It’s Tuesday at WRDA and the ride programme is in full swing. Coaches call out commands and directions to attentive riders as sidewalkers lead ponies around the arena, while other volunteers warm up horses, give a dusty coat a final brush, or assist a rider with a helmet before the next class begins. Amidst this organised chaos is volunteer Shiori Miyachi.
Until last year, Shiori had never met a real horse. It was a visit to a local farm with a friend that sparked her love affair with horses and an interest in helping others that brought her to WRDA. “I wanted to learn how to take care of horses and began researching. This is how I discovered the RDA. I was also interested in volunteering and the RDA taught how to handle horses, so I thought that's just what I wanted to do!” And for the past year, this is exactly what Shiori has done. “She is eager to do any job and has to be told to sit down and take a rest,” Said WRDA president Donna Kennedy.
“The RDA is such a wonderful organisation. It's amazing to see how people improve so much through horse riding therapy. Just a 30 minute ride creates a positive influence on them mentally and physically!” Shiori says. But for Shiori, the influence is mutual. Joint-winner of WRDA’s “Most Improved Volunteer of 2015,” Shiori says she now realises she and her fellow volunteers also benefit from the work done by the programme.
A native of Hiroshima, Japan, Shiori says her poor English and inexperience with horses must have stressed out everyone when she started but everyone was very patient and took time teaching her what she needed to know. “When I started volunteering, I didn't know what to say to the kids during their rides and wanted to lead a horse but I couldn't lead a horse very well, so I felt stuck and cried. The vollies, coaches and staff quickly talked to me to discuss the fears I had then patiently taught me how to do things, taking time to plan with me about what to say to the kids and giving me tips.” It is this dedication to the individual needs of riders and volunteers by all at WRDA that makes it a great place to be.
Shiori says she doesn’t have a favourite horse but loves spending time with all of them and hopes more people will learn about the work RDA does to either experience the benefits of horse therapy or the opportunity to volunteer with special needs persons.
Page added 08.07.16