On Tuesday 24 January, Oaklands College played host to the Riding for the Disabled Association and Special Olympics Great Britain to initiate a very important partnership between the two organisations. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed, linking the two prestigious organisations for the future of the sport.
Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is the national governing body of the sport of equestrian
for disabled people in the UK and Special Olympics Great Britain organises the country’s largest everyday sports training and competition programme for children and adults with learning disabilities.
The purpose of the understanding is to create a partnership to promote and develop the sport of equestrian for people with a learning disability, thus promoting health, well-being and social inclusion.
The RDA currently has 500 member groups and more than 30,000 riders and carriage drivers – of whom more than half are people with learning disabilities. Special Olympics GB has 8000 athletes in 135 groups throughout England, Scotland and Wales and a comparatively fledgling equestrian programme with 136 riders. The Special Olympics Equestrian programme has met with considerable success in competitions from Denmark to Austria. At 2011’s Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, a team of 5 riders brought back 4 Gold medals, 4 Silvers, and three 4th Place finishes.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to expand our equestrian programme and align ourselves with the RDA,” comments Special Olympics GB Chief Executive Karen Wallin. “Both organisations cater to all ability-levels and encourage and empower individuals with disabilities to be the best that they can be.”
RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher adds, “Special Olympics fits brilliantly into our current strategic plan to ensure that we offer the greatest possible number of opportunities to our participants to compete against other riders at all levels. This dynamic partnership will help to create a far-reaching pathway for our riders to compete in international competitions. It makes good horse sense!” Special Olympics riders are banded into divisions based on ability level, age and gender to create a fair competition based on ability not disability.
Attending the signing along with Wallin and Bracher, was Doug Smith, RDA Championship Chairman; Andy Heffer, Special Olympics GB Director of Sports & Services; Nancy Peters, Special Olympics National Equestrian Technical Advisor; Special Olympics GB Coach, Sarah Moreland, MBE, Oaklands College; and SOGB/RDA riders Hayley Tallantire and Katy Crouch.
Also in the photo is honoured guest, Bob the Horse, who has been a part of the Special Olympics Equestrian programme for over 3 years, most recently, winning 4 Gold medals at Special Olympics National Summer Games in Leicester in 2009. He was delighted to attend the signing at Oaklands College. For the past three years, Oaklands, Special Olympics St. Albans, and the St. Albans RDA have been working closely as a pilot programme for the national partnership.