Huge congratulations to Chris Walker who has just come equal second in the Mongol Derby!

This really is a remarkable and epic achievement. Not only that, he has also raised over £5000 for The Watershed RDA by competing.

We are all so proud of him at The Watershed and can’t wait to thank him in person.

We have another Champion in our midst!

​Our rider, Lily, entered some of her artwork in the RDA National Championships at Hartbury, and she won first prize for this fabulous painting of 'Siwan' in the snow!

She was also 2nd in the Collage class, and  3rd in the Sculpture class! Well done Lily, we are so proud.

The Mongol Derby - the world's longest and toughest horse race

(photo of previous competitors)

Chris Walker , a local Cirencester man, will be competing in the Mongol Derby starting on the 23rd July 2022 to raise money for The Watershed Riding for the Disabled Group.

Forty four internationally selected riders will race over 620 miles across the Mongolian Steppes using local herder’s ponies and recreating the messenger system developed by Genghis Khan in 1224.

The competitors ride from 6.30 am until 8.00 pm, and Chris hopes to average 100 miles a day! The riders change ponies every 40 kilometers, and the utmost care is given to the health and welfare of these hardy ponies.

Chris is quoted as saying “ I am delighted to be trying to complete this ultimate equine challenge and to be raising money for such a worthy charity. I know how horses can change lives and The Watershed do such good work.”

Whilst he is racing you can press this link to follow his progress -

Chris has paid all his own expenses but if you would like to support him by donating to Watershed, you can do so by going to our Home page, and pressing the “Donate Now” button.

This is Johnny, who rode with us from the age of only 5yrs until he was 14. He visited us recently with his aunt Hazel, and met some of our current ponies. 

We have been delighted that the family, including Jonny's father Doug have kept in touch with us over the years. 

On this visit they presented our chairperson Pam with a generous donation for Watershed RDA, a legacy from Jonny's  grandfather.

Henry started riding with us earlier in the year, and here he is riding Ben on his very first ride. He has loved his sessions at RDA and has already improved his confidence and his riding skills considerably. 

By the end of this term, he achieved his first Endeavour award. Well done Henry!

On their last day of term, some of our Tuesday afternoon riders enjoyed negotiating some Countryside Challenge obstacles. There were 'gates' to be opened and ridden through, narrow 'lanes' to negotiate, tight turns to steer round, and 'fallen branches' (arena poles!) to step over.

It was a fun activity, and a great way to practice their horsemanship skills


We are very excited to introduce our new pony Jerry, who is  kindly on loan to us by Laura Cole and her family.

He is a kind and willing pony, and although only 7 years old, has a remarkably steady temperament - hence he is already a firm favourite with Lily and Will as you can see!

He has settled in so well with our other ponies, has quickly adapted to our rider sessions, and is not bothered by any of the equipment or toys we use in the arena. 

He is staying with us during term time, returning to his  family in the holidays so that they can also enjoy him.

Stacey, our new part time Groom

We are so pleased that Stacey Pearson has joined the Watershed Team as part time groom!

She has a wealth of horsemanship experience which is a great asset to us, and she also transports our ponies in the trailer when needed.

Here she is with our new pony Jerry - what a lovely photo!

Polly Williamson

We were delighted to have been contacted at the end of last Summer by none other than Polly Williamson.  Polly is a renowned local Equestrian, former Junior European Eventing Champion and an accomplished Three Day Eventer.

In 2011, however, she suffered very serious injuries after a fall from a horse and had not been able to ride since then.

Her first ride at Watershed RDA was on Copper, who was an absolute star. It took an enormous amount of courage, but Polly managed to mount and be led around the area for a short time  at her first session. Over the next couple of sessions she progressed to trotting and even cantering independently. Copper was steady and responsive throughout, and proved to be the perfect confidence giver.

Polly's goal was to be able to ride again so that she could exercise her son's pony Pimms .  She has shared these lovely photos of  her riding Copper here at Watershed, and then her son's pony at home. She cracked it! 

We are among many many people who are incredibly proud of her determination and her accomplishment, and we are honoured to have been able to help her.

She has asked us to particularly thank Pam Farnsworth our Chairperson, Nikky Whittet our Coach and Pavlina Budalova a volunteer helper for all their support, and for making this possible.....and of course to Copper the pony!!

We are so very sorry to tell you that  Smartie became very poorly  just before Christmas, and on our vet's advice, had to be put to sleep.

As many of you will know, some time ago he had to have one eye removed, due to an incurable medical condition. He adapted remarkably well to his life with only one eye, and went on  happily enjoying his work for Watershed RDA for many more years.

Sadly, however, he began having problems in his remaining eye, and also some other significant neurological issues within his body.

He gave so many riders great happiness and confidence, enabling them to improve their riding skills. He was always willing to do what was asked after him, was never worried by anything, and was very much loved by all his riders and those who knew him and cared for him.

He will be hugely missed.

Sensory Trail

We have started creating the first phase of our exciting new sensory trail. 

These wooden casings on the way down to the arena have been built by a small group of stalwart volunteers. We are so grateful to Ian Farnsworth, Pete Dougill and Jack Rothwell for their hard work and ingenuity.

We plan to attach various different items onto them, to provide sensory stimulation, learning opportunities, and coordination practice - all whilst sitting on the back of a pony! 

We have some items already installed - the box with four opening cupboard doors  was designed by Pavlina Budaiová, and built and painted by Jack Rothwell. The assortment of latches and catches that the riders can practice opening are all often  found in a typical stable yard.

Mirrors in the Arena

Thanks to funds donated by a generous local Trust , we have been able to purchase and install a row of mirrors in our arena.

These will be an invaluable coaching aid, so that riders can check their riding position, and watch themselves performing various activities on their ponies.

We needed to ensure that all of our ponies were accustomed to seeing  these new mirrors  before any lessons took place.

They were most surprised, as you can imagine,  but provided us with much amusement!

Arena Lights

The arena lights that we had installed have been a huge benefit now that winter is here again.

 We are now able to provide extra 'after school' rides on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for 12 riders who would previously have been unable to ride. 

They fold down neatly against the fence when not needed.

Dressage Competition

In October, North Wilts Saddle Club kindly invited us to their dressage competition at Minety.

Lily, Ellie, Natalie and Chloe braved the rain and entered, riding Siwan and Jessie. They were placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th and received compliments from the Judges and beautiful rosettes.

Well done everyone!

Saddle Fitting

It is very important to have our saddles checked regularly to ensure they continue to fit comfortably, and do not cause any rubbing. Master saddler Maurice Emtage kindly does this for us.

Pony Dentist

Every year our ponies need to have their teeth checked, and filed smooth if necessary. We are very grateful to Stuart Philpott, the equine dentist from Field of Equitation, who kindly continues to donate his services. 

The process looks a little drastic, but although rather undignified, it does not harm the ponies at all and they don't seem to mind.

Some new signs have been positioned in the arena. In addition to the letters which mark the dressage positions along the fence line , they also have images of  animals which will be easier for some riders to identify.

There is also a new red posting box, which provides fun and a challenge for the riders as they position their pony close enough to post an object through the slot.

Benefits of RDA highlighted on BBC News!

There was a broadcast on BBC1  Sport news recently about the impact of lock down. They had filmed one of our riders to show the benefit for the small number of participants who have been able to keep going.  Our President, HRH The Princess Royal was interviewed for the story, and we are very grateful to her.

This will be a great opportunity to raise awareness of our work and the vital part RDA groups play in their communities.

If you would like to watch  it, copy this link to your browser:

Now, isn't that just the best tail you ever did see?!

Visit from the Farrier

The ponies were brought back to the stables from  their field yesterday for a routine visit from the farrier.

They were probably glad to come in out of the rain and the mud for a while.  Our covered 'outdoor classroom' is invaluable as a safe dry place for the ponies to stand whilst Bernie attends to each of them in turn.

We are continuing our training with using the new hoist. Here you see Smartie being a good as gold and standing completely still whilst preparations are made to dismount the rider.

Our rider in this case is one of our young volunteers, who said afterwards that she felt very safe and stable whilst being lifted - although obviously it was rather a wierd feeling! We have very accurate control of the hoist and the rider can be lowered carefully into a wheelchair if desired.

Some of our Tuesday afternoon riders were treated to this wonderful Rainbow backdrop yesterday!

Look at these super photos of some of our riders having a lovely time during their lesson! They are riding beautifully and should be very proud of their progress!

Best friends

During this current lockdown, our ponies still need to have some exercise.  Here you see Copper and Smartie ready and patiently waiting to go out together.

Security measures

Following the devastating theft of our horse trailer, we have now installed CCTV cameras on the premises, and our stable yard buildings are  fully alarmed.

50 bags of pony manure!

Volunteers Bill and Sarah and their trusty dog Chester kindly helped bag up some well rotted manure on the weekend.

We are selling it for £1 a bag to raise money for Watershed RDA.

If you would like to have some for your garden, then please

 contact Lorraine on 07840 739456

It's brilliant for the roses!

The things we do for Charity!

Periodically we need to collect dropping samples from our ponies so they can be sent off for analysis for potential parasite issues. If a sample comes back as positive, the affected pony is given medication.

The ponies were exercised yesterday, and here you can seed Finn wearing his protective fly coverings (He REALLY dislikes the horse flies!)

You can also see our Chairperson Pam, who valiantly dismounted every time a pony 'performed' and collected a sample!

It certainly added entertainment for for the rest of us!

Thank you Pam !

Nesting birds in our stables

We have been delighted to offer accommodation at our stable yard to some nesting birds!

A pair of beautiful swallows have built their nest in our feed room, and are currently feeding their chicks. They are flying in and out via Copper's stable - even whilst he is using it.

Also a pair of pied wagtails decided to build their nest under the eaves of Connor's old stable. Their two chicks have successfully fledged, and have been seen hopping around the yard! See the photo!

Some robins started building their nest just inside Jessie's stable. It rather fell apart the first time, leaving piles of moss on the floor. Undeterred, they built it again...but no better I am sorry to they have left to have another go somewhere else. Well, we all learn by practice!

Some wasps decided to build their intriguing nest in the tack room, but they did not receive a happy welcome from us, and they have also moved on to somewhere else.

Volunteer's Week

Every year, Volunteers' week takes place on a National level from 1st - 7th June. It is a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.

We wish to extend our own appreciation to all our volunteers at Watershed RDA. We are so grateful for all that you do, and we simply could not operate our RDA group without you!

We have recently received this lovely letter from our President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, which we wanted to share with you.

There are some also some lovely messages and video clips especially for Volunteers' week on the National RDA Facebook page, including one from Clare Balding.

If you would like to have a look, here is the link:

Our Sensory Garden at the stables has grown a  lot and is starting to bloom. The irises are looking particularly exotic! 

It's such a pity none of you can come to the yard to appreciate it just yet...

The reluctant decision has been made to let  MO go to a new home.

He is only about 9 years old, and being very intelligent, courageous and confident, we feel he will be more fulfilled in a life with more stimulation and challenge for him.

He had become rather bored with his RDA life, and although his mischievous antics kept us all amused, he was no longer as completely reliable and steadfast as is essential for us.

In his new home there are many other horses and ponies, he will be well loved and cared for, and we believe he will be able to stay there forever.

We will miss him for sure, as will Finn who had become his best friend field mate. 

You probably really need to be over 18yrs to become an RDA pony!

A message from Di Green, a former Watershed RDA rider 

Our new Ambassador!

"It is with real pride that I can announce that I have been officially crowned Ambassador for Watershed RDA - for those of you who have followed my path through getting back in the saddle all the way to an International Para Dressage career with Equestrian Team GBR will know how grateful I am to Watershed for taking a weeping, timid, former rider and turning me into a strong confident and competitive rider, I will never be able to thank them enough, so this is a real honour for me and I can't wait to get started in this new role. "

You can read about Di's early days of getting back in the saddle at Watershed RDA on our'Stories' page here on our website.

Peyo the therapy stallion from France

Some of you will already have seen this incredibly moving video clip about this horse, and it seems to be having a resurgence again as it is shared between friends on social media.

We at Watershed already know of the profound therapeutic power of horses, but Peyo is particularly special, and we thought you would enjoy seeing him.

Apologies in advance, as it is a bit of a tear jerker...

Click this link to watch:

Proficiency Test revision sheets

National RDA have produced some fun and colourful revision sheets for the theory elements of the Grades 1, 2 and 3 Proficiency tests.

They are available here:

If any of our riders would like to have a go at these 'Mock' tests, then please feel free to send your answers into us here at [email protected] and one of our qualified Coaches will check your answers for you and let you know how you have done!


Here she is!

Queen of the herd. 

So pretty, so special  

Dementia Coffee Mornings with-a-pony 

Yesterday we had our induction meeting for our planned coffee mornings and are now  officially 'Dementia Friends'

As such, we have joined the UK's biggest ever initiative to change the way people think, act and talk about dementia.

We are also convinced of the joy, and the therapeutic benefits that connection with a pony will bring - not to mention the happy chatter and the cake!

If you would like to be involved with our initiative, or know someone who could benefit, then please contact Kathy Mottershead on 07979 853907

Welcome to the newest member of our team!

We are now the very proud owners of a shiny new Red Tractor! Well, it is a second-hand, reburbished one, but we love it just the same, and will rely on it for so many jobs here at Watershed RDA.

 Our previous tractor was struggling with its health and fitness and has had to leave us for pastures new...

We have had to replace a lot of the fencing posts around the padocks at the stables, as they were badly rotten, and beginning to fall down. We enlisted the help of contractors with this mega 'boys toys' machine to sink them into the ground. 

Despite the rain and water-logged ground, they didn't make too..oo much mess.

Here is our stalwart Ian battling the mud and rain to replace the electric fencing rope around the perimeters. Thank you Ian!

Country Living magazine article and film

You may remember that last summer, to mark the 50th anniversary of RDA in the UK, we were visited by a film crew and journalists from Country Living magazine. They produced a wonderful article about us at Watershed RDA and also a very moving 5 minute film.  The day they came was gloriously sunny , and they accompanied us on a hack out into the countryside, and through the bluebell woods.  

To see the article and film again,  click this link:

New sensory garden

We are now proud to have two new sensory garden toughs planted up and positioned at the edge of our lawned area near the Mess room.

We were grateful to have received a donation from Tesco, which enabled us to purchase the planting troughs and also some gardening tools. One of our volunteers, Pavlína Budaiová, together with help from gardener Vicky Hurkett May did a wonderful job with preparing the troughs and with the planting up.

 We are grateful also, for donations of plants from other volunteers and Friends of RDA. and also to Dobbies Garden Centre, Miserden Nursey and Stancombe Beech Farm shop.

The plants used all have particular textures, colours and fragrances which will bring great enjoyment and sensory stimulation.

Watershed Mugs

These beautiful bone china mugs have been sponsored by The Rural Planning Practice.

They will be for sale at our 2020 events for £7.99.

If you would like to pre- order some, please contact Kate on

 07876 533322

A big THANK YOU to The RPP for their support and The Watershed RDA hope that you will all be drinking lots of tea from them!