitive to noises and smells, her teachers found this difficult to understand.

Phoebe, from Derbyshire and her family, including mum Abi were hugely relived when she was finally diagnosed.

A few years later Phoebe began to think about horse riding once again and discovered RDA’s website when googling about horse riding for disabled people.

In April 2017, Phoebe started riding at Scropton RDA Group. Her first lesson was a group ride, where she was led by a volunteer so they could assess how capable she was.

Phoebe progressed really quickly and widened her knowledge by reading books and watching You Tube videos in her spare time away from the stables.

Phoebe (sat at the front of the wooden horse) and her friends from Scropton RDA

After a few months of riding, even though she is allergic to horses Phoebe joined the stable club and started volunteering on a Saturday morning, helping out with the other children and looking after the horses, which boosted her confidence and helped her make new friends.

She is now a member of the Scropton RDA Team and participates in showjumping and dressage, qualifying for the RDA National Championships in 2018, where she finished 7th in her showjumping category.

Phoebe said:

“The thing about RDA that makes me keep coming back is the feeling of a community and being a part of something. The staff and volunteers are all so kind and I love the thrill of horse riding and learning new things. Also, I have made lots of new friends.

“Being part of RDA helps me in other aspects of my life as it gives me something to look forward to during the week and I have gained so much confidence with meeting new people and being more independent.

“I feel I challenge misconceptions about disability because many people don’t realise I actually have a disability, as it’s invisible. RDA treat me the same as everyone else, I get the support and help I need to improve my riding and I feel included, unlike at other places where I feel like an outsider.

“Many people with autism find it hard to socialise, and although I also have these difficulties I still enjoy volunteering and meeting and helping all the riders.”

Phoebe’s mum, Abi is incredibly proud of her achievements:

“It is nice for Phoebe to do something independently without me around. When she started volunteering, I could drop her off and then come back later.

“To be able to leave her somewhere she is safe and happy is wonderful. She has made new friends and even researched and found the 50 Faces campaign herself and wanted to be included.”

You can read Phoebe’s story, and meet the other 49 Faces of RDA at www.rda.org.uk.

In other news: Horses are amazing animals that have the ability to make a real difference to people’s lives.

 

DR UK Chair of the Board of Trustees Martin Stevens awarded OBE in Queen’s New Year’s Honours list

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Martin Stevens has been awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his services to people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Martin Stevens, 55, was diagnosed with MS in 1995 and has been supporting people with the condition and other disabilities for more than two decades. He began volunteering with the MS Society following his MS diagnosis, serving in various roles, including as chair of the Macclesfield group, and as a trustee until 2014.

Mr Stevens, who lives with his wife and two teenage children in Macclesfield, is currently a trustee at the MSIF, a global network of MS organisations. He is also Chair of the Board of Trustees at charity Disability Rights UK.

Mr Stevens said:

“To be appointed OBE is a fantastic and unexpected honour. Being diagnosed with MS in 1995 was a life changing event. For more than 20 years I have been able to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for people affected by multiple sclerosis both here in the UK and across the world.

“More recently with Disability Rights UK, I have had the opportunity to work more widely on equal participation for all people affected by disabilities. Through this journey I have been privileged to work with dedicated teams and inspirational people.”

Patricia Gordon, Acting Chief Executive at the MS Society, said:

 “Martin has made an enormous contribution to the MS community and supported people with MS over many years, and I’m thrilled he’s been recognised in this way.

“More than 100,000 people in the UK are affected by MS, and through his experience living with the condition and his dedication as a volunteer and Trustee, Martin will have helped many of them.”

Peer Baneke, Chief Executive Officer of MSIF, said:

“Martin has contributed a great deal, both within the UK and at global level, drawing attention to issues that are crucial from the perspective of people with MS. Two issues have particularly benefited from Martin’s attention and advocacy. The first is how the quality of life of a person with MS is closely linked to that of their families, friends and loved ones. When one is affected, so is the other.

“The second issue Martin has driven forward is that every person with MS, wherever they live in the world, should have access to effective medicines, treatment and healthcare – an aim which the global MSIF movement is now actively pursuing.”

 Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, added:

 “We’re delighted that Martin has been recognised for his local, national and international work around disability and disability issues over the last 20 years.

“His commitment to disability rights, and vision for disabled people to be treated equally, has been a key element of his contribution to our work. We have really appreciated having his experience and passion to draw on during his time as a board member, and chair, of the organisation.”

In other news: Latest Active Lives Survey: Small gains yet somewhat significant ones

Latest Active Lives Survey: Small gains yet somewhat significant ones

Thursday 8 November 2018

The latest results for the Active Lives Survey were released. Leo Capella, Outgoing Communications Officer for Get Yourself Active provides some reaction and analysis to the results.

Something that’s slipped quietly below the radar are the latest results from the Active Lives Survey done by Sport England. Which is a shame as actually there’s some positive news from these statistics to talk about for disabled people.

The number of disabled people that are active (150 mins+ of physical active) crept up by 0.2% from the first survey which was done in November 2015-2016. With the population of disabled people who were classed as inactive decreasing by 0.9%.

The amount of people with disabilities who’ve been fairly  active (30-149 minutes) rose.

Mirrored trend in England of people as a whole becoming less physically inactive which fell by 0.3%.

These statistics have been fuelled by the rise of people with one impairment doing more physical activity. For example the percentage with people with 1 impairment who were inactive fell by 1.6%.

Although this small change may be seen as insignificant due to the small figure, we think it is significant as this increase means that thousands of disabled people have chosen to become more physically active. After all, this percentage rise represents 52,000 people becoming more active. The size of a medium sized town in England.

Also when you consider that the amount of people who stopped becoming in active fell from  4,013,100 in 15-16 to 3,978,800 in 2018 you’re talking about (yes you’ve guessed it) the population of a size of a small town becoming more active. So a town of people isn’t a small amount by any means. Maybe it’s not a large town or even dare I say it a city of people but it can still be called progress.

There is still a lot of work to do though.

As a certain piece of research published by the Activity Alliance shows, although four out of five disabled people want to be more physically active almost half of disabled people (47%) fear losing their benefits if they are seen to be physically active. This is a scary statistic and one that needs to be tackled.

Also something less reported but equally important is analysis done by Dr Rachel Aldred et al. at the University of Westminster which shows that the majority of London do not consider disabled people as fully fledged cyclists in their transport strategy documents. This might seem like an irrelevant statistic but it goes to show that there needs to be far more work done to create an environment both physically and socially that enables disabled people to be physically active, whether inside London or outside of it.

Last year Robert Groves hand cycled the coastline of England to fight preconceived ideas of what is possible for someone who is paralysed below the waist, and raise awareness about many societal issues including climate change and the environment.

It’s not all bad news for disabled people in terms of physical activity. There are wonderful things going on to increase the amount of activity disabled people can do: whether on National Fitness Day or through own work including our training sessions for social workers and the various personal experiences of disabled people getting themselves physically active. I’ve enjoyed being part of those efforts in the time I’ve been part of Get Yourself Active.

I guess that in the end though the situation is best summed up by an old African proverb: “Many rivers crossed, many rivers still to cross”. And hopefully by the time the next Active Lives Survey results are released more people including those with multiple disabilities will be physically active.

In other news: Information is still one of the biggest barriers to disabled people getting active. Look at our “Information in your local area page” to find some links to resource directories and activity lists.

Accessibility Mark Helps Transform Lives

Friday 14 December 2018

Horses are amazing animals that have the ability to make a real difference to people’s lives. Evidence of this can be seen on a daily basis at Accessibility Mark centres up and down the country.

When Church Farm Equestrian Centre organised an event to mark Disabled Access Day in March 2017, they hoped it might generate some interest from a few new riders.

Such was the success of the event that some of the visitors who attended the day are still riding at the centre nearly two years on, and it has had a hugely positive impact on their lives.

The level of confidence that Alisha has developed through riding has transferred into other areas of her life.

Julia Evans went along to the event with her eight-year-old daughter, Alisha. Having been born with Down Syndrome, Alisha was behind in her cognitive skills and spoke in a very low tone but is an active child that is very willing to give things a go.

Alisha had never had anything to do with ponies previously so was slightly nervous of them on the day, willing only to groom a pony at arm’s length. Despite her nerves she enjoyed the experience so Julia signed her up for more sessions.

Alisha began riding at a Disabled Access Day event at Church Farm Equestrian in 2017.

From March to July 2017, Alisha attended Church Farm once a week, just to groom the ponies, with no pressure from the staff to take things any further, then one day at the end of July Alisha announced to instructor Kay Padfield, that today she was going to ‘ride a horse’.

That first ride on Crystal the pony was a turning point from which Alisha has never looked back and she now rides some of the biggest ponies on the yard.

Julia said:

“The level of confidence that Alisha has developed through riding has transferred into other areas of her life. She used to get frustrated when people couldn’t understand her but this has now gone, which is definitely down to horse therapy. She has a bond with the pony that is unbelievable. 

“When Alisha now struggles with challenges, I remind her that she can ride a horse, so she can do anything. Horses are not judgemental, which Alisha senses and it is just what hyper-sensitive children need.”

Alice Boyett saw the Disabled Access Day event at Church Farm advertised on Facebook and following a chat with Kay on the phone she was encouraged to pop along with her son Ethan. Following a brief ride on a beach donkey, Alice had been waiting for a place to become available at a different riding school for over a year.

Now 12-years-old, Ethan was born with Translocation Down Syndrome 21:21 and was also diagnosed with autism when he was five.

Ethan has complex needs and is completely non-verbal. He is just learning sign language and uses a simple choosing board to choose an activity, food or drink.

Even though Ethan loves being around people, he can sometimes find it

Ethan riding through a water tray during the summer heatwave.

difficult to understand how to behave properly and struggles to form relationships with people, and can become frightened if he is unsure of a certain situation and can lash out. Due to poor muscle tone and lax ligaments Ethan also has mobility issues.

During the free taster session the whole family including Ethan’s twin brother got to look around the yard before Ethan got to enjoy his first ride. Although Ethan was initially hesitant and wanted his Dad to stay close by, he enjoyed the experience and it was obvious he was happy to be there.

That evening Alice contacted Kay and they arranged for Ethan to attend for a weekly lesson.

Said Alice:

“Riding has benefitted Ethan in so many ways, on a personal, physical and emotional level.  Accessing hobbies and clubs for a child like Ethan is so difficult; riding is perfect for him. I can honestly say it is the highlight of his week. He signs ‘time to go riding’ so we know how important it is to him as he signs very little generally.

“He enjoys greeting all the ponies before his lesson and feels so comfortable at Church Farm that he happily walks around by himself, he’s built up a lovely relationship with Kay in particular and is very attached to her.

“It’s great that Ethan has an interest and activity that he can enjoy without me having to be right by his side supporting him, it gives him some level of independence which is so important.

“Riding is so good for Ethan’s physical wellbeing as it helps with increasing muscle strength and good posture, as well as his listening skills. From a sensory point of view, it’s great for Ethan to be able to pat and greet the ponies and he absolutely loves twiddling with their manes!  Without a doubt riding relaxes Ethan and it is very special to him.

Ethan enjoys riding so much that his lesson has become the highlight of his week.

“I would also like to add that Church Farm have been so welcoming and respectful towards Ethan and eager to learn all about him and his needs.  The staff sign to Ethan and help him to sign ‘thank you’ to the pony after his lesson.

“Church Farm have exceeded all our expectations and really personalised all of Ethan’s lessons.  He’s ridden to music, through a water trough during the heatwave, and dressed up at Christmas to post cards through a Christmas post box while riding.  Thanks to Church Farm, Ethan has found a lifelong hobby and interest which makes him very happy.”

Disabled Access Day 2019 takes place on Saturday, March 16, for more information visit www.disabledaccessday.com

Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the 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 to riders of varying levels of disability.

There are currently 51 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk.

In other news: Inclusive Sports Programme Ends Successful Year With An Award Win

Inclusive Sports Programme Ends Successful Year With An Award Win

Friday 7 December 2018

The Sport For Confidence programme at the Feel Good Centre in Waltham Forest has been announced the winner of the ‘Services to Inclusive Sport ‘award at the Waltham Forest Feel Good Sport Awards 2018.

Jack Edgar and Cllr Chris Robbins

The award marks the end of a successful 12 months for the programme which was first introduced in September 2017, thanks to a funding grant awarded by The London Borough of Waltham Forest.

 

Sport For Confidence is a social enterprise which provides sporting opportunities to individuals who face barriers to participation.

Sessions are open to all and are run by an Occupational Therapist working alongside a sports coach. Through close collaboration with other local organisations, such as the Social Prescribing Team, community nursing teams, the Falls Prevention Service, carer centres, Waltham Forest Council and a range of other Allied Health Professionals,  Sport For Confidence is welcoming participation from around 200 individuals per month, most of whom have not previously engaged with the leisure centre.

Sinead Kelly, the Occupational Therapist responsible for the programme’s delivery at The Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre, says:

“The model of practice we have created enables those who face barriers to participation to engage in physical activity, regardless of their ability. This is an environment where individuals are treated as individuals  and supported to overcome any obstacles so that they can reach personal goals and milestones.

“Currently, we have individuals who attend sessions that identify as having a learning disability, mobility issues, long term health conditions and mental health difficulties. Many of our participants have never set foot in a leisure centre before coming to us, so it is fantastic to see them enjoy being active and making the most of the services and facilities on offer”.

The Sport For Confidence programme continues to expand its offer, creating even more opportunities for people to enjoy physical activity. Recently, in association with Carers First, Sport For Confidence introduced ‘dementia friendly’, but not dementia exclusive, seated exercise sessions. These sessions encourage carers to be active alongside individuals in their care. Sport For Confidence has also started to utilise the extreme park facilities, using trampolines to deliver fun fitness sessions to promote better cardiovascular health.

Speaking about the programme’s success, Cllr Naheed Asghar, Cabinet Member for Sports and Voluntary Sector Partnerships, at Waltham Forest Council, says:

“The opportunity to take part in sport, exercise and physical activity should be available for everyone in our community. The huge effort that Sport for Confidence puts in to open up these chances to those who may not otherwise feel able to take part is inspiring. I am proud to congratulate them as the winners of our ‘Services to Inclusive Sport’ category at the annual Waltham Forest Sports Awards, and look forward to seeing the group continue their vitally important work.”

Currently, Sport For Confidence runs Boccia sessions on a Thursday, 11.30am-12.15pm and 2pm-3pm, plus  Fridays 11.30am – 12.30pm. A  multisports session runs on a Friday at 1.30pm-2.30pm followed by a and a pool-based ‘Aqua For Confidence’ session. The trampoline sessions run on a Thursday ,10.30-11.15am followed by seated exercise sessions, 12.30pm-1.30pm.

This month, Sport For Confidence has also been awarded; Winner of Swim England’s, national ‘ David Sparkes OBE Innovation Award’ and winner of ’Services To Inclusive Sport’ by Active Braintree.

Whatever the activity, everybody is welcome at Sport For Confidence sessions. For more information, contact Sinead on 07543742407 or email sinead@sportforconfidence.com.

In other news: Get Yourself Active holds its first workshop for Social Workers in Essex

Exciting Plans for Accessibility Mark and Disabled Access Day

Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is encouraging Accessibility Mark centres to hold events for Disabled Access Day 2019 to help introduce more disabled people to horse riding.

 Disabled Access Day was launched in 2015 to create opportunities for disabled people to try something new, highlighting the fantastic facilities that already exist at venues, as well as a friendly welcome.

According to Activity Alliance almost 20% of the population in the UK have some form of disability and seven out of ten disabled people would like to be more active.

Finding new opportunities to enjoy sport and activities can be a daunting prospect, especially if it is something that people haven’t tried before and horse riding has been shown to have many benefits for both physical and mental health and well-being.

Taking place on March 16, 2019, participating centres are encouraged to hold special events where disabled people can come and interact with the horses and discover the benefits of riding and possibly enjoy a free taster session.

Centres are also encouraged to create a listing on Euan’s Guide, which is a disabled access review website. This will also act as a search engine for people looking for Disabled Access Day events and helps disabled people research whether a venue is suitable for them in advance. Events will also be published on the Disabled Access Day website from January 2019.

Paul Ralph, Founder of Disabled Access Day said:

“It’s great to have the support of RDA’s Accessibility Mark for 2019. I am particularly excited as spending time meeting and being with horses can be enormously empowering. For this coming year I want to ensure this fabulous opportunity is open to everyone. This year Disabled Access Day is focussing on delivering events that have Changing Places Toilets on-site or nearby so that the 250K families who often miss out can take part too.”

Participating centres will highlight the availability of nearby Changing Places Toilets and you can also look them up on the Changing Places website map before visiting.

As Accessibility Mark is specifically aimed at non RDA centres the level of disability that can be catered for varies from centre to centre.

Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the 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 to riders of varying levels of disability.

There are currently 52 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk.

In other news: Government Consultation: Review of GCSE, AS and A level physical education activity list

Government Consultation: Review of GCSE, AS and A level physical education activity list

6 November 2018

The government is seeking views on the review of the PE activity list in schools.

In 2015 the Government committed to reviewing the GCSE, AS and A Level PE activity list in autumn 2018, following the first award of the reformed qualifications in summer 2018.

Accordingly, the Department for Education is now inviting proposals to add activities to the published list.

Responses to the review should be submitted here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-gcse-as-and-a-level-physical-education-activity-list.

This review is open to the public and the Department will consider all responses.

The deadline for submissions is 20 December 2018.

In other news: We have produced downloadable resources which we think will be useful for disabled people, health and social care professionals and sports providers.

What makes a good accessibility mark centre?

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Lizzie Hill was the driving force behind the original Accessibility Mark pilot scheme which aims to encourage commercial equestrian centres to open up more riding opportunities for disabled riders. Here Lizzie explains what makes a good Accessibility Mark Centre.

What Makes a Good Accessibility Mark Centre?

Lizzie Hill has been involved with the Accessibility Mark scheme from its very foundation, turning a revolutionary idea to provide training to commercial equestrian centres, to enable them to confidently teach disabled people to ride, into reality.

As the pilot project has grown into a successful nationwide scheme, Lizzie is now Accessibility Mark’s most experienced Accessibility Mark Officer (ASO), travelling the country to provide training and assessment to centres that apply for the accreditation.

There are many misconceptions about disabilities and Accessibility Mark is helping to break down barriers and establishing an inclusive environment for disabled people to participate in sport.

Part of Lizzie’s role is to challenge these misconceptions within equestrian centres to help them understand what can be achieved. But what are the elements that come together to make a good Accessibility Mark centre?

“It is really important to understand that no two centres are alike, which we were very aware of when setting out the criteria for Accessibility Mark, but at the same time there needed to be a certain standard upheld in order to be associated with RDA.” said Lizzie.

The main stipulations to meet the criteria are that instructors are qualified; that facilities fall within set guidelines; the centre must be affiliated with The British Horse Society, The Pony Club or The Association of British Riding Schools; and they must hold a valid riding school licence from their local council.

When equestrian centres apply for accreditation the ASO is there to provide support.

When centres are going through the application process, the aim of the ASO is to provide support rather than for the centres to feel they are being judged on their suitability.

Centres often assume that their facilities will not meet the guidelines if they are not fully accessible to wheelchair users, but limiting factors would not rule a centre out for accreditation. It is up to individual centres to decide the level of disability that they can work with.

“A centre may not have the resources, space or wish to install a mounting ramp, but if they have other suitable mounting facilities for riders who can manage to walk up steps, this would still enable them to achieve their accreditation.” explained Lizzie.

“We record which centres are able to take riders who have limited mobility and require a ramp and this helps us provide the best possible service to riders by helping them choose the most appropriate place to learn to ride.”

Without a doubt the horses are the most important factor in whether a centre can achieve Accessibility Mark status, however, there is no such thing as the perfect RDA or Accessibility Mark horse.

“When assessing the horses I look for genuine all-rounders and work with the centre to look at the characteristics of their current equine workforce. It is important to give the instructors confidence that a lot of the challenges that the horses may face with riders with disabilities are no different to that of any range of riding school clients.”

During a practical training session, the ASO will work with instructors and helpers and three or four of the centre’s horses, going through different mounting techniques, leading and side walking and getting them used to a range of unpredictable behaviour.

“It is often during this training that staff are surprised and pleased at how versatile the horses are.” added Lizzie.

The backbone of most successful centres is its team of volunteers and Lizzie encourages all centres to try and establish a group of helpers, who all have to undergo the compulsory training, to assist in the preparation and delivery of Accessibility Mark sessions.

Accessibility Mark is helping to break down barriers and establish an exclusive environment for disabled people to participate in sport

A good centre is one that embraces the fact that Accessibility Mark sessions may take a little longer and seeks to create a rapport with existing clients by asking them to support riders riding under the Accessibility Mark banner.

How centres run their Accessibility Mark sessions is entirely up to them but an open- minded approach is key to making the scheme work, with some having dedicated sessions while others integrate Accessibility Mark clients into their existing groups.

Said Lizzie: “I find that instructors are nervous of doing or saying the wrong thing but once reminded that they should teach what they see in front of them and as long as appropriate rider history is sought, the session should be run just as any other lesson.”

“A good relationship between the centre and its ASO, with open dialogue, is essential to making sure clients gain maximum benefit.”

“Asking for help and guidance on lesson planning and progression helps staff to focus on the individual needs of the rider to achieve their goals, whether it is a therapeutic rider or a rider with ambitions to compete.

“A willingness to work with local RDA Groups is also beneficial to ensure riders get the best possible experience, as some riders will be better suited to a dedicated RDA Group while others will excel in an Accessibility Mark session.

“It is so pleasing to hear of riders that have been waiting on the RDA group waiting list now happily riding regularly at an Accessibility Mark centre. We just aim to achieve more of these successes.” said Lizzie.

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with riding centres with the aim of opening up more opportunities for disabled people to participate in riding.

There are currently 52 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk

In other news: Four million Britons get active as result of milestone National Fitness Day

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