A HEREFORDSHIRE charity that offers disabled people a new lease of life could find itself in crisis.

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), currently based at the Holme Lacy Centre, is desperately seeking new stabling for up to 20 horses as well as cash to tackle ever-increasing waiting lists.

With the lease already expired and a deadline date of December, 2004, organisers need to find larger premises so facilities can be expanded to provide a wider service throughout the community.

Some disabled youngsters, who are referred to the association by doctors, hospitals, schools and adult training centres, are waiting up to a year before they start their therapy on horseback.

Far from being 'just a riding centre' the association offers help to improve the quality of life for more than 400 disabled people of all ages by providing 'physiotherapy on a pony' and 'hippotherapy'.

It is also the only organisation in the area with a lifting hoist and is part of the National Curriculum as well as being subject to Ofsted reports.

Chief instructor and manager Celia Baker said: "We are a therapeutic centre and it is here to help all the people in that condition and beyond - if all this is going to fold up it is awful.

"A lot of people will be denied the opportunity that a minority have got and we do not want to become elitist. With increasing health and safety legislation it maybe impossible to continue."

The RDA has been established in Herefordshire for 30 years and 12 of those have been at Holme Lacy - the only purpose built centre in the West Midlands.

The new premises needs to have indoor and outdoor riding schools, stabling and at least 20 acres of grazing as well as facilities for carriage driving and good access for ambulances near Hereford.

Even if the land requires building work it could still fit the bill, explained chairman of the Holme Lacy centre Jayne Harper.

Teaching and working for the RDA also requires special medical training to meet the needs of the disabled people using the centre.

Jayne continued: "We give them the confidence - especially college students - to learn a skill to go on the job market. We are unable to do that now but if we had a purpose built centre we could really extend that provision."

Fund raising is essential to add to the development fund that has been in existence for 10 years so the RDA can cater for the county's needs and beyond.

Anyone with suggestions on fund raising, prospective land or any other ideas or donations should contact Jayne Harper on 01544 388585.

Back in saddle

A SNAPPED spinal column and four broken ribs could have meant that orthodontist, Katy Kelly would never ride again, but thanks to the RDA she is back in the saddle.

Katy is paralysed and in a wheel chair after a riding accident and after numerous attempts at various activities brought disappointment - she decided to try riding Kilamanjaro (a saintly ex-dressage horse) at the RDA.

She said: "Paralysis does change everything - all sensations are different. There is no longer any pleasure in a warm bath or sense of liberation in swimming. Fatigue sets in suddenly and painfully and simple tasks take hours."

She now believes that her once weekly riding therapy Kilamanjaro is an important weapon in her fight to keep sane and active.

Help to live life in a better way

DOCTORS doubted whether she would walk again and could only suggest she bought a wheel chair and attempted to adapt.

'Not on your nelly', thought Mouse Stagg after she contracted the polio paralysing her limbs during a six week visit to Uganda in 1958.

It appears, more than four decades on, courage has shone through for Mouse, who has been riding with the RDA for over ten years and even competed in dressage competitions.

Throughout her involvement with the association she has seen first hand how the therapy and interaction with the horses can help people with disabilities.

She said: "To see the parents faces when they see their children doing things that they never would imagine they could do - it gives the children the opportunity to live life in a different way."

Now 80-year-old Mouse is living proof that whatever your disability or age the RDA can make a difference to people.

Mouse continued: "I admire the work of the RDA to make it possible for us, the disabled riders, to experience a feeling of freedom and sheer enjoyment."