Chairman's AGM Report - 6 September 2021

May I start by welcoming and introducing our 5 super new trustees, Elizabeth Leaver, Rachel Martin, Debbie Brown, Mel  Jones and Debra Thomas who join myself, Lindsay Morris, Catherine Wilson and Jamie Campbell-Harris. We now have a strong committee of 9 so the work load will be spread more evenly. Sandra Drew is still doing all our book keeping for now but we would still like to find someone who would take on this role voluntarily. Alison Crowe very kindly still oversees all the DBS checks and Judith Orpen remains in charge of organising First Aid courses. Thank you to both of them for their hard work.

After another very tricky year in and out of lockdowns Newbury RDA will be back up and running to its full capacity this September. As some will already know but for those who don’t we plan to open the stables from 6th September (today!) for a week of training with no schools or private riders attending as there are still some Covid rules we need to abide by and learn. We are also lucky enough to be welcoming some new volunteers who will need to learn the ropes. Danielle is officially our Covid officer as she will be at the yard every day to answer any Covid related questions as to what can and can’t be done.

We will have sadly lost a fair few of our trusted volunteers to whom we are extremely grateful for many years of dedication to our group. However, as mentioned earlier we have managed to recruit at least 10 new volunteers mainly through the power of Facebook appealing through local village Facebook pages.  This is certainly the way forward.

Danielle as always has kept the ponies in wonderful condition and ticking over through these difficult times. The trustees and Danielle took the decision to sell Patchy earlier in the year.  Although very useful to some classes he was a big, strong and still quite young pony who needed more of a job to do outside of RDA especially as the ponies were doing so little through the winter.  We are waiting until we get to know our new riders this term to see if we need to get another pony and if so which size bracket to go for. Going forward we are adding a section to the database to record accurately how much each pony is working and with what weights of children so that we can see what use each pony is getting giving us an idea of whether or not we need to buy another pony and if so what size would be most needed. We were lucky enough to be able to have all our Private riders (some new) and some schools back riding with us through the summer which was great.  It was good to see the ponies back working.

We are thrilled that the Autumn Fair will be back this year at Hillfields Farm on Thursday 23rd September 9.30am-4.00pm.  There won’t be quite so many stalls as in previous years but still 50+.  Please spread the word everyone! We are trying to get our save the date notice out to as many people as possible by social media so if anyone is able to get our invitation put on to their village Facebook page do please let me know. 

As you will have read from Jamie’s financial report for last year and the first six months for this year, Newbury RDA is actually in a very good position financially at the moment all things considered.  We have applied for several grants thanks to Catherine Wilson’s incredibly hard work and her greatest achievement was securing a £10k donation annually for the next 3 years from Children in Need. Thank you Catherine as we know getting this application in literally went to the wire with you getting it in one minute before the deadline just before Christmas last year! We have received further Covid related Government support grants of £17k this year, distributed by the West Berks Council to add to the £11k received last year, which have been extremely important in shoring up the bank balances as have the continued grants from the Good Exchange totalling nearly £7k this year. We put out a very successful Hay Appeal and managed to raise over £2k to keep our ponies tummies full last winter. A local farmer contacted us the other day offering us some hay he had spare after cutting and baling it……this was over 200 bales which is simply amazing as it will see us through this winter and beyond.  It is lovely quality hay and huge thanks go to Danielle and Martin for collecting and storing all of it for us. No mean feat. We have also had some very generous donations from many individuals and organisations this year for which we are extremely grateful, and of particular note is a £5,000 donation from the Cumber Charitable Trust in January.

We have invested in a flail mower meaning Danielle can keep grass cut down during the summer months without having to rely on others to do it for her.

Some of you may or may not know that Castle School are not coming back in their former capacity from September.  For what reason we are unsure but they are going to be bringing 2 classes a week to ride on a Monday and Thursday mornings.  We have managed to fill all the days however with The Avenue and Mary Hare taking some of Castle’s sessions and we have more private riders.  Wednesday mornings will be left free of lessons from now on to give the ponies a half day off rather than Thursday afternoons as Fir Tree have moved to Thursday pm from Friday pm.  Jenny now has some private riders on Friday pm. 

Elizabeth Leaver, supported by Mel Jones will be in charge of fundraising going forward so if anyone has any bright ideas please do put them forward them.  We will try to organise the Golf Day at Huntercombe GC in 2022 as it simply wasn’t possible this year. After the huge success of our Christmas cards last year I am going to create 2 new designs and get those into production soon.

The database is working well thanks to Lindsay Morris’ unbelievably hard work in getting it set up.  We now have a laptop and printer at the stables generously donated by Jamie C-H meaning all class organisers can enter their class details on the day of their lessons so it is all done immediately and doesn’t get forgotten with the busy lives people lead. We are also trying to work out a more efficient way of getting payment from private riders.  This may be in the form of a card reading machine but we haven’t quite decided either the best machine or the exact processes yet.

We had a lovely visit from The Princess Royal last October which was very special.  It was just sad that more people couldn’t have attended.  However, it made it a very intimate affair with Princess Anne having long chats with all the children who had no inhibitions and chatted freely back to her.

Let’s hope that the worst of the Covid times are now behind us and our charity can get on with doing what we do best offering the power of the horse to our wonderful disabled children.

I will hand over now to Jamie to present the accounts.

Clare Spencer