November 2020 Update for our Donors and Supporters
Due to the need for social distancing and the vulnerability of many of our participants we have been unable to resume our normal riding and carriage driving activities. However, in August we commenced our ‘Pony Time’ activity whereby a participant is able to meet, feed and groom one of our ponies. It's been a big hit with all of those attending, including the horses and ponies who just love the attention (not to mention the carrots and apples). Such sessions run 5 mornings a week.
Supported by funding from Active Suffolk we purchased equipment to allow us to move this activity into our fabulous indoor arena so we can continue as the autumn and winter weather arrives.
Following on from this we were very pleased to get our first two riders back in the saddle in October.
Sisters Hope and Paige attended training along with their parents who are now able to assist so that they can ride safely while our coaches and volunteers can adhere to social distancing requirements.
This is part of a staged return to riding sessions for individuals and household groups and is a great start to expanding on the Pony Time sessions.
Supported by funding from the East Suffolk Communities ‘Bounce Back’ Fund we are working to broaden our ‘Covid safe’ offering to include a range of new activities for our community group and individual clients. These will include activities that will contribute to the RDA Proficiency Certificates and Endeavour awards, part of the national RDA Education ‘Learning through Horses, Learning for Life’ programme, which mark and celebrate achievement, at all levels of ability.
To get this underway requires liaison with client groups, planning and training volunteers to safely supervise and deliver the new activities for clients. All of this places a huge demand on the time of our one fulltime employee, our yard manager, whose day-to-day responsibilities also include looking after our horses 5 days a week. We therefore propose to bring in extra part-time labour to free-up our yard manager’s time for these tasks. Whilst this introduces additional costs in a year that, to-date, has seen income decline sharply while our core costs remain relatively static, doing these things is essential to the future of the group and to supporting our participants.
We are keeping in contact with all of our existing volunteers providing regular updates, sharing our plans, progress and successes. A significant number of volunteers have now returned to support Pony Time and to assist with horse welfare, others are working behind the scenes on fund-raising, communication and essential admin tasks. Many of our volunteers tell us that the work they do for us is hugely beneficial to their own mental well-being.
Horse welfare is always a priority for us. During the Covid-19 lockdowns a small team worked incredibly hard to complete essential horse welfare tasks to keep our 10 horses and ponies fit and healthy.
As restrictions have been eased and with necessary Covid-19 mitigations in place, we have been able to bring back volunteers to assist with horse care and field management to ensure that our pastures provide good nutrition for our horses.
The pastures at our premises are on heavy clay soil. In winter this can quickly become waterlogged causing deep mud, which can both damage grazing for the following year and cause lameness in the horses. To prevent this, we stable our horses during the winter period. Volunteers are essential to assist with jobs such as mucking out during this labour-intensive period, so we very much hope that the current spell of relatively mild and dry weather continues at least until the November lockdown period ends.
Keeping the RDA horses fit, stimulated and strong is essential to allow them to cope with the varying disabilities of the riders and drivers. A fit and happy horse is a safe horse for our disabled riders and drivers. Fund raising to purchase a mechanical horse walker was a key ambition for this year. A horse walker ensures that our horses can maintain the level of fitness required for their RDA work, as well as maintaining a healthy weight. This looked to be very much in doubt as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions forced us to concentrate our fundraising efforts on meeting the costs necessary to ensure the future of the group and the valuable work we do. However, thanks to our participation in the Big Give Christmas Challenge the horse walker once again looks to be tantalisingly within reach. Raising the money will require a tremendous effort, but it represents a great opportunity for us and success would be a real morale booster for the whole team.
Finance and Fundraising
Courtesy of The Big Give match funding platform the 2020 Christmas Challenge offers donors the opportunity to have their donation doubled at no extra cost to themselves. To qualify donations must be made via the group’s Big Give Christmas Challenge donation page between noon on Tuesday 1 December and noon Tuesday 8 December 2020. This represents a great opportunity for us to achieve a key objective for 2020 and close a challenging year on a successful note. To purchase the horse walker, we need to raise £3,780 from public donations that will then be matched to give us the required £ 7,560, thanks to pledges from local businesses and our Big Give funding champion. We intend to promote our Big Give appeal via social media, our website, an email appeal to our supporters and through local press & radio. See https://donate.thebiggive.org.uk/campaign/a051r00001ef9QjAAI
As a result of the Covid-19 enforced closure we have not received any income from riding or carriage driving donations since March. These two activities would normally be expected to bring an income of circa £18,000 a year. Participants in Pony Time have been making donations to support us but overall, we anticipate between £1,500 and £2,000 this year. The impact of the November lockdown in both causing us to suspend participant activities for the month and delaying preparations for the launch of new activities, may reduce that even further.
In common with many charities, we have suffered a drop in donations and had to cancel planned fundraising events. The most recent example being the lockdown enforced closure of a Charity Christmas Card shop that has been run for the past 40 years by Woodbridge 41 Club. Every year they raise funds for nearly 20 different charities including ourselves, the shop is run by volunteers (including our own) and all of the proceeds go to charity.
We have been fortunate to receive funding from Active Suffolk and the East Suffolk Community Partnerships to support the development of new activities. Meeting our core running costs however remains an ongoing challenge for our small but dedicated team of fundraisers. We are particularly grateful therefore for donations received recently from the Lord Belstead Charitable Trust and the De La Rue Family Fund.
To end on a highlight, congratulations go to Glenny Stone (both a client and volunteer of ours) who was presented with a BBC local radio Make a Difference Award on the Mark Murphy breakfast show on Radio Suffolk, in recognition of her fund-raising efforts for us earlier this year. Glenny made and sold face coverings raising over £1,500 for us. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic BBC local radio stations have been recording stories and working alongside some fantastic people who have given to their community; people who are trying to make a difference. When she is not busy sewing, selling or starring on the radio Glenny also runs our popular Support a Pony Scheme.
The trustees, volunteers and participants of Riding for the Disabled (Woodbridge & District Group) would like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters without whom our valuable work would not be possible. We hope that you are all able to enjoy the Christmas break and that the New Year is rather kinder to as all than 2020 has been.
Training for our carriage driving coaches - November 2019
Our Charity provides carriage driving lessons to disabled adults and young people. Our coaches and helpers are all volunteers and we are enormously grateful for their support. Ongoing training is provided to them and recently one such "carriage driving coach" training session took part in the indoor school. Take a look at our specially adapted carriages in the above picture. The carriages are able to take wheelchairs on board, allowing wheelchair bound clients to take the reins and sit at the front of the carriage next to the coach.