University Community Fund steps up to support riding for disabled charity

Wednesday 24 August 2022
Woman with young girl and brown pony
Professor Dame Sally Mapstone with RDA participant Julia Stadnik and her favourite pony, Toby

A North East Fife charity that has been changing the lives of disabled people across the local area since 1976 has been supported in its bid to modernise its facilities by the University of St Andrews Community Fund.

From its base at Balcormo Stud near Leven, East Fife and Scooniehill Riding for the Disabled (RDA) works with local primary schools, adult day centres and individuals to share the benefits of riding therapy.

The group is run and supported by a team of hardworking volunteers who are involved in many aspects of the charity, including hands-on work with horses and riders to fundraising initiatives and education.

Since its move to Balcormo, the charity has been fundraising to create a multi-functional outdoor area to be used for non-ridden horse therapy as well as ridden therapy in order to broaden the range of activities offered and extend the charity’s reach in the wider community. Chair, Group Coach and volunteer Aileen Jones said that, thanks to a grant from the University Community Fund, work has gathered pace.

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone with RDA participants and volunteers at the mounting block which has made it easier and safer for participants to reach the horses

Speaking during a visit to Balcormo by University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, Aileen Jones said: “I am pleased to say that the work on our outdoor area is progressing well. The riding area has been fenced and surfaced and we have two field shelters in place to be used as shelter for the horses and also to double up as outdoor classrooms. We are now beginning work on the parking area and the outdoor viewing gallery as well as creating a sensory garden which can be enjoyed by all visitors.

“With the money we were granted from the University Community Fund we were able to buy the stepped mounting block and associated matting for the outdoor area to enable our participants to mount the horses safely. This is now in place and is ready to be used once the rest of the outdoor space is complete. The University also granted us money for lesson equipment and this is being put to good use in this outdoor area, enabling us to create interesting and fun sessions for our participants.”

Aileen added: “We are also working on the creation of an indoor classroom and demonstration area which, when complete, will provide us with a safe and accessible space to carry out non-ridden horse therapy sessions in an undercover area. Again, our intention is to broaden our activities to the benefit of the wider community. The grant provided us with the money to purchase craft supplies, clipboards and a whiteboard, which will be utilised in this area as well as in our outdoor area.”

Aileen went on to explain that the work won’t end there, with work beginning to replace the stables with new accessible stabling which will provide volunteers and participants with a safe environment.

In addition to the immediate benefits of being able to spend time with the horses and learning new skills, RDA involvement can also result in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for participants.

Frances Cape, Head Coach at Scooniehill RDA, Fife Equestrian Team Head Coach and named Disability Coach of the Year, explained: “In 2010 ten of my riders took part in the Special Olympics in Leicester. I was delighted that so many of them, including Andrew Hunter (pictured), returned with silver and bronze medals.”

The charity has around 50 volunteers including students from the University of St Andrews.

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone said: “East Fife and Scooniehill RDA is a wonderful charity helping so many disabled, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and the development of the outside space will help them expand the range of services they can offer. It has been fantastic to meet everyone and see how the University Community Fund donation has made a difference.

“I am also delighted that our students are contributing to the wider University community and gaining valuable experiences that volunteering can bring.”


Left: Professor Dame Sally Mapstone is pictured with, from left, Head Coach Fran Cape, participants Julia Stadnik and Andrew Hunter, and East Fife and Scooniehill RDA Chair and Group Coach Aileen Jones. They are pictured at the mounting block which is one of the pieces of equipment funded by the University Community Fund grant.

Centre: Professor Dame Sally Mapstone meets some of the RDA volunteers.

Right: Professor Dame Sally Mapstone is pictured with long-standing RDA participant and Special Olympics medal winner Andrew Hunter, his favourite pony, Millie, and volunteer Alison Reekie.

University Community Fund

The University Community Fund was created to enable the University to develop greater connections with local projects and increase engagement with communities across Fife. The fund was created in 2020 and its launch was brought forward in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Community Fund enables the University to listen to ideas, adapt to local needs, and provide financial support to deliver tangible benefits for the wider community.

The Community Fund will accept applications of between £250 and £3000, including those which:

  • benefit communities in the local area
  • increase engagement between the University and the community
  • promote knowledge exchange and widening participation
  • promote environmental sustainability
  • promote diversity and inclusion
  • celebrate the local area’s heritage, whether physical or cultural.

For more information on East Fife and Scooniehill RDA please visit the website or Facebook page.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category Community

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