Riding School for the Disabled…
Is there a way to offer potentially life changing activities to people of all age groups with any kind of disability? Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) does just that.
Not many people are aware that that there is a Riding for the Disabled Group for the local area, which, for the last 27 years, has operated out of Greenacres stables on the Lower Luton Road, Batford. The aim is to give subsidised riding lessons to people of all ages with learning difficulties and physical disabilities. You just need to be able to sit on a horse.
Horses and ponies provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to local people with disabilities, although the group relies on volunteers to help to deliver their services.
The aim of the RDA is to challenge the riders to improve each week, to learn the correct techniques of riding, and to instill knowledge about the horse and how to care for them. According to Lesley ?? Chief Coach for the local group, ‘For some riders it’s the first time they have ever been at the same height as adults, especially if they are wheelchair bound. For once they are not having people look down on them, they’re part of a team of riders, and this helps them to feel equal to those around them. In addition, the interaction with the horse gives disabled riders confidence as they can learn to control a living creature as well as improve their own balance and core stability. Riders also have the opportunity to enter competitions. Some are at national level and in other parts of the country, taking the ponies on holiday with them! Lesley said, ‘When disabled riders earn their certificates, rosette or cup, their big smiles of pride show us just what their riding sessions mean to them.’
Two 45 minute sessions are offered every week, late on a Thursday afternoon. During each lesson the riders are taken on a brisk outing on a friendly pony, whether in the indoor ménage during the chilly winter months, or along countryside tracks throughout the summer.
However, whilst there are enough riders to fill each session, with still more people on the waiting list, the group is short of volunteers. Three helpers are required per horse - one leading and two walking either side of the rider - to ensure the safety of the rider. Working at the RDA is a great way to notch up volunteering hours for Duke of Edinburgh Awards, or to add worthwhile extra-curricular activities to a university application. Many of the helpers are school children, coming from the local secondary schools, but once their time at school is at an end, they move on, so there is a high turnover of helpers.
Lesley told us that the group would really love to have more people on their volunteer list. People of all ages are welcome. It’s such a worthwhile and rewarding activity to do each week, and it’s also a great way to get fit!’
Harpenden RDA is grateful to Greenacres for their help. So if you would like to make a difference as a volunteer, to find out more please contact Tim Roberts, Chairman, Harpenden RDA, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 01438 871694 or 07778519569.