THE Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has responded to the devastating impact of COVID restrictions on its disabled members with a grants programme designed to tackle social isolation.

Lockdown and COVID had a disproportionate impact on disabled people, and research from RDA found 75% of their members struggled with physical and mental well-being.

In a bid to address this, RDA has been supporting its groups around the UK with grants for ‘A Grand Day Out’ – made possible thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The Grand Day Out enabled 20 RDA Groups around the UK to organise an event of their choosing to get together and help tackle the social isolation felt by some of their participants and volunteers. Some chose to organise a fun ride, and some spent their Grand Day Out having a picnic. Over 135 disabled participants, plus family members and numerous volunteers took part for a well-deserved day of fun.

For many, an opportunity to gather together and see friends again after lockdown was a special moment. This was the no different for Calon RDA. The group celebrated being reconnected with an arts & crafts workshop, followed by prize giving and a star appearance by the miniature Shetland ponies Fudge Cake and Jaffa Cake.

The group were also joined by Nicola Tustain, Paralympic Gold Medalist and World Champion in Dressage.

Members are lucky enough to ride at her arena and draw on her experience and support. Nicola helped out by presenting rosettes and certificates to the participants in the prize giving.

Alys Lewis-Jones, RDA Regional Chair for North Wales and group organiser for Calon, said: “Thank you RDA UK for giving us the opportunity to run this event, we are hoping to run a regular social ‘coffee hour’ for our participants and families in future, as many parents said how nice it was to be able to get together as a group, something they took for granted before Covid restrictions.”

RDA activities have been important in helping with mental health and well-being, even before lockdown. One RDA parent reported that riding with RDA gave their child a sense of friendship and self-belonging.

One RDA rider said: “Sometimes I do not feel like going out the house at all, but riding gives me a reason to go out and speak to people and spend time with the horses. Especially during the pandemic being able to go to the stables this year really helped me to get out of the house to somewhere that was outside and safe.”

At present, the RDA has no permanent base in Denbighshire but use two venues in the Corwen area to run vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) and riding sessions.