Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), a charity that works with more than 25,000 disabled people, has welcomed the government’s funding package of £12.7m for social prescribing in England.
The charity says the funding will allow more people with disabilities with the chance to access non-clinical programmes in their community to support mental and physical wellbeing and reduce reliance on prescription medication.
What is equine therapy?
The RDA offers children and adults with physical and learning disabilities and autism the ability to access horse riding and carriage driving, also known as equine therapy.
Equine therapy has known benefits, including improved core strength, balance and coordination and boosting mental wellbeing and happiness.
The charity says that equine therapy enables people with disabilities to have regular social interaction, beneficial contact with animals and access to the outdoors, which plays an important role in addressing wider societal concerns around loneliness, mental health and wellbeing.
The charity’s 2019 report ‘Horses, Health and Happiness’ demonstrated clear evidence that volunteering with RDA made people feel more useful and better about themselves, and encouraged members to be more sociable and physically active.
Equine therapy is recommended by Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists, and the majority of participants are referred to the RDA by a health professional.
Helping people with mental health and communication problems
RDA Coach and Community Charity worker Mahmoud has been campaigning for social prescribing with his local council for 10 years. He said equine therapy is one of the “best opportunities” for social prescribing in the UK.
“I’m very interested in equine therapy because it is one of the ways we can actually help people with mental health and communication problems without resorting to expensive healthcare.
“RDA is a very important asset within the community; 90% of the clients I work with would benefit from using RDA-like services, either as volunteers or participants, because they come under the category of people with mental health problems, high risk of suicide or isolation. And I believe working with horses would benefit them directly.”
“RDA is the only major UK charity whose focus is squarely on the therapeutic and health benefits of bringing people and horses together,” he said.
The RDA has more than 400 groups across the UK
The RDA has 432 groups and commercial centres across the UK. All coaches are trained and qualified to deliver the best possible experience, based on the individual’s needs, ambition or therapeutic goals. Their trained volunteers are also on hand to provide extra support if needed.