Chairman's AGM Report 2022

Welcome to the 2022 Newbury AGM

This year has certainly been an easier one to navigate than the last two and we have managed to keep riding all year bar the few Omicron weeks around Christmas and New Year. Sadly though our numbers are greatly reduced and we are still struggling to get the numbers back up again.

Castle School reduced their 11 sessions per week to 2 and I heard the very sad news last night (6th September) that for now and I suspect into the future they will no longer be bringing children to ride with us. There has always been a problem with funding but the main reason this has now happened is they have restructured their classes to be more inclusive of the severely disabled children, integrating them with the less disabled. Because of staffing issues the only way to bring children riding is for the whole class to come but with the severely disabled this is impossible meaning the children who could get so much from riding are not able to come. It really is such sad news on so many levels. We are also trying to get Mary Hare back and introduce Brookfields School from Tilehurst to us but after many emails to them we are struggling to get a commitment. We will keep trying. We have to hope that if we don’t get any more schools on board we can fill a few spots with private riders.

Of our new Trustees that joined last year, Mel Jones decided she didn’t really have time to fulfil the role so stepped down.  Debra Thomas who has been fantastic at liaising with schools and organising Safeguarding courses is also having to take a step back due to work commitments although will hopefully remain on the committee as with her knowledge of how special needs schools run and the children’s disabilities her input is invaluable.  I hopefully have a friend who will step up as a new Trustee and take on the role of School Liaison.  Sandra Drew who has been doing our bookkeeping and payments for the last few years is in the process of handing over to Lesley Thomas. Lesley came to our Autumn Fair last year and said she’d love to volunteer as our new bookkeeper if that was of any interest to us. Of course we leapt at the opportunity as we have been on the hunt for such a person for many years.  It’s taken a while to get the handover going but it is in the process now and Lesley is now handling most of the work. Alison Crowe has moved overseas for a few years so Debbie Browne has kindly stepped into her shoes to be in charge of DBS checks. Judith Orpen remains in charge of organising First Aid courses and checking that everyone who needs to be First Aid qualified is up to date.

Sadly once again we are down on volunteer numbers so need to do a big drive to try to  persuade more people to come along to help us.

Danielle continues to look after the ponies and yard to a very high standard.  We had to make the very sad decision to say goodbye to darling Woody in the Spring.  He was 27 and really showing his age, struggling to eat because of teeth (lack of) problems.  He also had a cancerous tumour on his penis which had got to the point he was struggling to urinate.  He had been a wonderful servant to us for many years and is sorely missed. All the other ponies are well, some not getting used as much as they might be but it always swings in roundabouts as to what size children we have.  This seems to change year on year so we have to keep them all ticking over. We have on permanent loan a 15.2hh bay mare who has retired from a dressage career.  She arrived at the start of the summer holidays so that she could settle in and Danielle could do some work with her. So far so good but the real test will come when she has disabled children on board.  Time will tell. 

The Autumn Fair took place last September after a 2 year break because of COVID. It was a huge success once again raising £11,745 which was amazing given we had fewer stalls than normal. After the Fair last year Linky Whitehead stood down as organiser after 14 amazing years of extremely hard work putting it together so we owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Linky has been in the background to guide us as we have a new leadership of the Fair which has effectively been taken over by the ever generous Steljes family. Becky has put in many hours of work to create a template of how to run it in future years.  Nigel Steljes will take over the helm next year. This year the Fair is running over 2 days with an evening preview on Tuesday 20th September and then the full day on Wednesday 21st September. It’s a bit of an experiment but hopefully will be a great success drawing in people who work full time and are unable to come during the day. Here’s hoping for a bumper year.

As you will see from Jamie’s financial report Newbury RDA is once again in a very strong financial position. Thanks to Catherine Wilson and her endless applications for grants, we were successful in being selected by the Greenham Trust in their 25th year to have the opportunity to raise £5,000 in one day they would match it 5:1 for a worthwhile project. The project we put forward was to build an outdoor arena as it would benefit riders, volunteers and ponies no end. We had our 5K for £5k sponsored walk/run on Sunday 29th May which was well supported on the day and we also got many generous donations. We managed to raise a staggering £14,500. Added to this sum is the £25,000 from The Greenham Trust for successfully raising the £5,000 we committed ourselves to. This put us well on our way to raising the funds and we have enough surplus in our account to make up the shortfall.  Planning permission is in for the arena so I would hope that it will be in and up and running within the next 6 months. So you know we have £180k in the account including the funds raised so less £50k need for the arena we still have £130k in the account. 

Danielle managed to get a cut of hay off our bottom paddock before the super dry weather kicked in.  Although there was a cost involved to get it cut and baled this will have been very worthwhile as hay will be in short supply this winter.

Thanks to Lindsay Morris’ endless patience and lack of success with BT we have managed to get WiFi installed at the stables with Gigaclear.  This means the laptop is there for the input of details into the database after every lesson.

At the end of the summer term Jane Allen retired from RDA. Jane has put many years of service into Newbury RDA and got riders to the Hartpury National Championships no less than 8 times since 2013 winning rosettes on every occasion. We thank her for her dedication and tireless training she put into the children for the Regionals and Champs plus her coaching of the Priors Court children. They are particularly challenging.

Let’s hope we have another good year with our riders, especially if we can find some more. We always need to think of fund raising ideas so if anybody has any brain waves please put them forward.

I now hand over to Jamie to present the accounts.