MORE THAN 500 competitors took part in this year’s RDA National Championships, a three-day event at Hartbury, Glos, for disabled riders and carriage drivers.

Featuring dressage, carriage driving, showing, vaulting, showjumping and RDA’s own event, the Countryside Challenge, it is the biggest event of its kind in the world.

Highlights of this year’s event included the first endurance ride and the introduction of dressage pairs, with Scots featuring amongst the prizes.

“This was my first year as a competitor, although I’m also a volunteer so I could see life from both sides,” said Cass O’Brien, who is a rider with Unicorn Centre and RDA county chair, for North Yorkshire. “As a participant I was treated with a huge amount of respect, with lots of lovely comments from everyone, good luck wishes and well done’s after I’d done my test. I may have only come seventh but I felt as though I’d won the world cup! Not too bad for a worn out 65 year old!”

Another first timer was 13-year-old Charlotte Roberts of Ynys Mon RDA. “One of my dreams was to ride at a National event in the same ring as Charlotte Dujardin, truly a dream come true. The whole event was inspiring and we left really feeling it is what we can do that counts!”

The championships certainly provided good news for the Forth Driving Group, who took home some of the events' leading awards.

Since its inauguration in November, 2014, the group's drivers have qualified each year at Hopetoun for the RDA Nationals. This year was no exception, with two drivers making the trip to Hartpury.

Having won the novice class last year, Linda Farquhar moved to the intermediate class in which she performed brilliantly to gain a second consecutive win.

Fellow group member, Emma Hunter, was experiencing national competition for the first time and finished third in the novice class, which augers well for the future.

The drivers also get support from coaches and an entire team who backed them throughout their training and at the event. According to the group's publicity officer, Gillie Drapper: "Of course, none of this would have been possible without our wonderful pony, Ozzy, who takes everything in his stride.

"Thank you to Brian Mills-Thomson, his owner, for ensuring that he was in peak condition to cope with such a long journey and to perform at his best."

* The Forth Driving Group is a charitable organisation based at Riverside Riding School, Carronshore. Its normal driving season for the disabled runs from April to September, when it requires a large number of volunteers. If you read this article and are interested in helping telephone 01786-870351 or 0141-942-2451, for further details.