For some reason, taking in Wellington Riding For The Disabled’s (WRDA) Saturday morning session had me a little on edge. Here I was paying a second visit to their Kenepuru enclave, this time to take photographs for the build of this website.
If there was any trepidation it’s simply that horses and I have never quite gone together. While it might have something to do with the absence of equestrian experiences in my own childhood, my encounters with WRDA are surely changing my appreciation.
Amazing is an over-used word these days, but this organisation is nothing short of that.
I turned up early just as Donna Kennedy, the WRDA chair arrived to take the regular Saturday programme for kids with disabilities.
She set about writing up the day's programme on a whiteboard and soon people were arriving, mostly young women, local volunteers with an obvious love of horses and doing spectacularly therapeutic things for disabled children.
The place rapidly turned into a working bee as the yard was prepared and a posse departed for the far paddock to fetch Jake, Bilbo and Tiki. The horses seemed familiar with the routine and the remaining horses nonchalantly kept about their grazing. In no time the selected horses were in the yard and being lovingly groomed and saddled up for the imminent VIP arrivals.
Du Dway had arrived early and was helping to groom Tiki an elegant honey brown mare with dark chocolate mane and tail. Later he would ride her around the arena a couple of times before being allowed to ride outside the arena – he’s now clearly confident enough to ride without too much assistance, although Emma kept a handy eye on him.
Little Jenna arrived to take charge of Jake, assisted by Carrie and Lauren. Then there was Harrison, proud as punch in his All Black shirt and shinny white helmet. Harrison would take charge of Bilbo, the big, gentle white gelding who had recently made headlines as an artist. Matt, in a cowboy hat and smile looked after Harrison, allowing him later to take Bilbo's reins without anyone leading him - maybe a big moment for Harrison?
I watched Lauren with little Jenna for a while and tried to capture some of the special moments on camera. Lauren's gentle touches, reassuring words and smile said it all. Jenna was in heaven, the tinniest of kids astride an enormous animal. We are told that the movement of horse riding is so good for people with disabilities, but it was easy to see the sheer joy that these kids get from the experience of freedom and control.
So, we should applaud the work of these extraordinary people and this wonderful organisation. It's a sure bet that for Harrison, Jenna, Du Dway and countless other kids, the regular visit to WRDA is the highlight of their week.
I wondered, why wouldn't these volunteers rather be sleeping in on a languid Saturday morning or spending a little time on their Facebook and Instagram?
WRDA largely depends on volunteers for all manner of tasks, and donations to keep the operation running. So I’d urge anyone to lend a hand in any way you can. You can contact them here.
A gallery of photos from my visit can be seen here.
Fraser Carson is a FRESCO partner and the founder of Flightdec.com and Issues.co.nz. He is a developer and commentator on online and community building issues with a particular interest and involvement in the Collective Impact method of working cooperatively.