Changing young people’s lives

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On a breathtakingly beautiful autumn day in May, NRCF visited the wonderful crew at Riding for the Disabled, Ballina.  This neat-as-a pin facility, which includes immaculate stables and an indoor and outdoor arena, really has to be seen to be believed.  

Organised and run completely by local volunteers, Riding for the Disabled Ballina is empowering young people with disabilities to find their true potential through the simple joy of connecting with, and riding, the most gentle-natured of horses.

While we there we had the chance to meet young Chloe who had been visiting Riding for the Disabled for about six weeks.  Her mum and dad were absolutely beaming with joy, watching her proudly riding her mount ‘Banjo’ around the indoor arena – carefully led and supervised by two patient volunteers.

Chloe has spent a great deal of her young life in hospital and suffers from painful arthritis.  Her mum Michelle told us that since she started coming to Riding for the Disabled and, having fallen instantly in love with Banjo, the change in her precious daughter has been nothing short of miraculous.

“She never stops smiling when she’s on Banjo,” Michelle said.  “And when she’s at home she’s always talking about him, and drawing him and making up stories about him.  It’s the happiest we’ve ever seen her…”  Chloe’s dad added that it has been so wonderful to find a gentle outdoor past-time that Chloe can enjoy without it causing her pain.

Another special moment was watching Luke, a young man with multiple disabilities, ride a horse for the first time in his life.  With gentle reassurance and endless patience from the Riding for the Disabled volunteers, Luke was encouraged to mount his horse from a special platform, and completely encircled by helping hands, began gingerly walking forward one step at a time.

Within maybe a minute or two of being led at a gentle walk around the small outdoor arena, Luke’s confidence had sky-rocketed and he began grinning from ear to ear.  Simultaneously we all broke into spontaneous cheering and applause!  

A grant from NRCF has enabled Riding for the Disabled Ballina to train 12 of its volunteers as coaches so they can help and encourage local young people with a wide range of disabilities to learn to ride.  

With demand for their services on the increase, this means Riding for the Disabled is able to provide regular lessons to more young people from the surrounding Ballina and districts community.

Pictured: Chloe & Gizmo (horse) with volunteers - Carol Mison & Lyn Muller