Regional Challenge Day – May 2022

After a two year break due to Covid, the South East Regional Challenge Day was back on Thursday 19th May 2022!  SAMBER was excited to take four of our most experienced riders (as they will be moving onto new schools soon) from the Orchard Centre within the Hermitage School, St John’s, Woking, to compete against riders from RDA Groups all around the S.E. Region.  We participated in the Countryside Challenge, where riders must navigate a complicated course with various numbered obstacles which vary from steering around seven objects to picking an apple from a tree, opening a gate, stopping at a road crossing, and posting a letter etc.  After only four short weeks of practice, all four riders produced ‘personal best’ rides and came in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th!!  We are so proud of each and every one of them!!  Huge thanks to the school and teachers for bringing the children and to Gayle, our riding school owner, who boxed up and drove Romeo (the bay) and Misty (the piebald) to the event for us at the Felbridge Showground. SAMBER also entered the Fancy Dress – the theme this year was Television Programmes.  We chose the BBC’s Blue Planet as our theme – one of our riders dressed as Sir David Attendborough, whilst others dressed as a turtle and a fish (who also doubled up as an excellent cameraman!).  We also had an ‘octopus’ rider on our pony Romeo who had a blue blanket representing the sea.  The children all created pictures of sea creatures which we sewed onto the blanket, along with various soft toy sea creatures and netting.  To highlight the pollution that was addressed in the show, our volunteers created ‘bin bag’ outfits using items that we regularly throw away, plastic containers and items that can be recycled but not in our own postcode.  It was a real eye opener even for our most avid ‘green’ volunteers, just how quickly we could gather items to include.  Sadly there were no other groups competing in the class but we all had great fun on the day and are happy to retain our Fancy Dress Trophy for another year!

Grade 1 Riding and Grade 1 Horse Care Certificates – November 2021

Three fabulous riders from the Hermitage School achieved both their Grade 1 Riding Certificate as well as their Grade 1 Horse Care Certificates and badges on the last day of term in 2021! They are our first riders to achieve this since we re-opened after Covid closures.  The Horse Care Certificate covered the basic points of the horse and tack, then the riders demonstrated their ability to stop their pony, giving the correct aids to walk on and demonstrate their steering abilities around our new coloured cones for their Riding Certificate .

Congratulations to all three riders, we are so proud of you all!


Sitting Upright – November 2021

In the RDA, we recognise great achievements at all levels.  Many of our riders from the Freemantles School have severe autism and some have no language at all.  One of our riders in particular shows sensory seeking behaviour and when he first came he insisted on laying down over the ponies withers for the whole ride.  Whilst it was rewarding to see the connection he was having with his pony, this bent forward position compromises balance and makes the ride difficult for pony, rider and volunteers.  After a few patient rides, with a very understanding pony, a lot of help from our volunteers and some basic Makaton signs, our rider has really worked hard and is now sitting up and able to enjoy the ride from a whole different perspective.  For his efforts and improvement our young rider was rewarded with our
Pandora Award

Judging by the intermittant giggling, this new upright position definitely seems to meet his approval!

Harrison’s Success – November 2019

Our fabulous rider Harrison has made huge improvements this year and in November 2019 he was awarded with this Grade 1 Riding Certificate as well as his Grade 1 Horse Care Certificate! Well done Harrison!


Regional Challenge Day – 9th May 2019

In May 2019 we took three female riders from the Hermitage School to the Regional Challenge Day at East Grinstead’s Felbridge Showground.  Here they competed against riders from other RDA Groups in the South East Region.  There was a Handy Pony Competition and a Countryside Challenge Course, with various obstacles and tasks to negotiate, including picking an apple from a tree, posting a letter, walking under a low branch, joining a ‘road’ and opening a gate.  Although great fun, this also tests riders’ steering, balance and focus and through achievement, their confidence improves.  All our riders did brilliantly!

SAMBER entered the Dressage Competition for the first time ever – and picked up first prize!

There was also a fun Fancy Dress competition in the afternoon, with the theme being ‘Childrens’ Books’.  SAMBER picked up first prize here too with our Little Red Riding Hood costumes.  A huge thank you to the teachers, parents and volunteers who supported the children on the day and thanks also to Gayle at Higher Park Farm and Clare (Indy the pony’s Mum!) who allowed us to borrow their ponies for the day – they went above and beyond, boxing up the ponies, driving them there and back and looking after them all day.  Thank you to everyone involved – and congratulations to all three children – we are so proud of you!


White Lodge Riders Excel – 3rd July 2018

Our two young riders from White Lodge received their well-earned Certificates and badges from SAMBER for all their hard work and effort this year. One received his Grade 1 Certificate in Riding Proficiency and Horse Care, the other his Endeavour Certificate, with a view to pursuing his Grade 1 next year when he’s a little bit older. These two riders have progressed so far this year – when they started with us they struggled to sit upright unaided – just look at them now!


Regional Challenge Day – 1st May 2018

In May 2018 we were lucky enough to take some of our older riders from the Hermitage School to the Regional Challenge Day at East Grinstead’s Felbridge Showground to compete against  riders from other RDA Groups in the South East Region.  There was a Countryside Challenge, where our riders picked up 1st, 2nd and 6th pace with one rider even winning overall in the Juniors!

There was also a fun Fancy Dress competition in the afternoon, with the theme being ‘Films’.  SAMBER picked up a second place with our Toy Story costumes.  A huge thank to all the teachers and parents who supported the children on the day, all the volunteers who helped on the day (and made the fancy dress costumes beforehand!) and also to all the staff at Higher Park Farm who allowed us to borrow their ponies for the day – they went above and beyond, boxing up the ponies, driving them there and back and looking after them all day whilst they weren’t being ridden – allowing us to focus on the children.  Thank you to everyone involved – and congratulations to all the children – we are so proud of you!


Sue wins RDA Regional Volunteer of the Year 2016!


I can’t believe we managed to keep this a secret from her, until the Winner of the Regional Volunteer of the Year was announced at the Regional Conference in October 2016 and the award was presented by Gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christansen!!!



Here was her nomination;  Sue Turok is an exceptional volunteer.  She began as a side-walker at the SAMBER Group back in 1999 and soon became our Group Instructor.  Nearly a decade ago she become our Group Chairperson as well!  She has stuck with us through good times – and more recently this year when we ran into severe difficulties sourcing ponies and facing potential closure of our premises.  Despite living over in Cowfold, Sue regularly made the 1 hour 15-minute journey into Chobham and was instrumental in sourcing new premises with their large selection of ponies.  She organised the RDA sign-off with RDA staff and then worked closely with another of our volunteers (Alison, a solicitor) and the new Yard Manager to discuss and finalise our new contract.  She travelled up regularly outside of ‘SAMBER hours’ over the Easter holidays to familiarise and train up the new ponies with our toys and equipment and kept the schools up-to-date with our progress.  She always kept a cool, calm head even when everyone else was losing theirs! We firmly believe that without Sue’s dedication, loyalty and hard work our group may have closed this year but with her caring nature, positive attitude and dogged determination and belief in preserving the great work that we do, SAMBER is now successfully settled in our new premises.  


We have already held a school fun day, gymkhana and SAMBER Superstar Certificate* presentation in front of parents and teachers (*the curriculum for which was, of course, written by Sue!).   Her wealth of knowledge, sensitivity and patience regarding both children with disabilities and horses makes for a fantastic combination.  On top of all of this she reliably attends the First Aid, Safeguarding, Volunteer and Coach training to keep us up-to-date on how best we can help our children (and visits the children prior to term starting to assess their individual needs) and is always a key member when organising fund-raising events too!  She is always so thoughtful and generous in thanking all our volunteers for their own individual contribution to our Group, but this year (in particular) Sue really deserves her own mention and is definitely our Volunteer of the Year!


SAMBER Superstars

On 26th April 2016, riders from White Lodge completed their SAMBER Superstar Certificates! The children had all been working hard, learning about basic horse care, improving their riding and asking (or signing for) the ponies to ‘walk on’ and ‘halt’, and naming different parts of the horse and tack.  Parents and teachers were invited along to the presentation, where the children were each given a big rosette, badge and Certificate.  It’s really wonderful to see these little ones progress!




Regional Challenge Day – 12th May 2015

The weather was much improved on last year, as volunteers, parents, teachers and children from the Hermitage School’s Orchard Centre attending the event, along with Carol and her horses, Fionn and Thunder.  We all had a wonderful day out, all the children won rosettes in the Handy Pony competition and one of our riders took 1st in their class in the Countryside Challenge event, with another rider achieving another great score in their other class! We even won the Fancy Dress competition in the afternoon – the theme was Heroes and Villains, so we were all dressed up as Peter Pan and Captain Hook – with many of the volunteers as Hook’s motley pirate crew! 


SAMBER meets HRH Princess Royal

This picture was taken at the RDA Supra Regional Conference, which was held at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, on 14th April 2015.  The event was attended by over 300 volunteers  from the South East, Greater London and South Regions RDA groups, as well as our RDA President, HRH The Princess Royal.  The day itself comprised of a number of informative presentations and a carriage-driving demonstration, and during the lunch break, a number of volunteers were presented to the Princess Royal.  One of our esteemed volunteers and Safeguarding Officer, Vikki Kitcat, is pictured here proudly representing SAMBER.

RDA Supra Regional Conference held at the RMA Sandhurst



Regional Challenge Day – 8th May 2014

The weather was awful but it did nothing to dampen our spirits, as volunteers (including Carol and her horses Fionn & Thunder), parents, teachers and eight children from the Hermitage School’s Orchard Centre attended the event.  All the children won rosettes in the Handy Pony competition and two of our riders even took 4th and 5th in the Regional Countryside Challenge event, something which SAMBER has never even entered before! We even won the Fancy Dress competition in the afternoon – and finished off with a well deserved ice-cream! Thank you to everyone who was involved!!!