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Horse Riding for the Disabled in the UK: Benefits, Opportunities & Inspiration

Updated: Apr 20

Young child doing execises on horseback

Imagine the wind on your cheeks, the rhythmic clop of hooves against the ground, and the feeling of riding through the countryside. These experiences, often associated with able-bodied riders, are also becoming increasingly accessible to people with disabilities in the UK. Therapeutic horse riding, or riding for the disabled (RDA), is a transformative activity offering a unique blend of physical, mental, and emotional benefits.

More Than Just a Hobby: The Benefits of RDA

Riding for The Disabled logo

Beyond the undeniable joy of connecting with these majestic animals, RDA offers a plethora of benefits for disabled individuals. Here are just a few:

Physical Therapy: Horse riding improves muscle tone, coordination, balance, and posture. The rhythmic gait of the horse mimics human walking patterns, aiding in gait training and rehabilitation.

Mental Wellbeing: RDA can combat feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. The nurturing bond with a horse forms a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Social Interaction: RDA programs create a supportive and inclusive environment for people of all abilities. Riders can build friendships, learn teamwork, and develop communication skills.

Sensory Stimulation: The sights, sounds, smells, and textures associated with horses provide a rich sensory experience that can be particularly stimulating for individuals with sensory processing difficulties.

Unlocking Potential: Opportunities in RDA

unlock your potential

RDA programs cater to a wide range of disabilities, including physical limitations, learning difficulties, and sensory impairments. Specially trained instructors and adapted equipment ensure everyone can participate safely and effectively.

For some, RDA might be a recreational activity, offering a chance to relax and connect with nature. Others might find it a valuable form of therapy, helping them manage their condition or recover from an injury. However, for many, RDA becomes a gateway to competitive riding.

Para Equestrian Stars: Inspiration on the World Stage

Lee Pearson disabled dressage rider

The UK boasts a rich history of success in para equestrianism, the Paralympic sport featuring disabled riders. Sir David Lee Pearson OBE, a household name in the sport, has an incredible 14 Paralympic dressage gold medals to his name.

Natasha Baker disabled event rider

Natasha Baker OBE, another British para equestrian star, is a double Paralympic medalist known for her infectious enthusiasm and determination.  Natasha became the first ever para rider to compete at Badminton Horse Trials, one of the toughest equestrian events in the world. Natasha, who has spina bifida, defied expectations and completed the prestigious course on her trusty steed, proving that anything is possible with dedication and the right support.

Sophie Christiansen paralympian

Sophie Margaret Christiansen, CBE is an English equestrian who has competed in dressage at four successive Paralympic Games. In 2012 and 2016 she gained three gold medals at the Paralympics.

These are just a few examples of the many talented  disabled riders achieving incredible feats. Their stories serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration, demonstrating the transformative power of horses and the boundless potential that lies within everyone.

Visually Impaired:

Many therapeutic riding centres cater to visually impaired riders, focusing on the other benefits of interaction with horses, such as improved balance, coordination, and emotional well-being.

Finding Your Ride: Getting Started with RDA

If you're interested in exploring the world of RDA, here's what you need to know:

Eligibility: Most RDA programs cater to individuals aged 4 and above with a range of disabilities. Contact your local RDA center to discuss eligibility and available programs.

Cost: Costs vary depending on the center and frequency of sessions. Some charities may offer financial assistance.

What to Expect: Your first session will involve an assessment to determine your needs and goals. Experienced instructors will guide you through safe riding techniques and ensure a positive experience.

Beyond Disability: A World of Opportunity Awaits

Horse riding for the disabled is not just about riding a horse. It's about empowerment, inclusion, and unlocking a world of possibilities. Whether you're looking for a fun activity, a form of therapy, or a path to competitive riding, RDA programs offer a supportive and enriching environment for everyone to experience the magic of horses.

Visit the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) website to find your nearest center and embark on your own equestrian adventure. Remember, the world of horses awaits, and it's ready to welcome you with open arms, regardless of your abilities.


The Confident Rider website was created to help nervous horse riders overcome their anxiety and fear through the use of Self-Hypnosis. See the range HERE

In addition to the Self-Hypnosis audio sessions, we also try to offer advice and resources about all aspects of owning or riding horses and ponies through this Blog. We welcome suggestions for topics that you would like us to cover.

Sharon Shinwell a co-author of the popular book "Ride With Confidence," which was forwarded by Kelly Marks, the well-known Horse Whisperer.

Sharon Shinwell creator of The Confident Rider Series.

Just click the link HERE to go to the main site.

"This article represents the personal views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as representative of the official policy or position of any organization, professional, expert, or individual."

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