The West Lothian branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is fighting back with a series of fundraisers after a heartbreaking start to its 50th anniversary year.
On Saturday a small team of parents completed an eight mile sponsored walk from Linlithgow Palace to the Kelpies in Falkirk to raise money to help to pay vets bills and to buy new horses after three RDA horses died at the start of the summer riding season due to grass sickness.
Don Whyte, trustee of the West Lothian branch of RDA, explained more about the group’s latest fundraiser.
He said: “Although this is the 50th anniversary year of the RDA, our branch has had a difficult year.
“We sadly lost three horses within the space of a week due to a little known disease called grass sickness. It’s unique to the centre of Scotland. It just seems to be something in the soil or the atmosphere. There is no cure. Once they get it 95 per cent of horses die.
“This left the volunteers devastated but also a large number of children have missed out on lessons during the summer.
“Financially this has left us £8,000 down due to vets bills and loss of income for the entire summer. We also need to raise around £5,000 to buy at least two new horses.”
Don was delighted with the fundraising efforts of the parents last Saturday.
He added: “It took them about four and a half hours. The weather was cracking, it was a beautiful day for it. It worked out really well.
“These fundraisers are pretty crucial. The way we work is a pay as you go system when the kids use the horses over the summer. We are hoping for a milder winter so we can get more kids on the horses. But a hard winter and a big vet’s bill could swing us into a bad situation.
“That’s why we are doing our fundraisers now. There is no point waiting until December time when there is no money in the bank.”
At West Lothian RDA, based at Hopetoun Estate, the team of 80 volunteers and now five horses provide weekly life-changing therapeutic riding lessons for around 60 adults and young people with physical and/or learning difficulties.
“Without the dedication of our volunteers together with donations and fundraising activities we could not continue to provide this wonderful opportunity,” added Don.
“Our group is self-funded and completely run by volunteers. Our season runs from May to October each year as we only have an outdoor arena but throughout the winter our horses are looked after by a small team of volunteers who give up their time every day in all weathers.
“The simple pleasure of working with horses is the cornerstone of all RDAs activities. Research from RDA National Office shows that horse riding with RDA delivers physical benefits, boosts confidence, improves communication skills and helps to build relationships.”
The group’s 50th anniversary fun day will be held on Sunday, September 22, at Whitequarries near Winchburgh, 12.30pm-3.30pm. Entry is free and there will be raffles, tombolas, face painting, kids games,stalls and the chance to meet the horses.
To donate to the West Lothian branch of the RDA’s fundraising efforts, go to http://bit.ly/wlrda19