Located in the peaceful rural setting of Henderson Valley Road is an organisation making a massive difference to local disabled children. West Auckland Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) provides weekly therapeutic horse riding to tamariki living with varied challenges and disabilities.
Horse riding improves the confidence, wellbeing and abilities of these children. Strong relationships are forged between horses and riders. And the look of joy on the children’s faces says it all.
West Auckland RDA has been transforming children’s lives out West since 1976 and comes under the umbrella of the nationwide Riding for the Disabled Association.
‘We offer horse riding opportunities for children with developmental issues, physical disabilities and social and emotional challenges,’ explains Treasurer Shirley Furneaux. She says that around 50 children participate each week. Tamariki are referred to the programme by health agencies, social services and schools. Or individuals can apply directly through the organisation’s website.
Jethro is just one of the children who eagerly anticipates his weekly sessions. He has a rare genetic condition called Mowat-Wilson syndrome, which makes balancing, walking and communicating more of a challenge. Regular horse riding has helped improve Jethro’s balance, strength and coordination. More importantly, it’s boosted his confidence. ‘Jethro absolutely loves his horse riding,’ says his mum Shelley. ‘It’s made a huge difference to Jethro and our whole family,’ she adds.
However, West Auckland RDA experienced a setback this year. The Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle caused extensive damage. Several trees were felled, causing a health and safety risk to the riders, horses and the 60-strong team of volunteers who keep the show on the road.
As a charitable organisation, funds are always in short supply. And so Shirley approached the Your West Support Fund for help. West Auckland RDA used the funding to remove the vulnerable trees and clear the fence lines of storm debris.
‘The help came at just the right time,’ reports Shirley. ‘It meant we were back up and running and able to provide a safe environment,’ she adds.
West Auckland RDA has ambitious plans for the future and is fundraising to complete a covered riding facility. ‘At the moment, our programme is weather-dependent,' says Shirley. ‘A covered facility means we don’t have to cancel sessions due to the weather.’ She advises that West Auckland RDA can double the number of weekly riders to 100, reduce waiting lists and offer a broader range of programmes.
Even better, the new facility will also be available for hire as a community resource.
According to Shirley, the covered arena should be open at the end of March. However, more funds are needed to complete the driveway and car park. Jump online if you want to contribute to this worthwhile project or have a few hours to spare as a volunteer.