THERE has been a fair bit of excitement at our livery yard recently.

As I have mentioned in the past, as well as being a riding school our yard is also home to the Stokesley branch of the Riding for the Disabled Society (RDA)and last week one of our own RDA ponies received the region’s annual award for outstanding achievement.

Presented in memory of the late Maggie Tansley, a former RDA chairman and trustee, this is the first time that the trophy has actually been awarded to a pony, but then Dory is a very special pony.

An eight-year-old coloured native, Hunky Dory (to give him his full and formal name), has been owned by Claire Robinson, founder of the Stokesley RDA group, since he was four months old. A bit of an impulse buy, Claire told me how she had gone to look at a youngster for a client when, quite by chance, she had met a cheeky, dales cross sports horse foal, who simply wouldn’t leave her alone.

The foal was inquisitive, mischievous and very much vying for attention, reminding Claire so much of her own, home bred gelding Chatty that she bought him.

During the week, besides working for the RDA, Dory works in Claire’s riding school with able bodied riders but at the weekend he likes nothing better than to be out and about competing.

Last year, partnered by rider Theo Hopkins, Dory won at the Riding Club’s Area Combined Training Qualifier, stood Champion Working Hunter at Cumberland Show, Champion Coloured at Ryedale Show and Reserve Champion at North Yorkshire County Show.

He also competed, with two different riders, in the British Horse Society Riding School National Championships, where he was placed third and fifth and then to finish the year off nicely, ridden once again by Theo, Dory won the SEIB Working Pony class at The Horse of The Year Show, before going on to stand overall SEIB Reserve Champion.

As a result of this, Dory and Theo were invited to take part in the Your Horse Master Class at Stoneleigh in November where they were placed fourth.

As an RDA pony, last year Dory competed and won with rider Kayla Pratt at the first ever British Dressage ID championships. He qualified for the RDA National Championships with three different riders, Kayla Pratt, Nayana Booker-Dodds and Ellie Griffiths and was placed in all of his classes, which included winning the pair’s competition and standing overall champion in the individual dressage section.

“The RDA is not about what we can’t do, it’s about what we can do,” explained Dory’s owner Claire Robinson.

“It’s about providing exercise for the rider which in turn improves muscle tone, balance and co-ordination, which all helps to promote self-esteem. Variety is also important to a pony in order to keep them fresh and interested in life, not just for their own well-being but also to give our riders the best standard of ponies to enjoy.”

Rider Theo Hopkins went on to say, “What sets Dory apart from the rest is his absolute versatility. He has competed in pair’s dressage, dressage to music, individual dressage, the Countryside Challenge, going both on and off the lead rein and not forgetting his forte, costume dressage - top hat or Indian headdress included. At home he can be the world’s biggest pest, but Dory loves people and likes to get himself involved in everything.”

Theo also went on to pay tribute to her friend and mentor Claire Robinson.

“Claire has literally taught us both everything that we know. I can’t thank her enough for teaching me how to do my ‘up-downs’ when I was eight years old, and also for ‘letting me loose’ on the most amazing pony.”