Riding for the Disabled

Sarah Heydon was our keynote speaker.

She spoke on behalf of the Auckland Eastern suburbs Riding for the disabled. Sarah is a former member of our club and as a professional director. She as chair of Cavalier Corporation, a director of ports of Auckland, GMS science and the cooperative bank. She is also chair of New Zealand Riding for the disabled.

Riding for the disabled has been in existence for over 40 years. The association between Rotary and Riding for the disabled is of similar vintage.

Sarah gave us a rundown on what it takes to operate Riding for the disabled in Auckland. An area to ride on as required, there are health and safety issues to monitor, horses to find and train, funding to obtain volunteers to recruit and riders to select.

Riding for the disabled relies on pony clubs throughout the country to support its programs. The Auckland Eastern suburbs Riding for the disabled used to be headquartered at St Helliers Bay pony club. However because the land upon which that pony club sits has been transferred to Ngati Whatua who want to use the land for other purposes Riding for the disabled have relocated to the Meadowbank pony club.

Riding for the disabled uses a lot of resource. Specialised equipment for the riders which needs to be cleaned maintained and secured. Staff have to be trained operates safely. There are strict operating requirements before Riding for the disabled can be undertaken. For example, one rider needs a horse and three helpers. There are six horses required for a lesson. In addition there is a coach overseeing the process and a physiotherapist. Sarah told us 25 volunteers a week are required.

RDA needs funding stop it receives an incredible amount of support from the community and generates its own funding through fundraisers most recently production and sale of gingerbread horses.
Riders have a wide range of problems, cerebral palsy, autism, inability to walk or talk. Each individual rider has their own goals and needs which Riding for the disabled attempts to address. The act of riding as a dynamic activity. There are all sorts of movements as the horse moves. It creates challenges and rewards. Sarah gave us an example of a childhood been noncommunicative and who would not despite all efforts talk. He started talking 20 minutes after getting on the horse. Another example is of a child with walking abilities who over a period of time progressed from a wheelchair to calipers and walkers to walking on his own unaided as a consequence of being a rider.
 
Sarah also made the comment that whilst riders have to be kept safe (together with volunteers) things can’t be too safe otherwise the Riding exercises not challenge it is intended to be.
 
Sarah’s presentation was enlightening for those members present.
 
At the end of her presentation Pres Michelle and other Rotary guests provided a cheque for a sponsorship grant to Sarah on behalf of RDA of $10,000. The sum was provided by the trustees of the Harold Davies trust which matched donations from each of Rotary  Newmarket, Auckland Auckland East and Parnell.
Sponsors