Riding for the Disabled volunteer recognised

Fiona Wright receiving Presidents Award SUS-150513-113058001
Fiona Wright receiving Presidents Award SUS-150513-113058001

Fiona Wright, a volunteer at Horsham’s South Downs Riding for the Disabled Group, has been presented with the coveted President’s Award by HRH, The Princess Royal at the RDA Supra-Regional Conference held last week at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

This is the highest recognition for services to the organisation.

More than 300 delegates from across the South and representing the South East, Greater London and South Regions of the RDA descended on the RMA to be inspired, under the suitably military theme of ‘Saluting the Future’.

After a morning of fascinating talks, the RDA President, HRH the Princess Royal was treated to a number of unique show jumping and carriage driving displays from host members of the South East Region.

The RMA’s Corporal of Horse, Tim Puddifoot, delighted everyone to round the day off with a demonstration of making his horse, Invader, lie down.

The talks followed a journey from selection (with David Hamer, British Dressage Para Director) to competition (with triple gold medallist Sophie Christiansen OBE) with additional information on preparing the competition horse from RDA vet, Judy Scrine and the techniques of inclusive design from leading architect in disability, David Cowan of Cowan Architects, which sponsor the RDA South East Region.

Of course, the RDA would not have the success in changing lives without the continued hard work of its ‘army’ of volunteers, so the last speech featured Matt Cobble of RDA National Office in a drive to support current volunteers and recruit new ones under the banner, ‘Your Country Needs You!’.

During lunch, a number of the volunteers from across the South, who work so tirelessly to support the RDA, were presented to the Princess Royal. Then everyone ‘trooped’ out to the display rings to enjoy Stella Hancock’s Carriage Driving team, from Worplesdon, Surrey give a display of 40 years of carriage driving as the RDA celebrates the anniversary this year.

This highlighted the evolution of carriages from the Jubilee Cart in 1977 (described as an “orange box on wheels”), through various models to the most recent Phoenix making its debut outing and designed by Mark Broadbent.

This was followed by a show jumping display by a young RDA member from the Ashdown Group, Lauren Huggett and Rio Paralympic hopeful Simon Blight, an independent member of East Park RDA in Lingfield, Surrey.

HRH, The Princess Royal gave out a number of presentations to end off the day with a 25 year service award to Hope in the Valley RDA Group Chairman, Lesley Morrill and the coveted President’s Award to Verity Jones of Godstone RDA Group and Fiona Wright of South Downs Group.

“The success of the day came down to teamwork and enthusiasm which are always at the core of everything we do in RDA. Sophie Christiansen is always so appreciative of her RDA days and it was great to hear this echoed by The Princess Royal today” said Lindsay Correa, Regional Chairman of the hosting South East Region.

“A special thanks to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst for allowing us to use their amazing facilities. It helped make it a perfect day”.

Report and picture contributed by Joanna Sale.