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Riding therapy

281. Di Redfern

A Buckinghamshire volunteer who has spent almost half a century volunteering with her local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group.

Di Redfern, a Fulmer resident, has been volunteering since the late 1960’s with the South Buckinghamshire RDA group, which uses horses and ponies to provide therapy, enjoyment and achievement to people with disabilities.

Di has been pivotal in developing the self-esteem and enjoyment for hundreds of individuals who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to do so. She also played a key role in developing the hugely successful UK Paralympics Dressage team and in particular Sophie Christiansen – who won three gold medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games – and Natasha Baker – who won two golds at the same Games.

Di developed a passion for horses and horse riding from an early age and as a teenager wanted to give something back to the sport she loved and open up riding to all children and adults. Di began volunteering with the South Buckinghamshire RDA Group in the late 1960’s and since 1974 has been the group’s chair, organiser and host. Throughout this time she has held multiple positions as a county and regional instructor and regional chairman.

Today, hundreds of children visit the stables and have the opportunity to ride from schools in the local area as part of the curriculum plus individuals can ride horses later in the evening and at the weekend. Di is currently helping Sophie Christiansen to train hard on a new horse Athene with our eyes firmly set on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Di has spent nearly fifty years volunteering tirelessly with the Riding for the Disabled Association. Not only has she stepped up to hold various roles at a national level, she has never stopped working day in day out with young riders in South Bucks to give them the chance to experience the enjoyment, achievement and therapy of riding. Di rightly deserves a great deal of credit for her work developing two of Britain’s great Paralympic gold medallists, but she also deserves huge recognition for the work she has done to help so many young riders. I am delighted to make her a Point of Light.”

Di said:

“Thank you so much for this prestigious award, it came as a complete surprise. I have found it a privilege over the years to watch the disabled riders develop in confidence and to see the joy on their faces as they continue to progress. Riding is great therapy whether you are physically or intellectually impaired as well as being marvelous exercise for all my wonderful volunteer helpers who come and lead the ponies each week.”

Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Christiansen:

“I started riding with South Bucks RDA when I was 13 and that is how I got to know Di. Since then she has been a massive support for my riding career. Her extensive knowledge has meant she has been able to guide me in the right direction to reach the Paralympic Games. Without her I would certainly would not be a paralympic gold medalist. Di’s unwavering volunteering and support with the RDA has meant that so many young disabled children have had the opportunity to ride. For me, if I hadn’t ridden from a young age I wouldn’t be as able as I am now. Riding has taught me so many skills and she has given that to thousands of disabled people.”

Dominic Grieve MP said:

“I am delighted to hear that the Di Redfern has won a Point of Light award for her work with Riding for the Disabled in my constituency.

“The Riding for the Disabled Association is one of the great success stories of charitable activity in South Buckinghamshire. It provides the opportunity to participate in both sport and recreation to hundreds of disabled people. Its success has, in large part, been due to her efforts and the way she has motivated others into volunteering and helping with its work. The high standard she achieves has been shown in the UK’s success in the Paralympics.

“I would like to congratulate Di and wish her all the best for her future work.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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