The Andover branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association have been working with people with disabilities in the local area since 1972. It runs a range of rides in the local area and works closely with adult riders from Enham, Day Services and Mencap as well as children from Wolverdene, Icknield, Mark Way and Norman Gate schools.
The aim of the Andover RDA is to use horses and ponies to provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to the riders. The coaching team, leaders, side walkers and first aiders are all volunteers and work together to teach pony familiarisation, riding skills and pony care skills.
Siobhan Booth, volunteer with the St. Marybourne ride, says; “Volunteering with the Andover RDA has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I have had the opportunity to see children who struggle to sit on a pony or who have serious behavioural difficulties, grow in strength and confidence as they learn how to interact with their ponies kindly and develop empathy.”
When the COVID pandemic lead to a national lockdown, all of the Andover RDA activities were put on hold and only the most independent of riders have been able to resume riding due to the level of close contact required by volunteers to support our other riders.
Unfortunately for the Andover RDA, this also meant that all of the fundraising events had to be cancelled. These events included the London Marathon, a three peaks challenge and many other events such as quiz nights.
Volunteer, Siobhan Booth, had planned to run the London Marathon in April 2020 and had begun fundraising for the Andover RDA alongside marathon training over the winter.
When the April Marathon was cancelled Siobhan says; “Whilst I understood the importance of cancelling the marathon, I was heartbroken. Having trained through the series of storms at the start of the year and raised several hundred pounds for the Andover RDA, it was surprisingly emotional to find out that I wouldn’t be running.”
The London Marathon set a new date for October the 4th in the hope that the pandemic would be under control and that the runners could still run their 2020 race. By the time August came around, it was becoming clear that a mass event in London was no longer an option and the London Marathon announced its first ever virtual race to take part on the 4th October.
Siobhan’s decision to take on the virtual challenge was not an easy one as she says; “I am really excited to take on the virtual challenge but also nervous. Marathon distance is a really big challenge for me, and the support of the crowds would definitely have helped on the day. Despite this, I know how important the Andover RDA is to the riders that we help and so I am going to focus on raising money to make sure that when we can go back to providing school rides, the Andover RDA is able to.”
Siobhan’s Virtual London Marathon will be taking place around Charlton lakes and surrounding areas in loops, followed by a final run out to St. Marybourne to be met by a small group of volunteers and RDA ponies at the finish line.
If you would like to support this amazing charity then you can donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SiobhanBooth
If you would like updates on training and progress reports on the day then make sure you follow the Andover RDA Facebook page @AndoverRDA