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Riding for the Disabled’s 10th Year Anniversary

By Sophie Poredos

Caption Two Volunteers At The Richmond Riding For Disabled Stables Riding For The Disabled’s 10Th Year Anniversary
Two volunteers at the richmond riding for disabled stables

Richmond’s Riding For the Disabled centre recently celebrated their ten-year anniversary, reflecting on a decade of offering equine-assisted activities to promote the wellbeing of people living with disabilities.

The ceremony began with student harpist Claire, who created a tranquil atmosphere for volunteers and other community leaders present. Shane Laws, a First Nations speaker from the Boorooberongal clan, delivered a Welcome to Country and gave the audience insight into the nature of the Hawkesbury including its precious waterways. Local MP Susan Templeton also spoke at the event, recognising the excellence of the RDA’s (Riding For the Disabled Association) services:

“I feel very privileged to be included in this because I’ve watched the growth and seen its development. What a better place to have an RDA than the Hawkesbury with its huge history and landscape.”

The Riding for Disabled Association was established in Australia in 1964 by Mr and Mrs Peter McIntyre, who introduced horse-riding services as a form of therapy. Richmond’s centre is located on the former Clydesdale Stud at the Western Sydney University campus in Richmond.

In 2016 founder Deborah Gersbach partnered her horse-riding coaching with Riding for the Disabled (RDA) and received support from North-West Disability Services, offering a unique service for individuals living with disabilities: “I had to come up with an idea of why we needed this RDA and I wanted to offer riding to adults who have previously missed out. Unlike other centres, we focus on adults with disabilities and the [Western Sydney] University has been amazing for that support, offering us 15 acres.

Well now we have to stay here and continue to build this as a community hub!” There are now 35 RDA centres across Australia, including Gable’s ‘Tall Timbers’ centre. Senior coach Nicole King at Tall Timbers congratulated the Richmond centre on their anniversary:

Caption Rider Aaron Callan With Volunteer And Local Equestrian Emily Attard Riding For The Disabled’s 10Th Year Anniversary
Rider aaron callan with volunteer and local equestrian, emily attard

“I would like to congratulate the Team at Richmond Centre on reaching the 10 year milestone! Providing equine programs to local community members with a disability is hard work and takes dedication and commitment to continue offering these programs with the reliance of volunteers, fundraising and donations”.

Ian Travers, fundraising director for RDA NSW and organiser of this event, spoke passionately about the impact of equine therapy. With over nine years’ experience with the Richmond Centre and as a former RDA president, he reflected on his career changes from retail to disability services: “It’s a very worthwhile cause, we have a little saying called ‘bums in saddles and smiles on faces’! Our clients are so joyous and have big smiles coming up the driveway. We even get involved with equestrian events including dressage, A1 and A2 grades.”

Horse riding is incredibly therapeutic and offers a range of physical benefits such as improved balance and posture as resistance training builds bone and muscle strength. However, Ian believes that the trained horses also provide deeper benefits such as enhancing self-confidence, communication and the selfesteem of clients:

“It’s just therapeutic magic that just works where they connect with each other. You see the response coming back from the way our horse interacts, and our horses are very sensory. Our animals and clients just seem to understand each other.”

For any avid horse lovers out there, Ian Travers would love to hear from volunteers. However, you don’t have to be horse-orientated as any assistance with admin or general stable cleaning duties is greatly appreciated. The shifts are between 9am to 1pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Any interested volunteers can reach out to Ian on the Facebook Group: Richmond Riding for Disabled.

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