Our History

Celebrating 50 years at the heart of the community (1974 to 2024)

From small and humble beginnings, Tauranga Riding for the Disabled has grown to become one of Australasia’s largest RDAs. We started with 5 horses and 12 riders and today have 21 horses and over 150 riders.

Having visited an RDA in England in 1970, Tom Atchison was inspired to recreate it in New Zealand. He approached Betty Blundell in the early 1970’s and together they started Tauranga RDA.  Betty Blundell was the driving force behind the establishment of Tauranga RDA and our success today is Betty’s legacy.  
Our first committee was founded in 1974 with Claude Hewitt as the president and Reg Adams as the vice president. Claude was dedicated to Tauranga RDA and remained the president for 25 years. Claude and Marjory Hewitt continue to support us by a generous gift in their will.

Riding started at Tauranga RDA in 1974, and for the first year took place at Putts Ponies in Bethlehem on Saturday mornings. We then moved to the playground of Kaka Street Special School where horses were floated or ridden to the school for riding lessons.  
In 1976, Reg Adams, who was leasing a block of land at 44 Ngāpeke road, Welcome Bay for his own horses, convinced the RDA committee to take over the land and relocate. Although initially there was a lot of work to be done on the property, including sowing grass and fencing, the decision turned out to be a good one. Ngāpeke road became our permanent home where we have thrived for the last 48 years.

As Tauranga RDA began to grow, we purchased the Papamoa gun club house for $400 which was moved on site with the help of the local community. From 1979 to 1980 with the support of Tauranga Rotary, student workers and volunteers a covered tie up and riding facility was built at the cost of $33,000.  A few years later in 1992 an outdoor arena was built.

In 2003 the idea of a fully covered indoor area began, but this took a few attempts before it gained momentum. In 2007 the indoor arena upgrade project kicked off, with stage one being the building of the Green Barn. By 2009 fundraising had commenced for the indoor arena project, with an aspirational goal of raising $750,000. This saw the inception of our Foundation Board made up of local people Tom Roper, Bill Chapman, Peter Farmer, Tony Mills and Janine Hellyer.  The Board not only successfully fundraised the money required to complete the indoor arena build; they ensured Tauranga RDA became financially sustainable protecting the legacy for future generations.

In 2011 the building project for the indoor arena started, and by March 2012 was officially opened. This was a game changer in terms of provision of service, as now even if the weather doesn’t come to the party, rides can still take place meaning riders are much less likely to miss out on their ride each week.
As Tauranga RDA continued to grow and develop there was a need for further expansion of the buildings. In 2018 fundraising started for phase two of the indoor arena development. This round of expansion saw classroom spaces added to the indoor, a new office space, conversion of the old office to international student accommodation and a cover and new yards for our outdoor arena.

In 2019 this project was officially opened. Now we are able to house up to 6 students and run simultaneous riding groups through the week. We also host functions and learning events in the new classroom area.

2021 saw further site improvements with the development of our sensory trail. This was designed, built and funded by Paul Tidmarsh and is a world class sensory area enjoyed by all our riders.

We are forever grateful for the support of our donors, sponsors, volunteers, grant organisations and everyone who contributed to the success of Tauranga RDA. With continued community support we plan to extend our services and continue to thrive for another 50 years and beyond.