The early days
The early days of Cotswold RDA were in the garden of a local lady called May Bingley. Twelve riders, attended on Tuesdays and Sundays for a half day only, all riding borrowed ponies, shipped in from all over the area.
A change of venue to Oriel School, which is now Ellenborough Park Hotel – then a boarding school. Luckily, the school premises contained an indoor arena. The borrowed ponies arrived, and on Tuesday afternoons we had approximately thirty riders taking part.
Later in 1972
The indoor arena sadly became a school sports hall so Cotswold RDA had to move again – this time to the Apple Tree car park and adjacent field in Woodmancote, and this is where we stayed until February 1982.
Between 1980 and 1982
This was a very exciting period for Cotswold RDA. The committee and volunteers embarked on an enormous fund raising campaign to raise enough to build a new indoor riding school near to Cheltenham Racecourse. The target was £80,000 which was almost an impossible task but the Jackie Brutton Fund very kindly agreed to match whatever we raised. The £40,000 was raised and matched.
Interestingly Jackie Brutton was the first female racing trainer and master of the Cotswold Hunt. She herself became disabled, and when she died, left her fortune to the disabled of Gloucestershire. Very sadly Jackie died before the Cotswold RDA School was opened.
The Cotswold RDA indoor school was finished in February 1982, and in April of the same year HRH Princess Anne officially opened ‘The Jackie Brutton Riding Centre’ in honour of Jackie’s memory.
Since then Cotswold RDA has provided lessons over four days a week building up to the point where approximately thirty six riders were attending in any one day riding borrowed ponies kindly lent by local owners.
Another change, this time introducing Sunday riding which is still very popular with the riders, families and volunteers.
Another leap forward for Cotswold RDA was enabled by a generous horsebox donation from Marks & Spencer, and the purchase of land located near to the racecourse at Cheltenham. This meant RDA ponies could be bought for the very first time. The first ponies bought were called Horsepower and Chips. It was also around this time that the first part time paid member of staff was introduced as Group Organiser.
The first full time staff position for a Cotswold RDA Centre Manager was created and recruited.
Cotswold RDA went on to employ the second member of staff, the Pony Welfare Manager who takes care of the precious ponies. All the remaining ‘staff’ at Cotswold RDA are our fantastic volunteers without whom we could not operate.
Cotswold RDA become an incorporated company. A new company number as well as a new charity number was issued.
We celebrated our 50th anniversary, and welcomed a very special guest HRH The Princess Royal who joined in the celebrations which included a display of our award winning “Musical Ride” and presentations to some of our amazing volunteers for their long service.
Following the horrendous weather early in 2014 are fields became so bogged down in mud that we had to move our ponies to a new location. A fundraising campaign was launched back in 2014 to build a barn and thanks to some wonderful donations we have been able to complete the barn and a new pathway.
Two new positions were created in 2016 a Charity Manager replaced the existing Centre Manager role and an Equestrian Education Manager was created. We have been able to launch our first ever holiday club and after school club, all thanks to BBC Children in Need funding.
Our incredible £50,000 mechanical horse complete with specialised RDA riding programmes arrived, enabling us to work with new riders and enhance the riding experience of many of our existing riders. The mechanical horse named “Sedbury Shadow” has enabled us to give so many of our riders the experience of cantering through the countryside, safari parks, towns and even on a beach thanks to the interactive TV screen.
We also expanded our offering by launching our new sensory experience. Phase 1 was launched with hour and a half sessions to give a new dimension to riders giving them the opportunity to spend more time and have a real hands on approach with the ponies, whilst learning how to groom, tack up and how to care for them. To complete the experience Phase 2 was introduced in June and officially opened by Dame Janet Trotter in the form of a sensory garden. The area has been specially designed to ensure that the surfaces are both pony and wheelchair friendly, enabling everyone to enjoy the full experience, including the “Beach” which was built by “Men in Shed’s” a local voluntary group who have worked so hard to help us make the Sensory garden so amazing.