Skip to content


Benefits of Riding

Riding is a new and stimulating challenge. It can create a sense of achievement, feelings of independence and greater self-confidence.

Medical professionals recognise that there are significant physical benefits for the rider. The rider’s body responds to the warmth and three dimensional movement of the horse. This can help the rider to become more relaxed and supple, strengthening core stability and improving balance, posture and co-ordination.

Meeting other riders and interacting with our volunteers and coaches helps to develop social skills such as improving communication.

The coaches have a detailed discussion with each parent or carer to understand the unique needs of their child before commencing riding. Once the rider has started riding with us there is an ongoing dialogue to ensure everyone is happy. Our aim is always to enable the child to experience the joy and benefits of riding.

When &Where We Meet

We hold our weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons during school term times.

For our planned riding days see the Dates page

We meet in the Audrey Unthank Arena, Equine Department, Plumpton College, Ditchling Road, Near Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 3AE

The Riding Sessions

The riding sessions are from 10 to 45 minutes, depending on the standard, age and physical strength of each rider. Beginners may have three helpers, one leading the pony and one on either side of the rider. More advanced riders may ride independently.

We are able to offer riding to a broad spectrum of disabled riders as we can use our lift platform to get them safely on to the pony. The lift was generously donated to us by Dane Rawlins, the patron of our charity and it is a great asset for the group.

Hope in the Valley will provide each child with all the necessary riding clothing as well as a riding hat which meets the most up to date safety standards. This becomes important if the rider stays with us for some time and grows! We have a dedicated changing room which is useful if, for example, the rider has come directly from school.

Each session is taught by a qualified RDA coach who is also a first aider. We also have a number of other volunteers who keep up to date with their first aid certification.

We hold our sessions in a full-size indoor arena. In fine weather the children often enjoy a hack around the grounds of the college.

We encourage the children to take part in learning about the horse, how to care for them and about the riding equipment. However, for some of our riders we realise it may be enough just to hold a brush to groom the pony.

When possible we prepare the children to take part in the RDA Proficiency Test programme. The programme is designed to be as accessible as possible which encourages participants each step of the way. There are 4 levels with the tests gradually increasing in difficulty. These provide an attainable challenge within the scope of the individual’s capabilities. The children’s achievements are always rewarded with badges and certificates.

We have a viewing gallery, with lift access, from which the parents, carers, children and volunteers can watch the riding sessions. Refreshments are available to everyone although we do ask parents or carers for a small donation.


Hope in the Valley follows a robust Safeguarding Policy in accordance RDA National Guidelines.

The current Child Protection Officer is Sheila Camilleri. Sheila can be contacted by email:

Additional Riding Opportunities


Hope in the Valley enjoys taking part in the South East Region RDA Dressage Competition. The event is held at the Hickstead International Showground, usually in May each year.

There are many different classes for every ability.

Countryside Challenge

The South East Region Countryside Challenge competition is also held at Hickstead. This entails negotiating various obstacles such as opening gates, riding under an archway, posting a letter in a post box. Riders of all abilities are encouraged to show what they can do and classes are organised accordingly.

RDA National Championships

We are always proud to send a team to the annual RDA National Championships if riders qualify at the Regional dressage or the Countryside Challenge competitions. Hartpury College, Gloucestershire hosts the National Championships each year.

The Penny Lucy Holiday Fund

In 2011 our group physiotherapist, Penny Lucy, sadly died. Her family asked for donations to be made to Hope in the Valley and we received a substantial amount of money.

After much thought the Trustees decided to establish the Penny Lucy Holiday Fund. This is used to subsidise some of our riders to go on a unique holiday to the Clwyd Special Riding Centre in Wales each summer.  As well as riding, the children get involved in all aspects of looking after their pony for the duration of their stay. They get involved with bringing the ponies in from the field, feeding, grooming, mucking out and tack cleaning. At the end of each day riders can then enjoy watching their new bestie having a well deserved roll and munch out in the field.

At Clwyd the riders have the full support of familiar coaches and volunteers from Hope in the Valley, and one of their parents or carers. Everyone comes away from Clwyd greatly enriched by the immersive experience.