THE benefits of learning to carriage drive for disabled people came to the forefront during a special gathering at the Westmorland county showfield at Crooklands.

Freemasons who supported the Westmorland Riding for the Disabled Association's carriage driving group earlier this year took the chance to see first-hand how the experience helps young and old to learn a new sport, enjoy the beauty of the countryside and make new friends.

They watched as drivers were coached under the watchful eye of RDA carriage driving instructor Jenny Harris.

The carriage driving group meets on Thursday mornings at the Crooklands showfield, with a break in the colder months.

Josie Sanderson, fundraising officer, said the group would welcome new helpers to give support at the sessions, which run from 9.30am to 12pm.

She said: "Helpers do not need to have experience of carriage driving or be 'horsey' - there is a wide range of jobs to help with, including setting up the driving course, welcoming drivers and their supporters, making tea, assisting drivers to safely get in and out of the carriage and small administrative tasks.”

The Westmorland RDA group also offers riding sessions for children with disabilities and special needs at Holmescales Riding Centre, Old Hutton, on Mondays from 12.45pm to 3.30pm during school termtime.

"Helpers are needed to assist children with physical and/or learning difficulties to ride for fun, achievement and therapy," Josie explained.

"Again, a wide range of skills are required to run these sessions so there is something for everyone, and support from both those with and without experience around horses is very welcome.”

The gathering at Crooklands showfield saw a party of Royal Arch Freemasons from the Cumberland and Westmorland province's Flowerden Chapter meeting members of the carriage driving group. It followed their gift of £500 to the RDA's Westmorland group.

Brian Ferrington, the communications officer for the Freemasons' south Westmorland group, said it was wonderful to see at first-hand the benefits of such donations, as well as the "joy and excitement" on the drivers' faces.

To find out more about the Westmorland Riding for the Disabled Group, see