Sports Driving Unlimited is a charity founded by a small group of enthusiastic volunteers, “keen for people with an impairment to enjoy the fun, excitement, and health benefits of taking part in sports carriage driving.” They work in partnership with a Community Interest Company, the Chariots of Fire Equestrian Centre, based just outside Lockerbie. During summer, The JMA Team visited the centre to meet with some of the individuals who contribute their time and skills to this wonderful organisation. Watch the video below to see a quick snapshot of how carriage driving is set up, and how access to this sport can create such a massive difference to both the young people and their families.
Sports Driving Unlimited first applied to The JMA back in October of 2015, and received a grant of £975. This was used to provide a number of individual lessons for free to participants. The organisation explained how these lessons intend to address the “severe shortage of suitable, exciting and challenging activities for people with impairment, special needs or disadvantages” in their local area.
“All the young people who take part have an impairment which limits their capacity to participate in more mainstream sporting activities.” Considering the blend of physical involvement with demands for concentration, co-ordination and discipline, the activity has also been found to make a great impact on those with mental health or behaviour disorders. The opportunity to get out in the fresh air of the countryside is advantageous in so many ways, particularly to those with limited physical ability.
“Sports carriage driving offers an opportunity to acquire and demonstrate unexpected skills and abilities, utilising the specially designed carriages that take a wheelchair. Our drivers are supported to compete in open competition against able bodied drivers, often beating them! They will build core strength, improve their confidence, social skills and gain an immeasurable sense of personal achievement.”
Though, the activity’s many positives have been found to go beyond the sport itself. A significant number of those who use the charity’s services are on the autistic spectrum, and it’s been found that their contact with the ponies at the equestrian centre has “a beneficial impact on their feeling of wellbeing and ability to communicate.” We were also told that some of the other young people attending have cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities, and “have found an activity they can take part in without having to leave their wheelchair… One where they can feel a real sense of being in control.” Previous feedback has also shown that, for some young people, the participation has positive impacts on their behaviour and attitude in the longer term, particularly seen through their improved communication and relationships with parents and siblings.
Earlier this year, Sports Driving Unlimited were awarded a further grant of £900 from The JMA. This was used to buy ten safety helmets, which are a costly expense considering the required standards for the health and safety of all participants in the sport. By ensuring this, and all other necessary equipment, is made available at the centre, it further enhances the charity’s ability to include people from any background.
Thankyou to all of the staff and volunteers at both Sports Driving Unlimited and the Chariots of Fire Equestrian Centre. It’s amazing to see all of the benefits from your work and devotion to your charity. And good luck to all of the young people in their upcoming lessons and competitions! We’re all so sure you’ll do an amazing job, and hope you have a really fun time!