In 1975 a group of volunteers began to give riding sessions to a small number of patients at the hospital in Bromham. They had two elderly ponies and rode in the grounds and fields around the hospital.
By the autumn of 1975 they had enough help to be able to transfer activities to a local “School of Equitation”. The ponies were brought in by trailer and horse-box.
In 1978 it was decided to try and build an Indoor Riding School of our own and we were granted the lease on a piece of land at the hospital in Bromham. This was the start of enormous fund raising efforts and great dedication and faith from our earliest members.
At a cost of approximately £33,000 the Indoor School (the first section of our complex) came into actual use in October 1982.
The Centre, was named after the late Mrs Elisabeth Curtis (1921-1981), Chairman of the East Region RDA. “Li” Curtis was closely involved with the development of riding at Bromham Hospital from the beginning. We had a dream and Li shared it with us, guided us through the early stages with wisdom and understanding, restrained us from taking on more than we could cope with, but never dampened our enthusiasm. She died before the dream became reality and so this Centre has been named after her as a living memorial to someone whose standards were of the highest and whose commitment was unquestioned. Li Curtis was committed not only to RDA but also to her family, friends and community; she was a very special person and we are the richer for having known her.
The Official Opening of The Elisabeth Curtis Centre for Disabled Riders was performed by H.R.H. The Princess Royal, President of the Riding for the Disabled Association, on April 19th 1983. Many of our riders took part in a demonstration for Princess Anne, and special rosettes and a video made it truly a day for all to remember. Several of those riders who took part are still attending the Centre.
Our efforts did not stop with the completion of the indoor riding arena. November 1983 saw the completion of an extension which was to house the toilets and office/tack room at a cost of £10,000.
1988 and we had raised a further £44,000 in order to build a stable block for nine ponies with a feed store attached. This block opens directly into the School, so once ponies are in from the fields there is no need for anyone to get wet!
The Centre was at a turning point in its history as the hospital in whose grounds it stands closed in 1997. Changes were bound to take place.
The ex-hospital ground was designated new building land and we now have various types of housing around the Centre.
Bryant Homes, the developer, most kindly gifted our grazing fields to the Centre, for as long as it remains a charity to enable the disabled to ride.
Notice of their intent to do so was given on Princess Anne’s visit in 1998 and the final deeds were received in July 2002.
A new circular ride on the estate was laid by Bryant Homes, (2002) . An outdoor stable has been built, in the centre of the Sensory Ride, to take a ponies for whom indoor stabling is not appropriate.
In 2007 we were subject to a heartless theft of our tack, some of which had been specially adapted to fit some ponies. Damage was done to the Centre when the thieves broke in and we were pessimistic about our chances to reopen within 8 weeks. Due to the kindness and donations of both tack and money from many kind people – neighbours, horse owners, businesses, Rotary Clubs, Golf clubs etc, we were able to open again in 3 weeks.
The Centre subsequently had to put a number of security systems in place and in 2009 built a dedicated tack room extension to the existing office/kitchen.
More trees, all native species, were also planted in the grazing opposite, to provide shelter for the ponies in winter and shade in the summer, and to hopefully take up water in an area prone to winter flooding.
The Centre became a Charitable Company in 2011. Our name has changed slightly to Elisabeth Curtis Centre, Riding for the Disabled.
Over the summer of 2012 work was done to enclose the seating area in the indoor school, in order to make it more comfortable for our riders, parents, carers and helpers, especially during the winter months.