Next Term

We are looking forward to the start of the new term next Monday 10th January, and seeing many of you back at the stables again.

It was such a disappointment not to have been able to hold our Christmas party, but we are planning a lovely get together in the Summer instead. 

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!

Minchinhampton RDA

We are pleased to announce that as from September 2021, Watershed RDA will be absorbing the riders, volunteers and coaches from nearby Minchinhampton RDA. The addition of coaches and volunteers will allow the group to offer more riding sessions at our safe and well equipped site. 

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.

We are excited to have been able to start offering riding sessions again for a few of our riders.

Preparations have been made to make sure our ponies are fit and well schooled, and  that our premises continue to be covid secure.

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?!

We are missing being able to run our Mondays and Tuesdays lessons so much. However, we wouldn't have been able to have lessons on this particular Monday!! 

It does look very tranquil and beautiful though.

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.

These four of our ponies have been thoroughly enjoying their winter break in a lovely large field over at Duntisbourne. 

Even though we will be not sadly be able to restart our lessons just yet, they will be returning to Coates soon, as they have a routine visit from the farrier.

They will continue to be very well cared for, and we will ensure they also continue to have light exercise. This will ensure they maintain their health and fitness ready to welcome our riders again just a soon as will are able to re start our lessons.

Happy New Year!

We are waiting to ascertain whether we will be able to restart our lessons in the week beginning 11th January.

Meanwhile, Copper continues to relish the love and attention he is receiving!

Our newest coach Nicky Whitttet now features on our 'Spotlight' page here on the website - why don't you head on over there and take a look. 

Four of our ponies have moved to the lovely large field in Duntisbourne Abbots for the Christmas holidays again this year, and we are very grateful to Gillian for welcoming them onto her land. 

Copper is spending his holidays with the Archer family again, and is enjoying spending time with the 3 pony pals he made in the summer. He is also benefiting from some extra schooling, and exercise - and of course he loves the attention!

We wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

This is a lovely water colour painting of Siwan, our little welsh pony, which was painted by Zara, one of our volunteers.

That's the end of term now, and our riders enjoyed a bit of festive fun and games during their last lessons. 

We aim to resume lessons again on 11th January 2021, but obviously this will depend on the Government and National RDA guidlines to do with coronavirus at the time. We are keeping all our fingers and toes crossed! 

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!

The ponies were happy to be back in their cosy stables, ready and waiting for the rider sessions again.

And our riders were so pleased to be able to be back in the saddle, after the second lockdown.

None more so than Gwendolyn, who absolutely loved trotting up the field on Ben the pony. Her infectious laugh got all the volunteers laughing too!

Happy Herd

Our ponies have been enjoying their free time all together in the field. From left to right are: Smartie, Siwan, Finn, Jessie and Copper.

However, we are all looking forward to being able to welcome back some riders after 2nd December when the current lock down ends.

RDA Creative writing competition

Back by popular demand, the 2021 Creative Writing Competition is open!

This competition is open to all RDA riders, of all ages and abilities… and entry is completely FREE!  There are classes for a letter, a short story, and a poem. A prize of a £20 Amazon voucher will be given to the winner in each class, and every entry will receive a rosette.

The closing date is  26th Feb 2021, so there is plenty of time to get your entries in.

Details can be found on the following link:

and you can download the entry form here:

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.

One of our riders, Lily, wrote this wonderful poem!

It is about Siwan, the pony she rides here at watershed, and we were all delighted to put it up on Siwan's stable.

We were all so pleased to be able to welcome back some of our riders in September, and it has meant so very much to those riders themselves.

Just look at the smile on Gwendolyn's face! She missed her special pony Ben terribly during lockdown.

We are very excited to announce that we have had a hoist installed!  This means the we will be able to open up our therapy sessions to a wider range of people.  We hope this horrible virus goes away quickly so we can get back to normal and start taking on new riders!

As you can see the lovely Jessie isn't bothered by a person swinging up and over her back.  Such a clever girl!

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!

We are very excited to have welcomed a new pony to the team!

Siwan  is a very pretty 13.2hh Welsh cob, section C. Her name is Welsh, and is pronounced 'Sue-Ann'.

She is kindly on loan to us from the Waite family, as their daughter has sadly outgrown her.

She is settling in well, is easy to handle, and goes well in the arena.

Jessie is rather perturbed to have another lady on her patch, but we feel sure they will be good friends in time!

The ponies were excercised last Friday, and it turned out to be a scorching hot day. They did get rather sweaty and sticky and were certainly in need of a cool shower.

Luckily, we happened to have some help on hand at the stables, so the ponies had a bit of a full on pamper session. They absolutely loved it, so thank you to all the willing little hands!

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.

Letter from our Trustees - 15th June 2020

Dear volunteers and riders,

We know there will be a lot of you who have missed your time at Watershed RDA and want to know when

we can get back; however, any return to Watershed, needs careful consideration by all of us.
The risks of COVID-19 remain, so any activity will need to meet latest UK regulations. Even as restrictions
are lifted, we anticipate that social distancing will be required for an extended period and this will have a
significant impact on what we will be able to do. Indeed, because of this Watershed RDA will not be able to
contemplate returning until September 2020 at the very earliest.
We recognise that we will face challenges in both preparing ourselves, our ponies and our facilities in order
to re-open. The group’s trustees have already started thinking about how we would operate with social
distancing rules.
We recognise there will be volunteers and riders who are excited about getting back to Watershed RDA,
but there will also be others who are worried and scared about facing a changed environment and the risks
that remain, and there will be some who want to return but who cannot for their own safety.
The group’s trustees believe now is the right time to better understand who can be involved. Also, we need
to consider if we will have any participants who can return and if so, will we have enough volunteers
willing and able to support them.
Groups across the UK are receiving a lot of support from National RDA; this includes advice and guidance,
and also useful resources to help us get ready to re-open.
We are putting in place plans to prepare our venue by providing the essentials around hygiene in the
current situation; sanitisers, zoning and new protocols which need to be in place.
There is a lot to think about, and we need to take time to consider what is needed and do it in a way that
suits our group and everyone involved. In everything we do we must consider safety – safety for our
volunteers, safety for our riders, safety for our ponies. For example, to comply with current social
distancing requirements, it may not be possible to accommodate riders who require assistance to mount
unless they can supply family members/carers to assist them; many of whom will need the requisite
We have attached to this letter a short questionnaire which we would like you to please complete and
return so we can better understand how our volunteers and riders feel about Watershed RDA re-opening
and their participation once we re-open.
We will keep the return of riding sessions under constant review and, as and when the regulations change,
update you on our plans for re-opening.
We look forward to being able to see many of you again soon.
Watershed RDA Trustees 

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:

We had the diggers in !

A trench has been dug all the way from the stables to the arena so that an electric cable can be laid. This is very exciting as it will bring us one step closer to being able to install a hoist for the mounting area. We will then be able to offer therapeutic riding for those who are unable to mount in the conventional way.

We will also have the possibility of having some portable lighting in the arena for those late winter afternoons when it becomes too dark for us to safely continue lessons.

These improvements will enable us to offer more weekly riding sessions and enable more riders to benefit from coming to Watershed  RDA.

Good news indeed!

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.

Whilst we are closed due to the virus outbreak, many of our riders are profoundly missing the benefits and pleasure of coming to Watershed each week. 

None more so than Gwendolyn,  who sadly finds it difficult to understand why she can't continue to come and ride her favourite pony Ben. 

During our 'lockdown' period she has been playing at home for hours with her toy stables and horses, and has a special stable especially for Ben.

In these photos you see her absolute delight whilst riding Ben, and can see just how much she has progressed, by her first ever ride out into the countryside recently.

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 Dementia Group

We are planning to begin Dementia mornings in our Mess room on Mondays from Easter.

In the beginning this is most likely to happen once a month with a view to increasing to biweekly. It would be about an hour of refreshments and cake, interaction with the ponies, as well as the chance to walk around our sensory garden. We are following advice from National RDA and have arranged for a Dementia ‘Champion’ to come speak to us, and inspect our site to help us make it dementia friendly. 

This Champion is coming on the 9th March at 10:00 am

Please could you let Kathy Mottershead know ( 07979 853907)  if you would like to attend this meeting, are interested in helping but can’t make the date or even if you know someone who would benefit.

Thank You!

A huge thank you to the George Equine Clinic for their generous donation of £525.10.

On Monday 27th January 2020, a representative form The George Veterinary Group visited our stables to present this generous amount of money.  It will be put to very good use.

We were proud to welcome the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Charles Berkeley and his wife Daisy to Watershed RDA on Monday 3rd February 2020.

They spent the afternoon with us, and were very interested to watch some rider lessons, and to meet and chat to some of our riders. Some rosettes were presented to the younger riders, which gave much delight! 

They were also very interested to meet the ponies in our stable yard. Daisy has a particular interest in the ponies since she is a renowned horse woman herself.

Our Mess room was also much appreciated as a warm and comfortable place to enjoy tea and cake, and for one our riders, Penny, to present them with some flowers as a thank you for coming.

It certainly seemed that they much enjoyed their visit, and went away inspired and impressed by everything we do at Watershed RDA!

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!