West Auckland Riding for the Disabled

"Jethro absolutely loved his horse riding. I sincerely believe that without RDA Jethro would never have learned to walk. This has made a huge difference not only to Jethro, but also to our whole family."
Jethro's Mum Shelley

NZCT has awarded the West Auckland Riding for the Disabled Association (WARDA) a major grant of $300,000 toward the cost of constructing a covered riding facility.

With a soft sheepskin on its back, the pony relaxes Jethro's legs with its rhythmic walk and builds his core strength and balance. Jethro is a happy and social boy with a rare genetic condition called Mowat-Wilson syndrome. He struggles to balance, sit, walk, and communicate. His mum Shelley says, "Jethro absolutely loved his horse riding. I sincerely believe that without RDA Jethro would never have learned to walk. This has made a huge difference not only to Jethro, but also to our whole family."

"Jack loves riding on the lovely therapy horse Eclipse. When in his wheelchair, he is always lower than everyone else. He has made great progress, learning to balance himself and responding well to the volunteers." Nanna Sheryl, who brings Jack every week, says, "Jack gets all excited when he knows it's a riding day and it has made a real difference."

WARDA is a volunteer organisation providing weekly therapeutic horse riding for children experiencing disability, or who have specific challenges or needs. Through therapeutic horse riding, it aims to enable and support them achieve good lives including meaningful participation in, and contribution to, important life activities and roles in their communities.

Riding RDA horses regularly gives many children like Jethro and Jack a huge confidence boost. It not only improves their balance, strength, and coordination, but also assists communication and social skills, providing riders with a great sense of freedom and achievement. A Covered Riding Facility at West Auckland RDA will enable it to increase its sessions by up to 400% with shorter waiting lists, a wider
range of programmes, and no more cancellations due to weather.

More parents say -

"Riding has given him a large amount of independence that he would never have had without riding. It has effected his home life, but more importantly his school life. He has now been able to communicate with his peers."

"We have noticed he is able to manage his emotions a lot better than he previously has and seems to be giving more things a go which for him is a huge step!"

"My son has cerebral palsy and the riding therapy allows for him to experience movement in a different way, relaxing his muscles and freeing him to 'walk' using the horse as his legs. The riding also provides amazing physical therapy for him. His trunk control and efforts to walk are noticeably improved after each session and these benefits are maintained over time. I cannot recommend West Auckland RDA, the staff, the horses, and the organisation highly enough."

West Auckland Riding for the Disabled President Norma Hayward adds -

"The NZCT grant contributes towards the completion of a much-needed Covered Riding Facility that will allow us to increase our riding sessions reaching more riders and changing more lives. Currently we have to cancel around 30% of sessions due to wet weather, which disrupts the benefits to our riders and hinders their progress. The new facility will include a 60 x 26 metre arena, office, therapy room, and community room.

We are so grateful for NZCT's contribution to our building and excited at the prospect of running new programmes and helping many more tamariki and rangatahi improve their confidence, skills, abilities, and overall, wellbeing through the magic of horses. It will also be a great community facility available for hire to community groups in an ever-growing West Auckland.

Riders and their families are embraced, able to network and make new friends. Our sixty volunteers are aged from 16 to 100. Volunteers engage with their community, benefit from physical activity, learn new skills and feel valued. WARDA provides an inclusive environment offering something for everyone involved.

Building a covered riding arena has been a goal for West Auckland RDA for twenty years. In 2020 an Auckland Council lease was secured allowing this project to proceed and serious fundraising commenced, receiving wonderful support from the community. Covid threw some challenges our way, but we remained focused on the goal. To complete the arena and ancillary rooms, we needed a funding boost and the NZCT grant has helped tremendously. We just need to raise the last bit of funding for the carpark and landscaping."

West Auckland RDA (previously Henderson Riding for the Disabled) was established in 1976. It is led and run by a team of committed and passionate volunteers who provide people with disabilities and challenges the chance to experience the many benefits of therapeutic horse riding. With NZQA qualified coaches, a physiotherapist, trained volunteers, and special horses, the programmes are designed to provide challenging and stimulating activities. These enhance better health, wellbeing, and community engagement for all involved.