Get Involved

Without the support of our amazing volunteers we simply could not operate – they truly are the life-blood of our operations. In the majority of cases each of our riders needs a pony leader and at least 1 or 2 side-walkers who will walk alongside the rider offering help and support.

Our team of 160 volunteers, staff and Board of Trustees are here to help our riders achieve the very best we can, whatever the disability or whatever the age, but we can’t do it without people like you who are willing to give a few hours of your valuable time each week – your time will make a significant difference and allow us to provide more lessons and reach more riders who can access the wonderful therapeutic benefits that riding can bring. Literally Cotswold RDA can be a life changing experience to our riders and our volunteers too! Just recently one of our riders, who also volunteered with us, has been able to find paid employment, with another equestrian centre, based on the knowledge and experience gained with us.

But it’s not just about leading and sidewalking, we need volunteers for all sorts of different jobs!

Have you got great  administrative and computer skills and might like to help out in our office for a few hours a week, “green fingers” our garden always needs weeding, are you a great public speaker – help us spread the word within the community, tack cleaning plus a whole host of jobs – so if being a pony leader or side walker isn’t for you but you would still like to be involved – there is always a job here at Cotswold RDA for you!

If you think you would like to join us you can find out more about us through our Volunteer FAQ or please give us a call on 01242 584420 or email us on info@cotswoldrda.org.uk We would love to show you around and have a chat over a cup or tea or coffee.

Read some of our rider stories to find out how, spending a few hours of your time, can make a difference to someones life.

“I recently came over from the USA to live in England. The social atmosphere and the overwhelming ethos here to help vulnerable kids and adults is magical. You do need to be reasonably fit and healthy, as walking to a fast walk or trot with a pony and rider can be physically demanding, but don’t let that discourage you – there are plenty of jobs that always need doing.”

Sally Otis

Volunteer and Group Coach

“When I first walked through the door at Cotswold RDA, I knew that I had picked the right charity to work with. I was amazed to see just after one morning how much difference riding a pony can make to a child or adult who was otherwise withdrawn or uncommunicative. Seeing that transformation for myself made me want to go to the next step and train to become a Group Instructor. The team here have been so supportive whilst I am undergoing the training. Yes it’s tough, but it needs to be – there are so many different scenarios an Instructor needs to be aware of. However, you don’t need to go the whole hog and become an instructor – everyone here makes a positive contribution in whatever they choose to do. We’ve got a great crowd of friendly volunteers – we couldn’t operate without leaders and side-walkers, so I’d certainly have no hesitation in encouraging anyone to come and give us a try.”

Dan Smith

RDA Coach

Monday to Friday 08:30 – 15.00 (morning and/or afternoon).

Sunday 9:30 – 13:00

Monday After School  Lessons 15:30 – 16:00

Tuesday and Thursday “Happy Hoof” Club (50 minutes each)

Friday Sensory Sessions 08:30 – 15:30

Holiday Activity Club – we offer activity days during the school holidays. Upcoming activities are available on our calendar.

If you are able to come in a little earlier or stay a little longer we always need volunteers who will collect the ponies from our fields from 08:30 and make sure they are groomed ready for the day ahead and also to return them to the fields from 15:30.  Our after school activities mean the ponies need to go back to the fields later, particularly on Tuesday and Thursday when we finish at 18:20.  We very much appreciate any of our volunteers arriving early or staying on to help us with this task.

How do YOU benefit from volunteering?

Once you have seen for yourself the riders grinning from ear to ear and the physical improvement after only a few sessions you will be hooked. The spin off benefit is the social network you meet when you join the family of volunteers here.  We offer training to all our volunteers, which includes handling ponies, field maintenance, stable management, grooming, tacking etc.

Perhaps you always had a life plan to volunteer for charity work following the children starting school or going to university? Perhaps you had ponies as a child and feel the need to reconnect? There are many reasons why people volunteer, so why not give us a call and arrange to pop in and see the smiles for yourself.

VIP Volunteers – experience the excitement of working at the Gold Cup Festival.  Working with Jockey Club Catering we have opportunities for anyone to join the caterers, providing top class hospitality to the race goers and JCC will donate a very generous amount to Cotswold RDA in return for your time.

How does YOUR FAMILY benefit from volunteering?

Why not extend your volunteering to include other members of your family? It could be an opportunity to share time with a son or daughter or even grandparent, in fact any combination can work.

If you are finding you have a teenager at home (12 years or above) on their iPad a little more often that you would like, why not encourage them and a group of friends to get involved? We do have rules for under 16 year olds but they can help with most of the activities in some way and will be welcomed warmly as important members of the team.  We also support dozens of young people each year through the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

Encourage your children to start their ethical footprint in life!

How does YOUR ORGANISATION benefit from volunteering?

Many local companies wish to formally support a charity and we work with you to ensure that we meet not only your objectives but that your employees also gain a real insight into our activities and have fun at the same time.  If you are thinking of introducing volunteer days, or already have a corporate social responsibility plan featuring volunteer days, then why not talk to us about the endless possibilities we can achieve together.

What happens first?

The first thing is to complete our Volunteer Application form, which can be downloaded on our Get Involved page, then give us a call to arrange a time to come and see our facilities and for us to talk to you about the wide range of volunteering opportunities. Please remember to bring your completed Volunteer Application form with you.   If you like what you see then we will look to see what day/session suits you best and arrange for you to come in for an induction session and process your DBS application.

Do I need to know anything about horses?

No. Many of our volunteers have come to us without any previous knowledge of horses, and have learned new skills along the way. We provide ongoing training for all our volunteers.

Do I need previous experience?

No. Cotswold RDA has many different types of roles, most of which don’t require any experience. Of course, if you do have skills you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you!

What will I be doing?

There are a range of activities you can take part in – each rider is assigned one leader who is responsible for the pony and up to 1 – 2 side walkers, depending on the ability of the rider. There is always tack to be cleaned, coffee to be made and many other jobs, so there is always plenty to do.

What should I wear?

Comfortable clothing and sturdy boots are recommended. Layers are particularly important in the winter as the school can become very cold. Cotswold RDA have a range of branded tops such as Polo Shirts, Fleeces, and Sweatshirts which can be ordered in a range of colours at competitive prices. Please do not wear perfume, dangly jewellery or scarves/ties.

Can I volunteer outside normal working hours?

Yes, we have a range of sessions particularly our After School “Happy Hoof” Club which starts from 16:30 or 17:30 or Sunday mornings.

Do I need to make a regular commitment to volunteering?

If you would like to volunteer at Cotswold RDA we appreciate as much or as little time as you can give. We rely entirely on volunteer help. Even a couple of hours a week are greatly appreciated, however, we understand that other commitments cannot always make it possible, so all we ask is that you let us know if you cannot attend or that you can no longer volunteer with us.

Will I be insured?

Yes, all RDA Groups have Employee Liability, Public Liability and Personal Accident insurance.

Will I be asked to complete a DBS check?

Yes. All RDA volunteers over the age of 16 are required to undergo a disclosure check as they work with vulnerable adults and children. You can apply for a DBS through our online system. There is a charge of £10.00. The DBS lasts for 3 years after which time a new application will need to be submitted.

Will volunteering at Cotswold RDA help me find a job?

If you’re trying to find a job, volunteering can be a great route to employment. Adding volunteering experience to your CV can give you an edge over other applicants, and you will have more to talk about. Cotswold RDA volunteering can boost your confidence and help you learn new skills indeed we have already helped several volunteers move into paid employment.

The age range of our volunteer pool is amazing – from our youngest age 12 right up to our oldest at the age of 80 and every age in between.   Everyone has a role to play and without them we simply could not ride.
Minimum Age: Volunteers must be aged 14 or over

Our Young Volunteer Programme is open to boys and girls aged 12 years and over.  There is a wide selection of duties including grooming, poo picking, tack cleaning  as well as side walking and leading our ponies on a lead rein with our riders.   Health & Safety is paramount so, as with all our volunteers, they will need to take part in our induction training  programme with one of our equestrian team.

Maximum Age:

  • There is no upper age limit applicable to volunteers.
  • All volunteers are covered by public liability insurance.
  • Volunteers over 80 are covered by Personal Accident Insurance, but the cover excludes Benefit 4 (Permanent Total Disablement) and Benefit 5 (Temporary Total Disablement/Out of pocket expenses)
  • Personal Accident Insurance does not cover volunteers over 90 years of age.
  • Volunteers over the age of 80 will be informed so that they understand their insurance cover and will be given the opportunity to modify their volunteering activities if they so wish.

Medical Needs

We have a duty of care for the safety of its volunteers and therefore all our volunteers need to be fit to carry out the role being asked of them. This is a shared responsibility and you or us have the right to raise this issue where appropriate.

St. Gregory’s School Story.

Our first Sensory Afternoon was launched in early May 2016. 7 children from St Gregory’s School in Cheltenham came along to experience for the first time what they thought of this activity. This is their story, told by their teacher at the school.

Miriam’s Story

In the 4 months since my daughter, aged 6, began coming to Cotswold RDA we have seen an incredible change to her confidence and outlook.

Lee’s Story

Lee is a 30 year old young man who has a disability which only affects 1 in 5,000 babies born in the UK. Lee has had to cope with operation after operation since the age of 3 months (27 in total).

Get Involved

Volunteering at Cotswold Riding for the Disabled is one of the most rewarding things you can do – watch our video to learn more.