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A Brief History

From modest beginnings in Hadleigh, 

with hired ponies and no premises, a group of RDA volunteers began offering one hour’s riding a week to children from Belstead Special School in 1979.

As the work expanded, the group built an arena at Frog Hall, going from strength to strength and even hosting a visit from Princess Anne, the Charity’s President.  Eventually, with the lease running out and plans to expand our services to more people, it was agreed that a move to better premises was needed. Here Mike and Jane Crowe of Shelley House stepped in with their most generous offer of land on which to build the new Centre. Serious sums of money were raised to realise the dream.  The Hadleigh RDA group opened in the purpose-built Centre at Shelley in time for the September term 1989.

2019 marked our 30th anniversary,

a birthday celebrated by another visit from the RDA’s President, the Princess Royal, postponed due to Covid-19 until September 2020.

Currently the Centre offers rides Monday to Friday throughout term time.  It now supports 140 disabled people of all ages to gain strength, confidence, social skills and wellbeing from the wonderful therapeutic contact with horses and ponies.

The Hadleigh RDA Group became an independent Charity on 1st April 1999 

(separate from, but affiliated to RDA National).  

Our name changed to The Shelley Centre for Therapeutic Riding at the AGM in 2001. 

On 9th January 2006 we became a Company Limited by Guarantee (Company no. 5668971).

We were grateful to be leased more grazing to the North of the Centre by Andrew and Tessa Scott of Shelley Hall, where the geldings now live out, separate from the mares who graze the original land. The Centre now has 11 horses and ponies plus a mechanical horse and a simulator to ensure that most people with disabilities can be accommodated.


Silvretta Stralika 'Strikey'

May 1983 - October 2010

Everyone at The Centre was saddened by the death of Strikey in 2010.  He had been given to us in 1994 as his owner had herself had a riding accident and wanted him to receive good care under our stable manager’s expertise. Strikey was a character with good looks, a kind temperament and patience.


Much loved by his riders and the volunteers, he worked at the Shelley Centre for the next 16 years. He had the privilege of becoming the RDA’s 40th Anniversary Pony, chosen from over 100 other ponies from throughout the RDA organisation. Breyer, who sponsored the 40th Anniversary Pony competition, have since produced a model of Strikey which can be purchased via the RDA Web site

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