Work to build a new £3.7 million horse-riding centre near Warwick which will train people to give disabled children and adults therapy through equestrian activities has now started.
The Riding for Disabled Association (RDA), whose president is Princess Anne, uses horse-riding and carriage driving to provide therapy for 25,000 people.
It plans to move from its current national office in Warwick to the new site at Lowlands Farm in Shrewley by December next year.
The Lowlands Equestrian Centre, which has been used by four RDA groups for many years, will now be the national centre for training riding coaches and other volunteers.
The charity’s chief executive Ed Bracher said there would be stables and grazing for 20 horses, indoor and outdoor arenas, training and conference facilities, and overnight accommodation and offices.
He said: “It will provide an ideal environment for hosting practical training sessions, workshop and demonstrations, events and competitions and will be an inspirational venue in which to train and inspire RDA volunteers and coaches from around the UK.
“We currently work with thousands of people across 500 sites in the UK. To have national facilities is a big step for us.
“We are delighted the council has supported us with planning permission and that we are going to be able to develop the facilities in this area.”
And Princess Anne felt the move would benefit more people in the long term.
She said: “RDA has built a world class reputation on the strength of its expertise, coaching and horsemanship. These are strengths that must remain at the heart of everything we do in the coming years.
“The Lowlands project will ensure we can maintain our high standards and develop our training programmes to ensure the best possible experience for RDA’s riders and carriage drivers long into the future.”
Kevin Mitchell, a partner and commercial lawyer with Blythe Liggins Solicitors in Leamington, said: “A working group of RDA officers, architects and other advisers are now deciding on the next step regarding a phased development, including the demolition of existing equestrian buildings, the construction of new offices and the extension of the car park.”
The site in Shrewley was also the end point of a six-month long fundraiser which generated £40,000 for the new centre to be built there.
The ‘Big Ride RDA UK’ saw RDA Chairman, Sam Orde, taking part a series of distance horse rides and carriage drives around the UK, accompanied by hundreds of the charity’s disabled riders, carriage drivers, volunteers and supporters.
The 18 big rides have notched up thousands of miles from both horses and humans, with over 750 people taking part overall.
Her final ride ended in Shrewley where the new centre will be built.
The money raised will go in part towards RDA’s National Training Centre project, with the rest to the individual RDA groups and regions that took part.
Sam started her journey in April at Abbots Ripton in Cambridgeshire. She went all around the UK, meeting hundreds of RDA’s disabled riders and volunteers along the way.
Among the highlights on the journey was being hosted by RDA President Princess Anne at Gatcombe, having a mounted police escort in London, and visiting where Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland.
Sam said: “RDA members and supporters have done brilliantly, joining forces to have a wonderful time riding over 2,500 km in our stunning UK countryside to raise funds for RDA’s exciting, new National Training Centre.”