Over the stable door: Celebration so soon

I can't believe my Summer Celebration Party has come around so fast, next Saturday all the hard work will come to a climax.

Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.

The nearer I get to the big night the more time I spend thinking of my friend Tom Bannister. This is the first party in 15 years I haven’t organised with Tom which is why it is held in his memory. I must admit it has been tough trying to run the whole thing on my own. I catch myself discussing things in my head with him - How much beer do we need? You can never have too much, his gruff smoker’s voice answers. How many chairs shall I order? Enough for everyone to dance of course. I hear him laugh - and stop worrying for God sake Fozzy… that’s fine for you to say, it’s all on my shoulders now.

Maybe I’m going mad. I’m not sure if hearing him is a comfort or makes me feel lonelier. I really hope people turn up, I so want it to be a success.

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I was chatting to a friend who has recently started taking her daughter’s pony to help at the local Riding for the Disabled Group at Stockeld Park near Harrogate, where they are desperately short of suitable ponies. I voiced surprise as I knew Brooke, her pony, had been competing in the Pony Club teams with her 11-year-old daughter all summer and is hardly what I would expect an RDA pony to be.

This was my first misconception Amanda explained. “Most kid’s ponies are suitable, ponies that are alert and stride forward are much preferred to ones that are half dead or bone idle. I got involved through another mum who brought along a mounted games pony in the GB team.

“Our pony has a busy life but comes to RDA and behaves impeccably. They seem to know they have to be extra gentle with these kids whose disabilities range massively. It’s very rewarding to see them improve week after week, physically and socially. The children love coming and put their all into it.”

The RDA has been going for over 45 years with HRH The Princess Royal as its president. There are nearly 500 groups nationally and 35 in the Yorkshire and Cleveland area involving 700 volunteers and instructors every week.

Amanda said: “We just need to encourage others with competition ponies to consider sparing the time to help such a wonderful charity. The ponies are treated with respect, we are spoilt with cake, biscuits, tea and coffee. I’ve never felt more welcomed, it’s an absolute pleasure to go.”

If you have a suitable pony, see www.stockeldparkrda.co.uk or www.yorkshireclevelandrda.org.uk