History of RDA Raymond Terrace & Lower Hunter

April 1979 members of the Hunter Adult Horse Riding Club (HAHRC) paid a visit to RDA Kellyville and adopted a pony called “Cloudy”.  Following this, the Club started to investigate the possibility of establishing an RDA Group closer to home.

To gauge the need for an RDA Group in Newcastle a Demonstration Day was held at Newcastle Showground on 16th September 1979.  People with disabilities were invited to attend as were guest speakers from RDA NSW.  Quiet horses were provided by Club members and the overwhelming response left no doubt that a group should be formed.

The inaugural meeting was held on 31st October 1979, attended by 36 people and RDA Newcastle Region duly came into being.  HAHRC contributed to RDA in the early days, in the way of horses, helpers and financial support, this contribution making a big impact for our Centre.

In 1980, the current President had successfully negotiated with Hunter District Water Board and BMG Pty Ltd to obtain the use of 30 acres of land on the Pacific Highway, north of Raymond Terrace.  The groups first riding day was held in February 1980.  An Open Invitation was issued to people with disability of Newcastle and Districts, the response was tremendous – over 70 riders.

Pearl Batchelor who was to be such a source of help and support to us over the years, paid a visit to us on that day.  Ten riding horses and four horses and carts were made available.  A mounting ramp of earth was constructed, the remains of which can still be seen.  However, it was not entirely satisfactory, and it was later decided to build a set of yards and timber mounting ramp which has since been demolished.

Regular riding sessions began in May 1980, using horses donated by HAHRC members.

The 1980/1 drought brought a 6-month long halt to activities and horses were put out on Agistment to conserve their condition. 

There was no-one living on site so that care of the horses was not able to be closely supervised.  BMG had also kindly donated a disused farmhouse, located on another part of their property, for future re-location and use as a caretaker’s residence.  However, this was not moved to its present site until early 1983, with work being completed in 1985 for the first Caretaker to take residence.

Until then, all saddlery items were kept in an old dairy close to the original site of the house, about a mile away and were transported from there for every riding session.

Number of riders had increased rapidly; by November 1982 there was a total of 100 riders attending fortnightly and by November 1983 there were 150 riders on the books.

Sadly by the middle of  1987 the Newcastle Group was forced to disband, but RDA at Irrawang Park was quickly restarted with the formation of the Raymond Terrace Group at the end of 1987, using the same premises, horses and many of the same volunteers.  We obtained full accreditation as an RDA Group in late 1988 when our first NCAS Level 1 Coach, Rosemary Laing, (a founder member) became qualified.  We now have 13 Level 1 Coaches (including Vaulting Coaches), 10 Driving Coaches (Whips) and several Trainee Coaches (including our first trainee from among our riders).

Since 1988 RDA Raymond Terrace Group, has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. To more accurately describe the geographical area covered by the Group, its name was expanded to the Raymond Terrace & Lower Hunter Group.  The emphasis is now on providing individual programmes tailored to suit the wide range and levels of disability of our clients.  This led to the introduction in 1983 of specialized vaulting and carriage driving.  Dressage commenced in 1994 and a pilot hippotherapy programme, as well as the more traditional recreational riding.  The formation of these specialized disciplines led to participation in competition, giving all our clients achievement goals for which to aim, where we have taken riders to State and National levels within these riding programs.

The signing of a 25-year lease with the Hunter Water Corporation in 1993 enabled improvements to be made on the land.  Until then the lease ran from year to year, making substantial improvements impossible.  This, together with a grant of $15,000 from the Hunter Area Assistance Scheme, added to the $65,000 raised by the Group itself and its many supporters, meant that our dreams of building an all-weather covered riding arena could become a reality.  The site was prepared in late 1992 and the building erect in 1993. 

It was officially opened on 23rd April 1994 by Mrs Pearl Batchelor.  The benefits to our riders, arising from this arena have been enormous, allowing riding in all weather and extra evening sessions.  It has also enabled our Centre to host several workshops of both general and more specialized RDA interest, allowing our coaches and helpers to gain valuable information and meet with those from other centres, without too much traveling! In late 1994 the RDA Honorary Advisory Board did sterling service in drawing up plans for extensions to the indoor arena, comprising amenities necessary for our clients, helpers and visitors.  Work was commenced in March 1995 and thanks to enormous input from people and organizations, too numerous to mention, it was completed in 1998.  We now have the wonderful building known as “Murphy’s”, in recognition of the guiding hand (not to mention hard working hands) of Gerard Murphy, without whom this dream would not have come true.