Stevenage RDA was founded in 1969 by Geoff & Kay Shepherd, and Margaret Lucas, with the generous support of Fred & Maisie Allan of Manor Farm Chesfield, who kindly loaned two of their riding school ponies one morning a week to enable riding lessons for disabled children in Stevenage to begin. The group expanded, offering lessons to pupils from local special schools, as well as individual riders, all of whom faced challenges in their lives.
Fred & Maisie Allan & family continued their support for Stevenage RDA providing stabling for ponies, either purchased by or gifted to the group, and the use of their indoor riding school for lessons.
In the early years, attracting volunteers, fund raising and publicising the work the group did were huge tasks. Many of those early volunteers went on to become involved at county, regional and National levels of the organisation
In 1999 each member group of the RDA organisation became its own registered charity, but remained closely connected to, and a member of, the National Association.
In 2006, although still based at Chesfield, like many other RDA groups Stevenage were facing a funding crisis, despite being supported financially by many sports and service clubs, businesses, local authorities and individuals.
To secure the future of the group, the decision was taken to move our operational base from Chesfield to our current ‘home’, Courtlands Riding Stables, Stevenage. This changed the way in which we operated; from owning and maintaining our own ponies, to hiring the ponies and facilities required each week to match each rider’s needs.
Currently we have over 30 dedicated active volunteers helping at our Monday & Thursday morning riding sessions, in addition to those who support our work in many other ways, although they are unable to volunteer physically.
50 years on and still helping children & adults benefit from the therapeutic effects of riding.