ONE of the country’s most successful Riding for the Disabled groups fears it may have to put some of its horses to sleep if it can’t find temporary homes for them.

The Saxon RDA group at Bradford on Avon has been hit by a significant drop in income because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fees from riders have plummeted from around £320 a week to just £40 a week - which is not enough to feed and stable the horses.

The group has won two national awards in the past three years, making it one of the most successful in Wiltshire, if not the UK.

In 2017 one of the group’s riders, Darren Ashton, was named the RDA National Rider of the Year. Last year, the group’s vice-chairman and coach Jo Rutherford was named RDA Volunteer of the Year.

Stephen Ashton, Darren’s father and one of the group’s eight trustees, said: “Thanks to Covid-19 we are in desperate trouble.

“We have been very successful in the last three years or so, and owned five horses, and been able to purchase much needed equipment, such as a hoist.

"We have also been able to help many more disabled persons, many of them children.

“Then came lockdown and, with this inactivity, the horses began to display symptoms disguised by being fitter whilst working.”

Sadly, Flo, the group’s 'gentle giant' cob, was put to sleep by Wessex Equine vets last week after suffering underlying health problems.

Three of the group’s remaining four horses, Caellyn Haf, Jacko and Stanley, all need rest and rehab after picking up injuries.

Twelve-year-old Caellyn Haf has had a operation on her spine and now needs 6-12 months rehabilitation. The group has already managed to rehome her with the mother of one of their riders who lives at Edington.

Jacko, also aged 12, has an old injury on his back going back to when he was a beach pony and needs 4-6 months rehab.

Stanley, aged nine, one of the group’s new horses, is getting better and probably needs 2-3 months rehab before he can work again.

The group’s newest horse Saxon, aged seven, is the only one fit and well enough to work and earn an income.

Mr Ashton added: “The horses can no longer stay at Widbrook Equestrian Centre and not work. Widbrook has been very kind to us but they can't keep it up forever.

"If the horses don't work, they don't generate any income. We need to rehab them except Saxon, so either need donations, or a kindly stable where they can be rehabbed.

“The alternative sometime in the next few months maybe closure of the group, and we really don’t want the worst to happen. If we can't find a temporary home for the horses then we would have to put them to sleep.

“Also our riders need us to get back when possible, for not only their mental health, but their physical health.

“My son Darren, 27, since lockdown, has had two serious falls due to his core balance degenerating; one head injury resulting in six weeks of concussion and then a broken ankle.

“We are desperate to get help, and to be able to help as many disabled persons as possible if the worst is not to happen.”

To help, contact Kady Chatman on 07980 005169 or email