Suzanne Stratford’s family moved to Broadlands in Medstead, Hampshire in 1946. In 1955 they started giving riding lessons and the Broadlands RDA Group has grown ever since. ITN newsreader Alastair Stewart OBE is an enormous supporter of British equestrianism, a sport three of his four children actively enjoy and one in which he has a number of voluntary roles, including Ambassador for British Showjumping and Patron of the Brooke. On Sunday 8th July Alastair and his wife, Sally, visited Broadlands to celebrate the first phase in the centre’s refurbishment. Here Alastair explains more about the refurbishment and the work they do at Broadlands.
“Ola, from Belarus, survived the aftermath of Chernobyl but it left her with withered arms.
On Sunday morning (8th July), with a beaming smile of confidence and achievement, she rode ‘Monie’ at the RDA ‘Broadlands’ centre at Medstead in Hampshire.
Ironically, we were there to celebrate the first phase of the centre’s refurbishment: the safe and successful removal of an old asbestos roof and the refurbishment of the open-fronted, indoor school.
The long-standing dynamo behind this remarkable place is Suzanne Stratford, a slight woman of a certain age, who wears a single eye-patch, has an authority about her but oozes affection for the young folk who come here to over-come their set-backs and commune with one of God’s most magnificent creatures.
Some of the riders have had challenges all their lives. Others, like Gillian, a former successful three day eventer, achieved great things in an earlier equestrian life. She is back in the saddle and riding magnificently. Illness or injury can set back many riders or halted them in their tracks. Through RDA, they are climbing back into the saddle, and riding to new successes.
From beginners, juniors, and teenagers, to young adults, they were all put through their paces by the brilliant volunteers – some are helpers; others are fully trained coaches. Some walked their ponies while others did pony club games or floor-work; and many, too, jumped, to great effect.
Sally and I, with our friend Tom Yendell, watched with delight at the equestrian skills on show. But even more, how the concentration of the riders ended in smiles and a delicious sense of evident achievement when the performances were completed. It all echoed to the applause bursting forth from proud parents, siblings and friends.
Such scenes can be seen in RDA groups most weekends, up and down the country. It is a magical charity that does so much good.
‘Broadlands’ needs more money to complete the renovation: at least £49k – at best, £250,000.
Look at the pictures, think of the achievements and share in the belief that nothing is impossible. Then, if you can, do help us with the next phase. Broadlands is too great an asset to lose.”
To find out more about Broadlands and how you can contribute to the next phase of the development visit https://www.broadlandsgrouprda.org.uk