Capel Ladies

Their July meeting saw Jan Derbyshire, chairman of The Shelley Centre for Therapeutic Riding, accompanied by her deputy chairman Margaret Fowler, come to talk to them about the Riding for the Disabled charity.

Jan started with the words “It’s what you can do that counts,” and then read a poem entitled I Can. Jan explained that she was an unlikely character to be where she is today, at the head of a riding centre, for disabled people. She was raised in Uganda, later moving to Hong Kong.

She eventually came back to this country and was a ‘Townie’ living and working in London, in nursing, in banking and also in recruitment, then moving to Dedham, 30 years ago. After retirement, a chance meeting with a neighbour got her volunteering for an hour a week, at The Shelley Centre. An hour a week led to a day a week, she learnt to lead a horse, then to ride a horse, she trained to be an instructor, then she went on the committee and eight years ago, became chairman of what is now a trust.

They found out that riding, has long been known to improve mental and physical health, it was used to help First World War victims. The Riding for the Disabled Charity officially came into being in 1969 and there were 80 groups scattered throughout the country. Now, there are 600, including The Shelley Centre which has been open since 1989.

The centre has 10 horses and ponies, lots of tack and specialist equipment, and even a side-saddle. They have a carriage for driving and Ebony the computerised mechanical horse.. There are between 95 and 100 volunteers and more than 100 riders attend each week. It costs £70,000 to run the centre for a year, so much fundraising is needed.

They saw several film clips, showing children and adults riding, and so obviously enjoying every minute of it, and they heard from families on what a big impact RDA has had on those they were able to help. In some cases, the riders said it was the first time they had ever been able to achieve anything, which made them feel they had been set free from their disabilities, for that short time when they are sat on their horse.

Jan was an excellent speaker, full of information delivered passionately and with wit. At the end of this very informative and enjoyable evening, they presented Jan with a cheque for £100, to help The Shelley Centre’s funds.

For more information, please ring Di Barker on 01473 311 870 or visit

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