In the beginning
Ravelrig Riding for the Disabled (Ravelrig RDA) was established by a small group of gallant people who wanted to open up the joy of horse riding to the residents of the Barnardo’s children’s home in Balerno. Founder member and current Trustee Barbara Johnstone MBE, worked for Barnardo’s in what was Ravelrig House and, along with a few others, stabled her horse within the grounds.
As you can imagine, many of the young residents of the home begged for the chance to ride, but due to insurance restrictions, they simply couldn’t. Barbara and the group solved this problem by registering as a Riding for the Disabled Association group and Ravelrig RDA was born. The rest, as they say, is history!
Where we are now
Ravelrig RDA now operates on a stunningly beautiful six-acre site, still situated within the local community of Balerno. Having moved to this incredible location in 1995, we were absolutely thrilled when Cala Management Limited gifted the land to us in 2010. This secured the future of Ravelrig RDA and presented opportunities to develop and grow the group.
Ravelrig RDA now facilitates classes and therapeutic riding for around 120 riders per year and provides exciting and rewarding opportunities for more than 120 volunteers aged between 12 and 75. The one thing that hasn’t changed – and never will – is the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere of ‘one BIG Ravelrig family’.
How we are funded
Ravelrig RDA relies entirely on donations, fundraising activities and trust or foundation grants. We are incredibly fortunate to have the absolute support of our riders (and/or their parents), who make voluntary donations of an amount of their choosing each month by standing order. Although not entirely guaranteed, this does give us some planned monthly income.
With annual running costs of around £90,000, the urgency to secure more regular donations and to organise successful fundraising events is understandably constant.
As an example of where the money goes, the annual cost of caring and providing for our specialised team of eight RDA horses is in the region of around £18,000 and like most things, increases year-on-year. Feed and bedding alone accounts for around £8,500 with shoeing and regular farrier visits taking up another £4,000.
Our biggest challenge
Our site is without a doubt incredibly beautiful. The unique hilltop and valley setting in a secluded, yet central location takes you by surprise when you first visit. However, the price we pay for such a site is heavy. Wind, rain, cold and snow causes the cancellation of up to a third of our riding sessions every year.
The disappointment and distress this causes our riders is heart wrenching. For many, their visit to Ravelrig is the highlight of their week and parents and carers are left trying to explain why it has been cancelled. The therapeutic benefits such as improvements in core strength and posture are often set back if riding is inconsistent over the winter months.
The next step
So, in 2011 Ravelrig RDA engaged a firm of architects and, working closely with our trustees, volunteers and riders, designed a wonderful new facility that includes an indoor riding arena. Those endless weeks of inactivity will be a thing of the past.
Ravelrig RDA aims to become the recognised Centre of Excellence for Riding for the Disabled in South East Scotland with the added benefit of offering a valuable and flexible facility for the local community.
With planning permission for a new indoor arena complex secured and fundraising under way, Ravelrig RDA has a clear and exciting vision of future growth, development and diversification.
What this means for Ravelrig
These new amenities will allow Ravelrig RDA to greatly increase the number of riders, volunteers and community users benefiting from the centre’s facilities. The introduction of additional RDA activities such as vaulting and showjumping are planned, along with the continued growth and development of Ravelrig Hands & Horses, a recently piloted and highly successful therapeutic horsemanship programme for veterans of the armed forces.