Bri­tish ex­pat BECKY VINDEN tells us what’s in­volved when you vol­un­teer at Rid­ing for the Dis­abled As­so­ci­a­tion (RDA), and how you can help.


Help­ing with horse-rid­ing for the dis­abled

What mo­ti­vated you to vol­un­teer at RDA?

I was look­ing around for a char­ity where I could of­fer as­sis­tance and I came across RDA on a walk one day; I’ve been a vol­un­teer with them now for about two years. I grew up around horses and rode for most of my child­hood and ado­les­cence be­fore head­ing to univer­sity. I also love work­ing with chil­dren, and my mother was an ac­tive vol­un­teer for RDA in the UK when I was grow­ing up, so I know the or­gan­i­sa­tion and it felt like a good fit.

Do you have pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for char­i­ties?

I’ve worked with the Min­istry of So­cial and Fam­ily Devel­op­ment ( MSF) here in Sin­ga­pore un­der their En­able-a-fam­ily scheme. The scheme pre­dom­i­nantly works with fam­i­lies and chil­dren who have ex­pe­ri­enced child abuse, ne­glect or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. As a vol­un­teer, I be­friended chil­dren and pro­vided ed­u­ca­tional, emo­tional and so­cial sup­port with weekly vis­its and out­ings. In ad­di­tion, I’ve par­tic­i­pated in var­i­ous fund-raising and vol­un­teer­ing mis­sions in Bali and Cam­bo­dia.

What does vol­un­teer­ing at RDA en­tail?

RDA con­ducts two to three ses­sions a day, with each ses­sion usu­ally hav­ing six rid­ers at any one time and last­ing for 45 min­utes. Within a ses­sion, each rider will be as­signed a horse or pony, and three vol­un­teers. Two side­walks are re­quired per rider – these are the peo­ple who walk ei­ther side of the rider to of­fer phys­i­cal sup­port (if re­quired), and to com­mu­ni­cate with the rider to en­sure they are com­fort­able at all times, and that they re­ceive a safe, pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and the best pos­si­ble ther­apy for their par­tic­u­lar dis­abil­ity.

In ad­di­tion, a leader is needed to pre­pare the horse or pony for the ses­sion. They will groom and “tack up” the horse, of­ten with spe­cialised equip­ment, warm up prior to the ses­sion as well as lead and take care of the horse for the en­tire ses­sion, and cool down af­ter­wards. Fur­ther­more, each ses­sion will have a trained in­struc­tor and an as­sis­tant in­struc­tor (also a vol­un­teer) to con­duct and over­see. Dur­ing the ses­sion, rid­ers will per­form ac­tiv­i­ties on horse­back, and since the rid­ers in each ses­sion can have vary­ing de­grees of men­tal and/or phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity there is a

fo­cus on in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion so they each re­ceive the best pos­si­ble ther­apy for them. At the end of each ses­sion there’s al­ways a de­brief to give feed­back on the in­di­vid­ual rider and dis­cuss any progress or de­vel­op­ments.

How can peo­ple help?

Each ses­sion re­quires a to­tal of 19 vol­un­teers plus an in­struc­tor, so we al­ways need more vol­un­teers – no ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary! Each vol­un­teer will start as a side-walker, re­ceive train­ing, and, if they ex­press an in­ter­est, may have the op­por­tu­nity to lead once they have ful­filled the nec­es­sary train­ing. We need en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple who are able to walk for 45 min­utes be­side a horse and pro­vide a safe, pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for rid­ers who are of­ten ner­vous and lack­ing con­fi­dence or the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively.

What’s the most re­ward­ing thing about vol­un­teer­ing at RDA?

The beam­ing smile or glee­ful gig­gle that an oth­er­wise un­com­mu­nica­tive child gives when they are sit­ting on top of a horse – it’s the best feel­ing in the world!

How im­por­tant a job do you feel RDA does in terms of as­sist­ing the dis­abled?

I think the ex­pe­ri­ence that RDA of­fers is like no other, and the re­sults are clearly vis­i­ble. From see­ing some­one who is la­belled as “non-ver­bal” speak for the first time, to a wheel­chair bound per­son en­joy the feel­ing of free­dom and con­fi­dence that RDA of­fers, you re­ally can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of hip­pother­apy (ther­apy treat­ment us­ing horses) and of RDA in the dis­abled com­mu­nity.

How else can peo­ple help if they can’t vol­un­teer?

If peo­ple don’t have the time or in­cli­na­tion to vol­un­teer, there are other ways to sup­port RDA. Since it’s a char­ity pro­vid­ing free- of- charge ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing ses­sions, it re­lies en­tirely on do­na­tions and the gen­eros­ity of in­di­vid­u­als or cor­po­ra­tions, so any and all do­na­tions are greatly ap­pre­ci­ated. RDA also hosts var­i­ous fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that the whole fam­ily can get in­volved in – pony rides at their Open Day once a year, movie nights, a day at the races, golf days and a gala ball to name but a few.

To find out more about how you can help, go to rdasin­ga­pore.org, or call 6250 0176.

“Each ses­sion re­quires a to­tal of 19 vol­un­teers plus an in­struc­tor, so we al­ways need more vol­un­teers – no ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary!”

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