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/

Riding For The Disabled

Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is a not-for-profit organisation, which runs equestrian activities for people of all ages with various disabilities. It is a nationwide organisation split into individual local branches, and it provides vital physical and psychological therapy for its members. RDA Fitzroy Falls is an important organisation in the Equestrian community of the Southern Highlands. It has been run for over twenty years by Angus and Neatie Malcom at their riding school, with the help of loyal volunteers and very well trained ponies.
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RDA member enjoying a ride on her pony, aided by one of the volunteers
(Photo from the Southern Highlands News)
One of my very first horse shows was the ‘Chicken Run’, a charity gymkhana that aims to bring the equestrians together to raise money for the RDA. Dressed in bright pink on my shaggy Shetland pony, my poor mother led me up ditches, over jumps, and through obstacles. At the age of four, I was not aware that I was involved in a fundraising day, but was amazed that that so many people, old and young, had all come together to participate in the same event. Now, twenty-one years later, the Chicken Run is still held annually and its proceeds are essential in allowing Angus and Neatie to continue their vital work.
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A Chicken Run Competitor
(Photo by Julie Wilson)
When I approached Riding for the Disabled in Fitzroy Falls, they were initially confused. What did RDA have to do with a history degree at the University of Sydney? I explained that our project this semester aims to recognise the importance of including the voices of individuals and community groups in the construction of local and national history.
Following a great meeting where we sat down and discussed where they were at as an organisation, we identified a key project which I can help them with. I have yet to discuss with Neatie and Angus how much they feel comfortable with me sharing publically, but I am hoping that I will be able to divulge more details in following blog posts.RDA Fitzroy Falls has a rich history that I would love to record and I am hoping that part of my work with them will allow me to do that. In particular, I am very keen to speak to the riders, both past and present, to hear their stories and how RDA has impacted their lives. Ultimately I hope that through my work, RDA Fitzroy Falls will receive greater recognition in the wider community and I very much look forward to building on our project together.
RDA Australia Website: http://www.rda.org.au/default-landing.aspx
RDA Australia Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Riding-for-the-Disabled-Association-of-Australia-RDAA-135449168732/