“I first heard about the RDA when I came across an article in the Church magazine looking for helpers. I was pony daft as a youngster but I didn’t have any experience of working with people with special needs. But I thought, ‘maybe I could do that’ so I gave them a call. That was 22 years ago and apart from a year or so off for maternity leave, I’ve been volunteering and instructing here all that time.
I became hooked really quickly. It completely changed my life. As someone with a young family, it was often difficult to do things of my own and teaching here was something for me, outside of the family. Of course, later, my family did become involved and my children, who are now grown up, volunteer here, act as trustees or come to help the riders. As a result of being involved here, I went back to university after five years or so of instructing, to study for a postgrad in special needs. I now use those skills in my day job as a teacher.
All the work I do is voluntary. I come here every Wednesday morning to instruct at one of the classes. We have new children every six weeks or so from the school I teach at so lots of people get the opportunity to take part. It’s a wonderful thing for the children. A lot of them seem to have a real affinity with the horses and it’s a fantastic physio session for them- all the up and down, forward and back movements is an excellent way to work on their balance. Being up on a horse also gives them a wonderful new perspective on things. I also help out fundraising when I can and as I have four horses of my own, I often loan my trailer to take the RDA horses and riders for away days.
It would be wonderful if we had an indoor arena. It would make a big difference and is the one thing that’s lacking at the RDA. Last winter, we had to cancel so many sessions because of the weather. We were shut I think from January to the March, nearly a whole term. An indoor facility would allow us to operate more sessions regardless of the weather and that’s so important when you see how much the riders get out of it. The important thing is the people. We are so lucky and have a fantastic bunch of helpers. The ponies are also fantastic of course, but the volunteers are a real benefit to us and make a real difference.”