A group of people with learning disabilities and autism have been given the opportunity to go horse-riding for the first time at the country’s most prestigious racecourse.

This is the first in a series of events celebrating Aintree’s year-long partnership with Hft, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities, and Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), whose horses provide therapy and enjoyment for people with disabilities.

Ten adults from Bradford, aged between 20 and 35, spent the morning of Wednesday 8 March at the iconic racecourse, getting to know the horses and learning the basics of riding in the Parade Ring. The group also took part in the Grand National history tour with Aintree’s Historian Jane Clarke, as well as visiting the weighing room and trying on jockey silks.

For Neil, who has learning disabilities, said: “It was magnificent. A bit different from what I’m used to! It was a good experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

 The group are part of Hft’s Aim High project in Bradford, which organises twice-weekly activities promoting health and wellbeing. Participants are given the opportunity to build on particular areas of knowledge or skills, such as healthy eating or swimming, and are rewarded with badges to mark their achievement.

On Wednesday the group were working towards their specially-designed Horse-riding badge, which will be awarded to all participants who master skills like mounting the horse and grooming.

“The people we support have never been horse-riding before, so they have really been looking forward to today,” said support worker Amy Burston. “That’s why these partnerships are so important – they give people the chance to try something new and different in a safe environment. It’s also an opportunity for us to build relationships in the community and create wider awareness about the work that Hft does with people with learning disabilities.”

Grant Rowley, Jockey Club NW Communications Manager, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the RDA and Hft to provide this unique opportunity for local people to try horseriding for the first time at the home of the Randox Health Grand National.

“The Aintree Community Programme is in its third year and is going from strength to strength. It aims to inspire local adults and children through the power of horseracing and the Grand National and our riding for disabled sessions with great partners like Hft are just one of many activities we’re looking to expand. We look forward to many more opportunities for local children and adults in the coming months and years.”

Liz Lege, Trustee at Beechley stables, said: “Beechely RDA are delighted to have been invited once again to take part in this special event with Aintree racecourse and Hft. Days like this are a real celebration of what the stables can do in partnership with other organisations for the riders with disabilities. Everyone has had a wonderful time and it is a day we can all be proud of.”

As part of the partnership, Hft’s mobile, purpose-built Smarthouse will be on display at the newly launched Peter O’Sullevan Community Hub, which is the focal point of Aintree’s Community Programme. Visitors to the Smarthouse can experience an interactive demonstration of the types of technology used by Hft to help the people they support live the best life possible.