Fun and success at the 2023 RDA National Championships
By David Wood | 4th August 2023
The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships at Hartpury provided an exceptional three days of competition.
More than 380 participants representing 85 RDA groups from across the UK too part.
Events included dressage, vaulting, endurance, showing, show jumping and carriage driving as well as RDA's Countryside Challenge and many more non-ridden competitions.
The annual championships is the largest equestrian disability event in the world and was once again held at Hartpury University and College last month.
Despite facing high winds and thunder and lightning that briefly delayed Saturday afternoon's competition, participants and supporters displayed remarkable patience, determination and good humour, and all classes were completed.
There are numerous success stories from the championships, demonstrating the incredible impact that RDA groups help to achieve for their participants.
Fletcher Duke, from Muirfield Riding Therapy RDA Group delighted his many fans by qualifying for the British Para Dressage Summer Championships, making the long trip from North Berwick a worthwhile one for Fletcher, his teammates and the many supporters who made the journey possible.
Riding at the championships for the first time was Vivienne Milburn from Helen Atkin RDA in Buxton, Derbyshire. Vivienne rode as a teenager and more recently returned to riding with RDA after many years battling multiple sclerosis.
Vivienne said: "When I ride I am on cloud nine and smiling for the rest of the day. The sense of freedom is amazing - it feels magical"
Winner of the Pat Straughan Medal of Commendation 2023 was 14-year-old Khianna Lucas-Young from Bradbourne RDA. Diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2016 and with Neuromyelitis in 2020, Khianna became completely blind and paralysed from the neck down. Medical opinion was that she would never walk again but Khianna began riding in 2021 and completed her first dressage test in 2022.
Although Khianna no longer uses a wheelchair, her mobility is compromised, and her eyesight has not returned. Yet despite these challenges, Khianna qualified for the National Championships.
Competing at the championships wouldn't be possible without the support of hundreds of volunteers. Volunteering at this year's championships was extra special for Matt Dalley as he was presented with an award for RDA(UK) Volunteer of the Year.
The Championships could not take place without the amazing sponsors, many of whom have been supporting RDA for years. For example, players of People's Postcode Lottery have supported RDA for 10 years and contributed over £5M to date.
Anne Coney, National Championships lead, said: "The championships represent all activities within RDA. It brings together RDA Groups from all over the UK, many travelling for hours to get to Hartpury from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Everyone supports each other. The atmosphere is for everyone to have fun and succeed.
"I am very grateful to all championships sponsors. It is an exceptional three days of competition and without their support it just would not happen. This is the largest horse show for disabled people in the world and it is essential that it continues to offer a fantastic opportunity for our participants to aim for."
Preparations are already underway for the next big event in the RDA competition calendar to be held in November. The RDA Virtual Championships open up opportunities for even more people to take part, and will be streamed live and watched by thousands of viewers across the globe.
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