A Volunteer’s Story

“I came to riding quite late in life, at the age of about 40. I had known about the RDA from then but I began volunteering with them a long time later when circumstances meant I could no longer ride.

A couple of years ago, my family was facing a very difficult time. My son in law was very ill with polycystic kidney disease and we were watching him fade away before our eyes. He spent much of his time on dialysis and was getting worse and worse and my daughter was struggling to cope with everything. I made the decision to help in any way I could and decided to see if I could donate one of my kidneys to him. I was in good health and after discussion with my son-in-law and the kidney transplant team, I decided to go for it. We weren’t a match but following pioneering treatment, the transplantation worked and he’s been a different man since and thankfully my health doesn’t seem to have suffered.

Of course, for me, I knew that whilst helping my daughter and son in law was a priority it meant that I would have to give up certain things in order to look after myself. One of those things was riding. I loved to ride but the risk of falling and seriously injuring myself was too great. I still wanted to be around horses though so I began to think about what else I could do. I phoned my nearest RDA and spoke to the manager at length. I was asked ’do you want to work with horses, or do you want to work with children?’ I thought about it and said ‘both!’ So I started volunteering. That was nearly two years ago now and I absolutely love it.”

I come every Wednesday morning. I help with all the chores, e.g. mucking out, feeding the horses their breakfast, sweeping up the yard, and preparing things for the next shift. When the children arrive I sometimes help the instructor to mount their horses, sometimes I lead a horse and child and sometimes I “side walk”. Some of the children are very disabled and taking them out is quite labour intensive as, for safety reasons, it takes three people to walk out with one horse and child – the riders and horses are never unattended.

I do miss riding. Volunteers are given the chance to ride if there is spare time and sometimes I am tempted to take up the offer, but I know I shouldn’t. I’ve donated all my riding gear to the RDA and sometimes think it would be great to get back on a horse but it’s just too risky for me now. Volunteering at the RDA really does make up for that loss though.

I thoroughly enjoy my time at RDA. The satisfaction I get helping the kids, seeing them with great big grins on their faces is wonderful. It makes you really appreciate your own blessings and what you’ve got in life, your own family, that all your kids are well. It can be a very humbling experience. I also really enjoy the company; all the other ladies are fantastic. I enjoy the fact the centre is so well run too; it’s spotless and really well organised which makes it a pleasure. It’s become a big part of my life. I bring my grandchildren down from time to time. I’m a riding bore and I go on about the Centre all the time! I intend to continue doing this for as long as I can because I get so much satisfaction from it.”

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