Challenges faced at a canter

Juan in full dressage outfit, riding horse Dave at the RDA championships

The national Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) championships could prove too much of a challenge for many people; remembering routines, nerves of rider and horse, competition pressures… not so for Juan, The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) student who went on to win his category.


Juan, 21, is from the Isle of Man and rides for the Herefordshire RDA, where he trains with support from a College volunteer. He spent his childhood years in the saddle and was keen to continue his lifestyle hobby despite his other daily challenges. Juan was registered blind in 2010 with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes deterioration in sight and often leads to blindness. Because of this, he entered the Total Visual Impairment (TVI) Walk, Trot & Canter Dressage test for the championships.


Juan receiving his winning rosettes at the RDA Championships, accompanied by his Guide Dog WilmaThe three day competition took place at Hartpury College, with over 400 competitors covering all disabilities; learning, physical and sensory. Juan became national champion in his field once again: “The test I took is one of my favourites to ride, there’s a bit of everything in it and accuracy is crucial. I compete because it betters my riding, because it betters my quality of life. I enjoy it because it gives me freedom of mobility.”


Among his supporters at the event were Juan’s parents who travelled from the Isle of Man to see him compete, and Ian, the RNC volunteer who overcame his own fear of horses to help accompany Juan to the riding centre.


Horse-riding is an essential part of Juan’s life; it helps with his ataxia, a condition that effects balance, and provides a sense of freedom through the independence it gives him. RNC encourages Juan in his riding, not simply by having dedicated voluntary support and providing financial aid, but with help through mobility techniques and independence skills that are learnt as part of his weekly timetable and can be transferred to other areas of his life.


Students at RNC are encouraged to continue their extra-curricular activities, including those which the College may not provide initially such as horse-riding, opera singing, and piano lessons.


If you are interested in studying at RNC, please call our student enquiries line on 01432 376 621 or email


Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC



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