Riding For the Disabled (NSW)

For my project, I have been working with Riding for the Disabled (NSW), a not-for-profit organisation that provides people of all ages and varying disabilities, with the opportunity to ride and interact with horses. When we were asked to approach a community organisation, I immediately thought of Riding for the Disabled (RDA). As a member of the equestrian community in the Southern Highlands, the work that RDA does is very close to my heart and I have attended fundraising gymkhanas to support the organisation since I was four years old. I have been working with Riding for the Disabled (NSW) in a fundraising capacity however due to confidentiality considerations, I am unable to go into more detail about the specific nature of my project. So for this blog, I thought I would include an article I wrote about Riding for the Disabled, Moss Vale. I hope that through my work, I have contributed to the well-being of the Riding for the Disabled community. This unit and more specifically this project, has broadened my perspective on the nature of history significantly. Perhaps most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the dire need for the most vulnerable members of society to have their voices heard by the broader public.
By Mary Bokey
Last Wednesday I had the privilege of visiting the Fitzroy Equestrian Center to meet the members of Riding for the Disabled, Moss Vale. Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is a not-for-profit organisation, which gives people of all ages, with various disabilities, the opportunity to ride and interact with horses. It is a nationwide organisation split into state and local branches, and it provides vital physical and psychological therapy for its members.
Angus and Neatie Malcolm have been involved with Riding for the Disabled for over 40 years, and their hard work and dedication has positively influenced the lives of hundreds of people in the Southern Highlands community.
I arrived at the equestrian center to find Angus and a group of volunteers catching the ponies from the paddocks and saddling them up. A mix of men and women, young and ‘slightly older’, all the volunteers were friendly, cheerful and looking forward to a fun morning of riding.
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Pictured above: Regular volunteer, Narelle, waits for the riders to arrive with one of the lovely ponies at Fitzroy Equestrian Centre
After a brief group meeting, where Angus explained to the volunteers and students what they would be doing that day, the riders began to arrive. All the volunteers knew each rider by name and the genuine friendship between the riders and volunteers was evident.
I met Stephen, Louise, Sophie and Neil, who were all eager to find out who they were riding that day and get in the saddle. They were riding new horses that day, as their faithful mounts were out in the field having a well-deserved holiday.
I had the opportunity to talk for some time with Neil Macpherson about his journey with RDA Moss Vale. In 2015 Neil suffered a debilitating stroke. Sustaining severe neurological injury, doctors told him he might never walk again. Unwilling to accept this, Neil and his wife Toniann moved to the Southern Highlands, to begin a new life. Through intensive physical therapy he began to walk again and discovered a love of swimming. Then, when Neil heard about Neatie and Angus through a family friend, he decided to give riding a go, and he has never looked back. He said, “RDA has helped me to participate in a sport which is very well supervised by caring people whilst providing the highest level of safety. It has given me confidence and happiness throughout my recovery”. Physically, learning to ride has helped Neil regain his balance and muscular strength, and emotionally, the friendship and sense of community being a part of Riding for the Disabled has given him, has been invaluable.
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Pictured above: Angus and the volunteers help Neil mount his horse
The sky grew ominously dark and rain started to fall, but nothing was going to put a dampener on the spirits of the volunteers or the riders. After all the riders were in the saddle, the group made their way to the indoor arena to begin their riding lesson. Each rider had one volunteer leading their horse, and another volunteer on the other side to provide additional support. They walked and trotted each way and practiced their steering by weaving through bending poles, before finishing up with a relay and a snail’s race. Sophie, who is learning to ride independently won the relay, and Louise won the snail’s race.
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Pictured above: Stephen is thrilled to be back in the saddle and always brings an apple for his horse
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Pictured above: Sophie is learning to ride independently
When Neil, Sophie, Stephen and Louise had finished their lesson, I made my way back to the stables, where a group of younger riders had been given pony rides around the yard. The volunteers were delighted, because Josh had been too afraid to touch horses when he first started coming to RDA, but this week, he proudly smiled for the camera as he gave Benji the pony a big cuddle.
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Pictured above: Josh making friends with Benji the pony
As I drove home, I reflected on what had been a truly humbling experience, watching people of all ages and backgrounds, brought together by a shared love of horses, to form a strong and vibrant community. The work that Angus, Neatie and all the volunteers at Riding for the Disabled Moss Vale do, enriches the lives of all the riders and their families, and I urge the community to get involved by volunteering or donating to this amazing organisation.
For more information head to the Riding For the Disabled NSW website at: https://rdansw.org.au/