To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Riding for the Disabled (RDA), head coach Cherie Burton and mother Melissa Zambon share their heart-warming tales of confidence they have experienced in their time.
Melissa Zambon has seen first hand the impact RDA has had on her two children.
Her youngest daughter Mollie is in primary school, and suffers from anxiety which is significantly improved after going for a ride.
“She goes at the start of the week and it just sets her up, she’s more relaxed, ready to learn at school and it improves her social skills, because she’s not so stressed,” Ms Zambon said.
”It’s the highlight of Mollie’s week. We hear stories about her time, about how the horses can be cheeky, a joke she and the leaders may have going on, as well as little competitions between the students.”
RDA’s head coach Cherie Burton has been a volunteer for 10 years, and says being involved has been incredibly rewarding.
To see the way the riders progress, what riding actually does for them, its not only therapeutic but it builds self confidence as well.- RDA’s head coach Cherie Burton.
“To see the way the riders progress, what riding actually does for them, its not only therapeutic but it builds self confidence as well,” Ms Burton said.
She shares two cases which stand out for her to show the impact RDA has on the children.
“We had a boy who couldn’t walk and we had to hold him on the horse, but over the time just from the movement of the horse and the muscle he needed to sit there, by the time he left he was walking.”
“We also had a boy who is a selective mute. When he first started, we could get absolutely nothing out of him.”
“In his time here he conquered his fear of heights, and when he gets on the horse now he will talk – he has taken huge steps to overcome his selective muteness.”
RDA celebrated their anniversary on Sunday December 10, and saw past and present volunteers come together to celebrate the milestone at the Northside Leagues Club.
Attending the celebration were three esteemed figureheads of the association: Sohpie Bowen, Jess Horder and Ron Walter.
The trio saw the start of the Association, which has continued with support from the community ever since.
After being approached in 1987 by Kalinda’s Principal at the time Ron Walter, Jess Horder and Sophie Bowen, who were both involved with Pony Club, began by taking ponies over to the school.
It began with a trip once a fortnight, progressing to once a week until it was decided to bring the children to the ponies at the Pony Club grounds.
Other schools were then included and RDA remained at the Pony Club grounds until 2000, when it was moved to the Jess Horder Centre.
This was possible thanks to the kind donation of Lionel Irving, who gave the stables and grounds to the RDA.
An undercover arena and clubhouse were built there, and the centre now caters for approximately 60 riders coming from Griffith schools as well as those from Leeton, Coleambally and Barellan.
Now, RDA has four qualified coaches and a trainee coach who hold lessons three mornings a week beginning in Term two and finishing in the middle of November.
“I know they may not realise how much of an impact they have on the children they help,” Ms Zambon said.
“As a parent, I can see the happiness and contentment Mollie gets from it, it’s just amazing.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity Mollie has been given by the RDA. I can't thank them enough, they are patient with the kids and really just go above and beyond.”
RDA receives no government funding and are very grateful to the loyal band of volunteers, those who lead the horses, those who help with the fundraising, as well as those who take the horses over the summer months on agistment.
If you would like to become a volunteer, please contact Cherie on 0418 817 409.
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