Riding for the Disabled – The Abingdon Group

Riding for the Disabled Association is built on the knowledge that the lives of the disabled can be enriched through horses. It has 500 centres across the UK with a committed team of 18,000 volunteers and coaches (and of course, fun and good natured horses) who together offer a wide range of therapy, fitness and skills’ development to over 250,000 disabled children and adults.

One of the earliest pioneering centres is the Abingdon Group, chaired by Ann Barlow and based at the Lower Lodge Riding Centre at, Southmoor, Abingdon. Founded in 1975, today it provides a unique brand of therapy to 84 children and adults aged between 2 and 70 across Oxfordshire and beyond. Those who use the Centre are faced with physical challenges such as spina-bifida, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, as well as learning difficulties.

But this does not prevent the life-changing experiences that are enjoyed at the Centre: the sense of achievement in competitions; the physical challenges; social development; the unique and loving bonds that are developed between horse and rider. Here the focus is on what can be achieved. Success. Inclusivity. Diversity. It is about bringing new dimensions to the lives of these children and not allowing disability to get in the way.  It is about growth in the widest sense of the word.

And that’s what is being further developed at Lower Lodge Riding Centre at the moment. More opportunities for personal growth in a new indoor riding school of considerable dimensions that has just been manufactured and erected by Shufflebottom.  The steel-framed building is 65 metres x 22 metres and will provide a full-size facility and safe environment for riders to use in all weathers. This competition-size building will enable blind riders to compete after practising their dressage skills in a school that is fit for purpose. More able riders will be able to test out their skills at a faster pace and so gain increased confidence and independence. It will also enable the Abingdon Group take in more riders who can benefit from this great Centre.

A project like this is a considerable investment. The return is immeasurable. What’s more, is that The Abingdon Group is a charity and relies wholly on the generosity of donors. The cost of the building has been raised through sponsorship and you can read the stories (and contribute) on www.justgiving.com/rdaabingdon/donate

 Ann Barlow’s dream has materialised in front of her eyes and she has kindly commented on the seamless service provided by Shufflebottom in the production and erection of the building on site in Oxfordshire, as follows in her very kind testimonial:

“Four years ago the Abingdon Group got planning permission for a 65m x 22m indoor arena. It took us four years to raise the funds, and two years ago Shufflebottom was the company that we chose to put up the building. 

In spite of COVID we have a busy yard with 15 horses and ponies, and when it came to the arrival of the builders we were slightly apprehensive about the chaos they might cause.  We had absolutely no reason to worry in any way. Three delightful men built the building in less than 2 weeks, and we thoroughly enjoyed having them in the yard. There was no fuss and they just got on with the job, living in a caravan on site. We have had so many people comment on what a great building it is and we are delighted with it.

During the 2 years that we were talking with Shufflebottom, they could not have been more helpful and guided me through territories unknown. The ladies in the office, even if they were sick of the sound of my voice, never showed any sign of despair, were always incredibly helpful, and usually managed to get the information needed.

I would particularly like to thank Rosemarie Jones from Sales for the enormous amount of help she gave us. The company have been a real pleasure to work with, and we would recommend them to anyone embarking on a similar project.”

Ann Barlow MBE


April, 2021

Shufflebottom is pleased to have worked with Ann and played a small part in offering new dimensions to the lives of the disabled and the work that goes on at Lower Lodge and also to add to our services to the Equestrian Sector.

You can read more about the work of RDA at www.rda.org.uk and about the Abingdon Group at www.rada-abingdon.org.uk  

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