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Published 25th Jul 2017

Spider and Brooklyn Hartpury

Disabled riders from the Unicorn Centre RDA group in Hemlington, Middlesbrough have just returned triumphant from the RDA National Championships in Gloucestershire.

Having qualified at regional events earlier in the year, the riders, volunteers and ponies were able to compete having received a travel grant thanks to generous donations following a local appeal spearheaded by the Centre’s youngest qualifier, six year old Annie Waterson.

“It was a fantastic experience for Team Unicorn,” said Acting Centre Manager, Christie Beadle. “The RDA National Championships brings riders and carriage drivers together from all over the UK and it was a really special weekend.”

She continued, “We’re immensely proud of our riders’ achievements and the way they represented the Unicorn Centre at this national event.  I’m so grateful for the support of their families, friends and the staff and volunteers from the Centre – they all did a brilliant job.”

Twelve riders from Team Unicorn competed at the Championships in dressage, show jumping or in the Countryside Challenge on Centre ponies Spider, Thunder and Louie.  They all performed beyond expectation achieving eight first places, four second places and three third places and all riders were placed in the top six in each class.  This was the first time that many of the riders had competed nationally, so their results were particularly special.

And, against stiff opposition, eight year old Brookleigh Johnson qualified for the SEIB Search for a Star Championship at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre this September after coming 3rd overall riding Unicorn Centre show pony Spider. Abbie Maddison came 10th in the same class.

Some groups attending the Championships didn’t have ponies for all of their riders, so the Unicorn Centre was able to help out.  Volunteer Support Assistant, Janet Martin said, “It was a fabulous weekend with everyone doing their very best. Special mention must go to our amazing pony Thunder who enabled riders from other groups to take part - he was a superstar.”

The National Championships, organised by the charity Riding for the Disabled Association is the biggest event of its kind in the world, bringing together hundreds of disabled competitors who have qualified to take part, with over 90 classes taking place over the three days. In the past, the event has provided a springboard for Paralympian’s including Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker and Lee Pearson – all of whom started their careers with the support of RDA.

For further information contact Ms Christie Beadle, Acting Unicorn Centre Manager, 01642 576222


Cheryl Clark – L2 Show jumping (2nd 62%)

Laura Curson – Countryside Challenge Independent (3rd 81.75%)

Brookleigh Johnson – L2 Show jumping (1st 68%)

Annie Waterson – Countryside Challenge 1 Leader and 1 Side walker (4th 70.5%)

Jo Lewis – Countryside Challenge Independent (1st 87.75%)

Lynn Harrison – Countryside Challenge 1 Leader and 1 Side walker (5th 53.5%)

Keira Atkinson – Countryside Challenge 1 Leader (1st 89.75%)

Laura Curson – 1-6 W/T Freestyle (1st 66.5%)

Laura Curson – 1-6 W/T Championship Test (5th 62.77%)

Abbie Maddison – Countryside Challenge Independent (1st 91%)

Cheryl Clark – I/D W/T Championship Test (1st 76%)

Emma Wood - I/D W/T Championship Test (2nd 74.5%)   

Stephen McGechan – I/D Walk Freestyle (1st 58.5%)

Brookleigh Johnson - I/D Walk Freestyle (1st 73%)

Cheryl Clark - I/D W/T Freestyle (2nd 67.5%)

Stephen McGechan – I/D Walk (4th 54.44%)

Brookleigh Johnson – I/D Walk (2nd 61.38%)

Megan Wilcox – I/D W/T Championship Test (3rd 71.5%)

Megan Wilcox I/D W/T Freestyle (3rd 66.5%)

PHOTOS:  Annie Waterson riding Spider, Brookleigh Johnson on Spider receiving her Search for a Star sash, and Unicorn Centre pony Louie in his hotel room keeping company with Unicorn Centre mascot Chester, and Butterscotch, the Yorks & Cleveland region mascot.

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