Minister Poots visits Riding for the Disabled Association centre in County Londonderry

Date published: 13 January 2022

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots, MLA, has visited the Causeway Coast & Glens Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) Centre in Coleraine to see first-hand the activities run by the charity, particularly those relating to Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL).

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA is pictured with pupils from Castleroe Primary in Coleraine with Christina Buzas - trainee coach, Frankie Creith - RDA volunteer, Mrs Samantha Williams - Principal Castleroe Primary School and CAFRE apprentice - Blain Lynch.

During his visit, Minister Poots watched pupils from the local Castleroe Primary School take part in horse riding and discussed the benefits of that and other activities at the centre, which help improve physical and mental health, communication, confidence and the general wellbeing of participants. 

Paying tribute to the work RDA does throughout Northern Ireland and the services it provides to schools, the Minister said: “EATL involves using horses and donkeys in a range of treatments and activities to support human physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as educational development. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that EATL can make a huge difference to children and young people for whom traditional methodologies do not work. This includes children excluded from school, young people known to youth justice, those with autism, young people with cerebral palsy and many more. I therefore commend the Causeway Coast & Glens RDA and the One Equine Trust, which works closely alongside RDA, for their role in promoting and providing EATL to disabled and vulnerable people in the local community.”

The Minister concluded: “My Department is currently working to progress a Strategy for the Equine Sector in Northern Ireland and the development and promotion of EATL will be a key component of that Strategy. I am therefore very supportive of this initiative.”

Peter North, Chairman of Causeway Coast and Glens RDA said: “RDA recognise that the benefits of equine therapy to the disabled are often not fully appreciated by the general public. We are therefore delighted the Minister has taken time from his busy schedule to visit us at Riding for the Disabled here in Coleraine. It gives us the opportunity to raise our profile and show him at first hand the work of our volunteers and the real value our charity brings to the disabled within our community.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is a registered charity which provides opportunities for people of all ages to access riding and associated activities at 30 groups located over the Province and has been providing services for over 50 years to schools across Northern Ireland.  Causeway Coast and Glens RDA was established in 1975 to provide recreational and therapeutic riding opportunities for persons with a disability living in Coleraine and surrounding districts. The Group has provided services to over 3000 clients, currently about 150 per year.
  2. One Equine Trust, which works closely alongside RDA, is a charity organisation which promotes the use of Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL). It was formally launched online in November 2020, with video contributions provided by the Ministers for DAERA, Health and Education.
  3. The 2019 Deloitte analysis of the NI equine sector identified EATL services as a key area for development.  Following that analysis, the Department is currently working on the development of a Strategy for the Equine Sector in Northern Ireland. A Cross-Governmental Equine Strategy Steering Group has been established to inform its development. It is anticipated that EATL will be a key component of the Strategy. The Strategy will be subject to public consultation in due course.
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