RDAV rider and volunteerRDA Victoria was founded in 1970 through the pioneering efforts of Michael Field, Wendy Maplestone and Betty Wood. Michael brought the idea with him from England, where RDA was already well established. Victoria was the third Australian state to establish Riding for the Disabled, after Queensland (1964) and South Australia (1970).

The original inspiration for the RDA movement was the Danish dressage rider Elizabeth Hartel. She won a silver medal in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, despite a disability from polio contracted in 1940, forcing her to use a wheelchair. Her achievement caused a change in attitude internationally towards people with disabilities, to focus on ability and achievement.

40 Years of History

1970 – Michael Field, together with Wendy Maplestone and Betty Wood, established RDA in Victoria.

1971 – Public meetings were held, and the first group was formed in October at The Basin.

1972 – The first RDAV meeting was held at Marathon House, Toorak and a North Metropolitan RDA was formed.

1974 – Southern Metropolitan group was formed at Keysborough with 12 children from the Black Rock Autistic Centre.

1975 – The Adult Group was started by Jan Dobell-Brown at the Mounted Police Barracks in South Melbourne.

1977 – A Queen’s Jubilee Trust Special Award of $5000 was presented to RDAV by HRH Prince Charles for the establishment of a full time centre at Glenroy.

1978 – In total 16 groups were established, with 300 riders being serviced. The Instructor Qualification Scheme was initiated in Victoria.

1979 – Nineteen groups were operating, catering for 500 riders. A national association was formed with two Victorian representatives, Wendy Maplestone and Robin Hocking.

1981 – Victoria had grown to 32 groups, and was split into 4 regions.

1984 – Mary Longden’s book “Teaching Disabled Riders” was published, and was to become the required basic reading for all instructors.

1985 – The first National Camp was hosted by RDAV, with the support of the Pony Club Association, at Glen Ormiston College.

1986 – RDAV revised its Constitution and became incorporated.

1987 – A three-year grant was given by the Victorian Department of Sport and Recreation to fund the implementation of an integration program.

1988 – A total of 92 groups were running at 37 locations, with 779 riders and 557 volunteers. Wendy Maplestone was awarded the AM for her work in RDA.

1991 – Review of coaching levels I and II, which were brought in line with the Australian Coaching Council.

1992 – First Horse Drawn Driving program was introduced.

1993 – RDAV Horses’ Birthday was hosted by the Governor of Victoria the Honourable Justice McGarvie and his wife at Government House.

1994 – RDAV reached 1000 registered riders, with 700 volunteers and 150 coaches at 43 centres.

1996 – RDAV’s 25th Anniversary. Three RDAV riders participated in the first Paralympics Equestrian team in Atlanta. RDAV riders competed in the Royal Summer Show and in a total of 22 integrated events.

1997 – Founding member Michael Field died.

1999 – Three therapy groups were started, at Bellarine, Doveton and Viewbank. A Vaulting program commenced at Doveton, Mooroobool and Koombahla.

2000 – Four Victorian riders participated in the Sydney Paralympics Games.

2001 – The 30th anniversary was celebrated. RDAV had grown to over 1200 riders in 37 centres.

2005 – The Smiley Education Tent program was introduced.

2007 – The Royal Children’s Hospital Project commenced, a study on the therapeutic effect of horse riding for young riders with cerebral palsy, in conjunction with Deakin University and funded through the generosity of the Hugh Williamson Foundation.

2008 – “Rideability”, the new trading name of RDAV, was introduced.

2009 – The Adaptive Riding Manual was completed with the funding from the Myer Foundation

2011 – “Riding Develops Abilities”, voted the new trading name at a special general meeting.