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pinoneering coach of disabled riders dies aged 86

  • Peter Felgate, one of the pioneers of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) died on 27 September, aged 86.

    Born in Chiswick in 1936, Mr Felgate started riding at Westerham Riding School, while fulfilling his national service at Biggin Hill airport. In the early days of married life, he lived in Knockholt, Kent, where he built some stables and started teaching people to ride. He was then approached by the local doctor who asked if he would teach some disabled children.

    In 1965, he established Bradbourne Riding and Training Centre, in Sevenoaks, Kent, and started teaching full-time. He also enjoyed hunting and eventing, with his horse Seaweed. He was an active member of the local riding club and helped push forward the notion of greater coordination between the riding clubs, including inter-club competitions.

    He was passionate about providing equal opportunities for all to enjoy riding and was one of the first in the country to offer lessons to disabled children and adults, recognising the benefits horses offer physically and mentally.

    Bradbourne first began to take students from Delarue School in Tonbridge, Kent, Dorton House and Dean Park schools. Mr Felgate was always a lateral thinker and where there was a will, he would find a way. He had people who were blind riding around the arena with others calling out the markers, long before technology existed for audible letters, and riders with poor hip movement riding side-saddle or carriage driving. He never accepted something could not be done and found the biggest reward was the smiles and laughter on the faces of those he was coaching.

    Princess Anne visited Bradbourne RDA Centre twice, the first time in 1989 when the centre had reopened following an arson attack. With the support of his family and coaches, Mr Felgate was determined to get the centre back up and running. He was incredibly proud of the work the charity did and the exceptional quality of the coaches and volunteers who continue his early work. Many of these coaches have worked with him for over 30 years.

    Today, the centre continues to offer riding and driving to more than 100 people per week and has a network of coaches and volunteers of all ages, and this is the legacy Mr Felgate leaves behind.

    He is deeply missed by his wife Liz, daughter Sara, grand-daughter Phillipa and great-grandchildren.

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