Hall Place Equestrian Centre in Reading has been awarded the prestigious Accessibility Mark by Riding for the Disabled in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation. The award scheme encourages disabled people into riding and its therapeutic benefits.
One of the people who has benefited from the centre is Katherine Cooksley, an international dressage rider. Katherine had contracted pneumococcal meningitis with septicaemia and subsequently had her middle fingers amputated.
Speaking with The Reading Chronicle, Katherine said, "‘When I was 21 months old I got pneumococcal meningitis with septicaemia, which caused a hemiplegia resulting in significant left sided weakness. In addition, I had to have amputations to my middle three fingers on both hands and have impaired hearing and loss of binocular vision."
"I started riding at the age of four as a form of therapy, because I was very weak through my left side and needed to build strength in my body. I rode at a private stables and was mostly towed around the countryside on the end of a lead rein."
"After about two years I decided I wanted more of a challenge, so I moved to a local riding school, Hall Place, where I was able to ride in group lessons off the lead rein, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Over the next couple of years I managed to move up groups and discovered jumping."
"I learned to love horses during this period and it became clear they were going to be part of my future."
Riders like Katherine, with special behavioural and physical needs, have benefitted from riding at the centre for more than 35 years.