Royal visitor helps disabled riding group celebrate its 25th anniversary

David Wells meets Princess Anne.
David Wells meets Princess Anne.

A very special guest helped a local disabled horse riding group celebrate its 25th birthday.

The Princess Royal arrived at Tullynewbank Stables in Glenavy to meet members of Banbridge and Moira Riding for the Disabled group as part of their anniversary celebrations.

At the riding school, Princess Anne, the President of the RDA throughout the UK, took time to come to see what happens in the group rides and to help celebrate reaching such an important milestone.

The Princess was met by Joan Christie, Lord Lieutenant of Co Antrim, Julie Jordan, Regional Chair of RDA and Shirley Lee, Group Chairman.

The Princess Royal was invited to tour the stable yard where she had the opportunity to meet riders grooming their horses as well as RDA volunteers.

She also took time to view two team events within the main arena, and on completion of the games met the riders and presented rosettes to all those taking part before cutting the groups’ anniversary cake.

The Banbridge and Moira group was set up by a few willing volunteers and the staff of Banbridge Day Centre back in 1989.

Indeed, some of the original founding volunteers were presented with long service awards by The Princess Royal.

Julie Jordan MBE, current Regional Chairperson, was honoured for 30 years service, Grizel Turkington for 25 and current Group Organiser Shirley Lee and Lorna Spence for 20 years.

Graine Shillington, past Regional Chairperson, was awarded one of the organisations highest honours, when she received a President’s Award.

There are only 10 of these given across the UK every year and RDANI is thrilled that another one has come back to Northern Ireland.

It is the most prestigious volunteer award within RDA and is awarded for service of an exceptional nature over a period of not less than 30 years.

Displays of arts and crafts, photo albums and newspaper cuttings were shown to The Princess Royal, before Shirley Lee thanked everyone for coming and for all of their dedication through the years.

The Princess Royal addressed riders, their families, volunteers and the staff from Tullynewbank.

She described how the organisation had evolved over the years and commended the group for their forays into the new RDA disciplines of show jumping and endurance riding.

The Princess Royal noted that this was a most appropriate moment to come together and celebrate the group’s success and she hoped that all involved would continue to enjoy being a part of the RDA.

The Princess was presented with a hand-crafted wooden Shepherd’s Crook and two RDA Anniversary Tea Towels.