Hamilton Riding for the Disabled horse Dart hits the bullseye at national awards

Head coach and manager Hannah Doughty and horse manager and assistant coach Diane Gilder stand next to their winning ...

Head coach and manager Hannah Doughty and horse manager and assistant coach Diane Gilder stand next to their winning horse of the year, Dart.

A Hamilton horse has shot to the top spot as the New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Horse of the Year. 

At 16.1 hands high, retired racehorse Dart is a whole lot of love.

"He's just great," said head coach and manager Hannah Doughty. "I reckon the most important thing for our RDA horses is just to have a really kind, genuine nature, and he definitely has that."

Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is a charitable organisation which provides opportunities for anyone with a disability to enjoy safe, therapeutic horse riding.

Dart was born in October 2001 and was trained to be a racehorse. By age three he had won a total of $26,750. 

In 2010 his owner and RDA volunteer John Noble passed away, and his family gifted Dart to the RDA.

"He's a special horse to us and he will stay here with us," Doughty said. "He will stay and do RDA until it's his time to retire."  

Dart will be turning 16 at the end of the year. He is a thoroughbred and Doughty said there was "quite a big thing" about retraining thoroughbreds after they've come off the track.

"There's a big thing to say, these horses can be retrained​ and they can go on to do anything, and he's just a really good example of that." 

In fact, Dart does an average of ten rides per week, which amounts to an average of 100 rides per RDA term. 

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He can cater for both adult or experienced riders as well as new or smaller riders.

"He's one of those quite special horses who really adjusts to the level of his rider. He's the favourite of the volunteers. He walks out nicely, you don't have to haul him around," Doughty said.

The Horse of the Year award was announced at the annual New Zealand RDA awards dinner on May 21 and Dart was gifted a prize sponsored by Prestige Equestrian.

After his many successes racing, this is Dart's first national award.

"He's quite a humble horse. It certainly hasn't gone to his head," Doughty said.

 - Stuff

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