HOW TO GET INVOLVED......
Volunteers are key to our work. We require two or three people per rider - one to lead the horse/pony and one or two to walk beside the rider offering physical support where necessary, reassurance and guidance.
Each riding session is overseen by a trained instructor and ride organiser and together with the wealth of experience of its long standing volunteers you will be well supported so you can do as little or as much as you feel capable, though some degree of fitness would be a good thing as riding sessions are held outdoors in sand schools. Anyone over 14 years old can volunteer and training is given to everyone who joins the group.
Don't worry if you have no horse experience, as long as you are keen to participate and learn, enjoy working as a team to help others progress, you will fit in well. Most of our present volunteers have been with us for many years and find the experience very rewarding and fulfilling.
The riding sessions tie in with the school term times, each lesson lasts for approximately half an hour and multiple sessions are often held, currently taking place at La Carriere Riding Stables on Thursdays between 1.00 and 2.30 pm and at Melrose Riding School on Wednesdays between 1.30 and 2.30 pm and Fridays from 3.00 to 3.30 pm.
Should you wish to be involved but find it difficult to be available for the rides we would love to have some help with our fund-raising activities.
If you are interested in helping us please contact us with a view to possibly coming up during one of our sessions to get a better idea of what is involved.
Just how satisfying is helping out at RDA? In the words of one of our volunteers ...
"For me, a lapsed equestrian, getting involved with RDA after a lengthy hiatus from horses and halters was just like riding a bike! Furthermore I knew from personal experience how much pleasure and sense of achievement special needs children obtained from riding and being amongst horses as one of my cousins had been an active and enthusiastic participant as a young teenager. Horses are fantastic levellers and her unsteady gait and poor annunciation as a result of Downs Syndrome was negated when she sat on top of her favourite and steady pony. There was no doubt that she blossomed in confidence when riding and even showed us her competitive streak hitherto hidden. Now approaching middle age, she talks fondly about those days and of enjoying the fun of gymkhanas.
So now, every Thursday I trot along to La Carriere Riding School where our students from The Base at St Sampsons High School eagerly await their lesson from our qualified instructor. We currently have four riders of similar abilities. All boys, they usually ride the same ponies each week enabling them to adhere to a set routine and hopefully build up a relationship with the ponies and volunteers, which is crucial to their educational and holistic development.
For safety reasons, our riders are assisted by side walkers and are initially on a leading rein. However, every encouragement is given to the riders to steer their own ponies in and out of set courses and tracks and, given time, they rise to this responsibility displaying tangible improvements by term end.
My own sense of achievement was encapsulated this week, as I observed our rider maintain steady concentration on the task he was assigned. His laughter and brief eye contact with us, so lacking in the previous weeks' riding, made it so worthwhile.
As volunteers all we are giving up is an extended lunch break and in that short time really making a difference to a young person's development - we would love more helpers to come and give it a go - no experience is necessary just a willingness and desire to muck in with a great bunch of volunteers and a super group of students.
WC Fields is attributed to having said that one should never work with children or animals - to which I would counter - unless that is the Guernsey Group of Riding for the Disabled!"