AN ANDOVER charity has celebrated its 50th anniversary with a party for its many volunteers and guests.

One afternoon in June 1972, seven young pupils from Icknield Special School arrived at the very first session of the Andover branch of Riding for the Disabled.

Some time previously the annual jumble sale by the Royal Artillery Pony Club had been so successful that the organisers offered £50 - half of the proceeds – to Riding for the Disabled.

The response came back, “Please start your own group”! So that’s what Diana Murdoch and helpers did, and today adults as well as children with a variety of physical, behavioural and learning needs come to sessions across different locations around the Andover area.

In the same year as Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, Andover Riding for the Disabled (RDA) reached the golden milestone of 50 years old.

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Earlier this month, 70 past and present volunteers, coaches and helpers came together to catch up, to reminisce and to celebrate. The walls were decorated with photographs and press clippings from the Andover RDA archives covering all five decades.

One of the guests was Jacky Cleaver, who has helped at riding sessions as a volunteer since the early 1980s and who is now, through poor health, herself a regular RDA rider.

Also enjoying the evening were Anna and Charlie White of Frenches Farm where ARDA host regular sessions and Sean Cannon, headteacher at Icknield School, one of a number of schools whose pupils still delight in their regular sessions at Spring Meadow.

The evening was hosted by the charity’s current chair, Mary Childs, who introduced Vice Lord Lieutenant Admiral Iain Henderson as a guest. As well as recapping on the history of the branch it was he who proposed a toast to Andover Riding for the Disabled, with thanks for all their hard work and wishing many more years to come.

Riding for the Disabled in Andover is always keen to welcome new volunteers in many capacities.

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