Eastbourne Area Riding for the Disabled Association

Volunteer Information | Eastbourne Area Riding for the Disabled Association

Eastbourne Area RDA Group is a new member group of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

The aim of the group is to provide the opportunity for young people with disabilities to take part in horse riding.

The group is able to take Riders between the ages of 4 and 16 years with independent sitting balance1

Eastbourne Area RDA Group is committed to the provision of a high standard of instruction, care and safety for Riders and Volunteers: this is achieved by ensuring that all Volunteers are properly trained for the tasks they are required to undertake.

All Volunteers will have an induction session, which includes Health & Safety. No Volunteer is allowed to help with anything for which they have not been trained unless they are working under the supervision of another adequately trained Volunteer.

All Volunteers must have a Training Record Card (Green Card), which they must sign before they take part in any group activities. By signing this card, the Volunteer agrees that they have received an introduction to the group environment and activities and understand the Health & Safety guidelines.

Further training will be provided as necessary and tailored to the Volunteer’s requirements.

The Instructor

The Instructor has overall responsibility for ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of the group Riders and Volunteers, as well as ensuring the group activities are enjoyable and appropriate to the age and abilities of the Riders.

Child protection

All Volunteers are required to have read the group child protection document.

The group has a designated Child Protection Officer, who is available to deal with any queries or concerns.

Information on child protection training will be provided by the group Child Protection Officer.

First Aid

The Group Instructor holds an up-to-date First Aid Certificate. Information on First Aid courses will be provided for Volunteers.

The Role of the Volunteer

New Riders need a ‘‘Team’’ of three Volunteers – Leader, ‘Team’ Instructor and Side Walker, who all work under the instruction of the Session Instructor.

  • All Volunteers play a vital role in providing an enjoyable, beneficial, safe experience for the Riders.
  • Please make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear, jeans or trousers and have no dangling jewellery or flapping clothing.

The Leader

A good Leader is fundamental to each ‘‘Team’’. To be therapeutic, the pony needs to walk at an active pace (approx. 4mph)

Leaders are responsible for the pony. Please make sure the pony you are with is correctly tacked up: check the girth before and after mounting, neck straps in place, stirrups on and adjusted to the correct length, plus any extras required by the Rider are in place. If instructed to do so, lead the pony round the school to give them an opportunity to warm up / settle down before the Rider mounts.

Hold the pony whilst the Rider is mounting. Stand directly in front of the pony’s head holding the reins on either side of the bit.

Lead from the pony’s shoulder. One hand needs to be as close as necessary to the head collar without restricting the pony’s head movement. The other hand takes up the slack of the rope the rope must not be wrapped round your hand. If the Rider is in control, remove the hand nearest the head collar from the lead rope. Try to get your Rider to take the initiative to guide and control the pony.

Do not restrict the pony’s head. Allow the pony’s head to move as he walks. The movement will travel down the pony’s back. Holding the lead rein tightly under the pony’s chin will prevent the head from moving.

Listen to the Session Instructor at all times and make sure your Rider and Side Walkers are ready for any changes of pace or direction.

Keep the pony’s movements smooth. Leading an RDA pony is not quite the same as leading a pony with an able-bodied Rider. Some of our Riders are not able to adjust to sudden turns, stops or starts. Therefore make sure your Rider is prepared before making any change of direction or pace. For both the pony and Rider’s benefit, turns should be as wide as practical. For some Riders, it may be appropriate to count down to a manoeuvre e.g. ‘3,2,1 halt’.

Be prepared to stop if your Rider becomes unbalanced or has a problem. Any adjustments should be made off the track to allow the ride to continue.

Keep a safe distance from the tail of the pony in front of you.  This will usually be a pony’s length.

Games. Remember that games are for the Riders! Keep a suitable speed with no sudden turns or stops. Keep the ponies well apart.

Please do not allow the pony to receive any titbits.

If the Riders, Parents, Volunteers want to reward the pony with food, please ask the yard staff if you can give the food to be added to their feed. The ponies must not be given any titbits by hand as this encourages nipping and biting.

Please speak to the Session Instructor if you have any concerns regarding the pony’s health or performance.

Always be prepared for the unexpected!

The ‘Team’ Instructor & Side Walker

Both the ‘Team’ Instructor and Side Walker are there to:

  • Ensure the Rider gets the most out of the lesson
  • Be alert at all times. There is always potential for anything and everything to go wrong!
  • For some Riders, no physical assistance will be necessary so their role will be to:
    • Ensure the Rider has heard and understood the Session Instructors commands
    • To understand what the Session Instructor is hoping to achieve with the Rider and ensure the Rider is working towards this, e.g. the Session Instructor may be working on encouraging the Rider to hold their hands in the correct position, so the ‘Team’ can reinforce this with the Rider.
  • If the Rider needs support, give the minimum assistance necessary. You are there to prevent Riders falling off, not to hold Riders on! Ensure that both Volunteers are holding the same part of the Rider’s anatomy
  • Keep the Rider’s leg in a good position and the pelvis in a central position (it may be the ‘Team’ leading the pony behind you are the best people to assess whether your Rider is sitting centrally so don’t be afraid to ask them!)
  • Hold the Rider’s foot by the back of the heel
  • If more support needed
  • Hold the knee with your hand on top of the thigh
  • If more support needed
  • Use your forearm along the Rider’s thigh
  • It is important to remember, if you get tired and find yourself leaning on the pony whilst providing the Rider with support, you will be adding to the weight the pony is carrying. The ponies do a great job carrying Riders who may not be perfectly balanced so we don’t want to add to the  weight. If you find your arms etc. are getting tired change sides (with the Rider at halt) or inform the Session Instructor who may be able to arrange a change of roles.

The group has a physiotherapist who will be happy to give advice on desired positioning of the Rider, appropriate support and therapeutic benefits.

Riders with diminished sensation in their lower limbs should be reminded to push themselves up with their arms from time to time in order to ease the pressure on their seat and avoid pressure sores.

Inappropriate touching

Riders with disabilities require physical assistance and on occasion it may happen that a Rider is inadvertently touched in an inappropriate place. If you are aware that this has happened, please say ‘sorry’ immediately. There is no need to take further action unless the Rider is distressed or you are concerned, in which case you should inform the Session Instructor as soon as possible.

The ‘Team’ Instructor

The ‘Team’ Instructor is in charge of the ‘Team’ and is there to reinforce and interpret instructions from the Session Instructor taking the lesson, to focus the Rider’s attention and encourage independent riding. If you are unsure of your Rider’s disabilities or goals ask the Session Instructor before the lesson.

Motivate the Rider. Our goal is independent riding so, where possible, the Rider should be encouraged to apply the aids and control the pony to the best of their ability. Our aim is to extend the Rider’s participation; set small goals and praise achievement; engage attention before giving instruction. Use clear, simple instructions.

The ‘Team’ Instructor needs to be:

  • Patient – some Riders will need frequent repetition to enable them to learn new skills
  • Positive - try not to use negative comments
  • Firm – do not accept bad behaviour
  • Confident – and give confidence
  • Alert – anticipate the unexpected

When there is a lull in the lesson e.g. when the ride is taking turns to trot, take the opportunity, with guidance from the Session Instructor, to practice exercises or ask horse care questions. However, remember the Rider will need time to prepare for their turn to trot etc.

Once the Rider is mounted and is sitting safely, move away from the mounting block, to the centre of the school to make any adjustments to stirrups. Ask the Session Instructor for guidance on the length of the stirrup leathers and inform the Session Instructor if the stirrup irons appear too small.

The Side Walker

Before the ride starts, ensure your Rider has a correctly fitting hat and boots, and is wearing gloves. If the Rider is borrowing a hat, they will already have been advised of the size of hat they need to wear. If the Rider has their own hat, which has not previously been checked by the group staff, ensure the hat has the appropriate Kite Mark and fits correctly. Check clothes are appropriate, with no loose flapping items and no lumpy, dangerous items in the pockets. Jackets need to be buttoned/ zipped up. Riders should not eat/chew sweets/gum when riding and jewellery should be removed and earrings that cannot be taken out should be covered by tape.

Riders should not enter the school or stables until instructed to do so by the Session Instructor, so wait with your Rider until they are asked to enter.

At the end of the session, once the Rider has dismounted, accompany them to move safely away from the pony and out of the school, to be met by their parent/guardian.

The Session Instructor may give permission for the Rider to lead the pony back to the yard. This must be done with supervision from the Leader and Side Walker and only with permission from the Session Instructor.


If you have any concerns about your Rider or if your Rider has given you any information that could affect their riding e.g. complaints about aches or pains, forthcoming operation, family/social issues etc., please report this back to the Session Instructor.

If you have any comments/suggestions for the group, the Session Instructor will be keen to hear from you.

Accident procedure

If there is an accident during the session, the first priority is to prevent further accidents. If a Rider falls off the Leader must move the pony away if safe to do so. The Session Instructor will halt the other Riders away from the incident. The First Aider (currently the Session Instructor) will attend to the Rider. All Leaders must remain with their ponies. If you are a Side Walker, you should only leave your Rider if the Session Instructor tells you it is safe to do so.

If you can see an accident in the making, please speak out!


Our group is very fortunate to be able to use the ponies and facilities at Bede’s School – Free of Charge!  The Yard Manager and Staff have gone out of their way to help us. The Yard is managed to a very high standard and the staff have expert knowledge regarding their ponies and are responsible for their care and wellbeing. With this in mind, please respect any requests from the yard staff regarding the ponies. If you feel requests from the yard staff contradict instruction you have been given by our Group members, please discuss this with the Instructor.

The aim of our group is to provide a safe, enjoyable, beneficial experience for Riders and Volunteers. Everyone has a vital role in the smooth running of the group and your help is much appreciated.

If you have any queries or concerns, please feel you can speak to the Session Instructor.

If you are unsure about anything – ‘Ask’!

Glossary of Terms

Session Instructor – The person instructing the group of Riders / taking the lesson. The Session Instructor has ultimate responsibility for the lesson activities and the safety of the Riders and Volunteers.

‘‘Team’’ Instructor/Side Walker – the people working with an individual Rider. The ‘Team’ Instructor is in charge of the ‘‘Team’’.

Leader – The person leading the pony. The Leader is a member of the ‘‘Team’’.

First Aider – A person that holds an up-to-date, recognised, First Aid certificate.

Child Protection Officer – The person who has attended appropriate Child Protection training and who is responsible for dealing with or giving advice on any child protection issues.

School – The outdoor riding arena, where the lessons will be conducted

Yard – The area which is surrounded by the stables.

Mounting block – The steps which every Rider must use to mount

Rein – When the Riders are riding they will be instructed to ride on the Left Rein or Right Rein. These terms apply to the direction the Riders are riding and refers to the Rider’s hand that is closest to the centre of the school. Riding on the right rein means they are traveling around the school in a clockwise direction (Riders right hand is nearest the centre) , riding on the left rein means they are traveling around the school in an anti-clockwise direction (Riders left hand is nearest the centre of the school). 

Changing the rein – This is when the Riders change from being on the left rein to the right rein or vice versa and is achieved by performing certain activities within the school

Track – The line/route the horses are directed along when they ride around the school. The Outside Track is the line/route that follows the fence enclosing the school. The Inside Track is the line/route ‘inside’ the outside track! Riders may be asked to ride on the inside track to allow Riders riding on a different rein (coming towards them) to pass safely. Riders should always pass ‘left hand to left hand’ to avoid collisions.

School ‘letters’ – The school has ‘Letters’ positioned at specific points around the school. The same letters are positioned at the same points in all schools. The letters act as markers to allow the Riders and Leaders to know where to start/stop/turn/begin & end activities. See diagram below.

An easy way to remember the order of the letters is to remember ‘All King Edwards Horses Can Move Backwards Fast’ and then you just have to remember that ‘X’ is in the middle!