Life lessons form a horse – Horses helping humans

Coaching through disabilities – CPD workshop

A BHS Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshop also open to all RDA, Pony Club and BD coaches

One in five people have a long-standing, limiting disability or life-changing condition, and the benefits of interaction with horses and riding are well known. This CPD workshop is an introduction to this huge topic, helping to signpost coaches to a range of practical resources about different disabilities, and safe, thoughtful practices.

The workshop will include a review of life-changing illnesses and injuries in adults (eg Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, sight loss, spinal damage and head injuries) and discussion about the practical issues of coaching them. From mounting and dismounting, adapting tack, contra-indications to riding and working with therapists, there is plenty to discuss!

The roles of RDA , BD, BEF, and Para Equestrian competition will be mapped out as well as the emerging field of equine assisted learning (EAL). It will draw on sports psychology principles about the importance of language and recognition of values and beliefs. Finally, it will highlight how BHS coaches can engage with local RDA groups and how coaching pathways can build on existing qualifications.

Workshop Approach

This one-day, unmounted (6 hours) workshop will cover the topics in an engaging way, drawing on the group’s experience as well as presenting useful information.  There will be a comprehensive workbook and resource guide to take away, and the opportunity to build a network with other local coaches.

Venues and dates – dates for 2020 are being arranged around the country, please contact us for more info. The earliest ones are:

  • March 5 – Thurs South Wellington Riding, Hampshire
  • March 17th Tues W. Midlands Cavalier Centre, Shropshire
  • March 24th Tues South / West Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy, Christchurch
  • April 20th – Mon South East Maidstone, Kent
  • May 5th – Tues South West Avon Riding Centre, Bristol

Cost and booking

BHS / APC member £45 RDA Coach £45

BD/Pony Club Coach £45 Non-Coaches £50

Places are limited to ensure personal attention, so please reserve your place by emailing — We will send you joining instructions , with directions, timing and payment details. Receipts and

Becoming mobile..

When you have a crazy dream it’s a bit scary when it begins to come to life!

Our dream in setting up Positive RDA has been about enabling people to enjoy the healing power of horses and the countryside when they are faced with life-changing injuries and illnesses. Riding out in the countryside is a dream for many, but a basic risk assessment indicates that taking a group out on modern roads to get there is a big No No!

So the idea of a mobile RDA began to develop.  A horsebox that could take 2 horses to lovely places or competitions for riders with disabilities to enjoy – because it has a hydraulic lifting platform to mount and dismount with safety and ease.  The platform would also enable access to a simple day-living area for a cup of tea and cake after – and an accessible loo too.  Riders will be coached on carefully selected horses in a suitable safe environment first, and volunteers will walk alongside the riders and support the whole experience.

So, at last people with disabilities will be able to get out to enjoy the amazing views from the Ridgeway and ride on the glorious North Wessex Downs!

Initial design

Conversations with care home managers then made the link of bringing a horse to them for simple talking therapy and an interesting break from the daily routine.  The accessibility and design of this horsebox will create a unique space where the horse becomes central to a special tea party. It will be a special place to connect with a friendly horse safely, and just escape into memories of the good old days of country living… We are looking at insulation, heating and air-conditioning to make it comfortable to use most of the year.

The dream is becoming a reality now that we are pinning down the specification, costs and presenting the plans to major funders.  It is a true innovation and its bold design should attract attention wherever it goes in the region.  We will be training and insuring our volunteers to  drive it to professional standards and setting up a booking system to make it widely available.

">Please contact us with any contributions to the build and set up costs or connections with charities that would like to partner with us. Volunteers to help with all the different aspects of running the group would be very welcome too!

Inspiration for a mobile RDA group

The RDA philosophy is to focus on removing the barriers to riding, driving and being with horses,as much as possible,so enabling people with disabilities to achieve their goals.  So when a new rider starts at RDA we try and find out why they want to ride, what they would like to achieve. The story of Brenda and the team at Deeside RDA captures this spirit and has inspired us to focus on enabling adults to hack in special places.


Brenda has retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease that has left her completely blind for the past 20 years. She had never ridden before but she picked up the basics very quickly and before long was able to walk and trot on the lead rein and even ride a basic dressage test using ‘Talking Letters’.  Her goal was to ride along a beach splashing through the waves!

Her riding came on in leaps and bounds and she was soon trotting unaided. One day, a small group set off for the local beach in Aberdeen with two horses, five volunteers and one Lead Coach. The weather was perfect – blue skies and a gentle breeze and the beach was deserted with miles of golden sand. They walked and trotted, riding into the waves, taking photos and making memories.

For the volunteers it was a privilege to share this experience with Brenda. RDA is a team: everyone that had side walked, led, provided weekly transport or had some part in the organisation of the group played a part in Brenda’s achievement. To see the smile on her face made it all very worthwhile.

 Our focus is to build on Deeside’s approach. We plan to negotiate agreements to ride in private estates and woodlands, safely off the public road, to give riders the pleasure of hacking.  To do this we need a horsebox with a suitable mounting mechanism such as a hoist or hydraulic platform, (and ideally an accessible loo!)

This would also be available to take riders to shows and lessons, initially it will be available for use in the Southern  and Central region.  The rides and venues being visited would each be risk assessed.  Appropriate insurance and transport licences would be in place and the horses would need to be trained to be suitable for the experience…. but it should be worth it!

After all , it’s what you CAN do that counts!

Any support, suggestions for venues, and donations towards setting up this service would be appreciated





Inspired by Hannah Francis

Most people in the UK horse world know about Willberry Wonder Pony and 18-year-old Hannah Francis. BBC Radio Bristol produced a video of her inspiring story.

When she rode a horse she said it ‘made her feel normal again’.

Hannah was first diagnosed with lung, hip, and pelvic cancer on May 1, 2015. She did not waste a single moment after, using her energy to fight off the insidious disease, follow her dreams, garner support for others in need, and fundraising for cancer research. She became a friend of many of the greatest eventers in the world, and inspired many of them to take up her cause or at the very least, live life to its fullest. She died on 1st August 2016.

Hannah’s wish was to help other seriously ill people by giving them truly memorable equine experiences. And that is what Positive RDA is all about too.

Horses connect us to ourselves…

Sometimes, with the complexity of modern life, simply taking time out in the natural world is the perfect way to get a new perspective on a problem. And with a horse to help there is a very special, highly memorable dynamic.  This is because horses absorb our senses – their size and power is implicit and they demonstrate immediate engagement and response with their surroundings.

This is because horses absorb our senses, allowing unconscious responses to emerge.

Liz Morrison was one of the early explorers of  using horses in  metaphorical coaching and dynamic constellation approaches. She worked with individuals, management teams, offenders and youth workers to explore new perspectives on situations and coach out solutions together

It requires sensitive coaching using a clean language approach and allowing metaphors to emerge.  The facilitator ‘holds the space’ for participants, this enables an authentic connection with the horses in their environment and there are chances to reflect on the complex issues being faced. This approach is  also known as experiential learning and it offers a range of creative facilitation techniques that help to engage people with in fresh ways.

People can choose to engage with the horses at a level they feel comfortable with – we create a safe space, and even observing from a distance will bring valuable insights.

Horses helping humans…

Darcy Day had just come to the yard , a neglected racehorse, saved by a  charity run by Helen Yeadon.  Despite how ill Darcy was, the mare was able to make a connection with a silent child who had not spoken in 2 years.  Read this extract of Greatwood’s work with horses and young people from the Daily Mail – and see below to buy their new book. Read more