Riding For Disabled finds it hard to help all

Georgia Payne with Stone at Blenheim RDA
Georgia Payne with Stone at Blenheim RDA

Just as the cycle starts for some, so too must it end for others.

Marlborough Riding for the Disabled will provide therapy to eight new children this year, all under four years old.

Unfortunately, a lack of funding, horses, volunteers and hours in the day means 10 others will miss out.

That and the fact that some people have simply reached their goals and can no longer progress with their therapy.

One such person is Picton girl Georgia Payne.

Georgia, 20, has been riding at Marlborough RDA for 16 years.

During that time, she has developed a close bond with her horse Stone, who is also 20. Stone has been retired this year because of arthritis.

Her mother Rachelle McLeod said she was disappointed that Georgia had to step away from riding.

Georgia, who uses sign language, would wake up every Wednesday and sign to her mother that she was going horse riding later, Ms McLeod said.

"She just loves it and gets so much out of it," she said. "It's a real shame but probably for all those other kids [who miss out too], they are probably feeling the same way."

Ms McLeod used to drive Georgia to the Blenheim RDA once a week when they lived in Kaikoura, she said.

"She has done it right through, no matter where she has lived. We always made the effort to take her."

Georgia was supposed to get a new riding helmet for her birthday but they had to cancel the order, Ms McLeod said.

Marlborough RDA head coach and manager Roslein Wilkes said the club provided therapy to about 80 people a week.

Georgia was, up to five years ago, getting stronger but her development had become static, Mrs Wilkes said.

"We have to look at the possibility of little ones coming through," she said. "It's really sad, sad for all of them that have to finish. But sad for the parent with a one-year-old . . . if we work with them we know they will improve. That's the situation we are in."

The club did not simply offer horse riding sessions, it provided riding therapy, she said.

"When you know a little one like Georgia all these years it's really hard to say no. Every year she was put on the list and we thought ‘let's give her one more year', but this year we had to bite the bullet and do it."

New Zealand RDA national board member Belinda Jackson said volunteers didn't have enough hours in the day to meet demand.

But the work had to be about effective rider outcomes, which were boosted through early intervention, Ms Jackson said.

"We need to be making a difference to that rider. We need to be improving the quality of life for them and their family in some way."

The Marlborough branch had just started opening Mondays, Ms Jackson said.

"Physically I don't think we can do anymore."

The Marlborough Express