‘Spe­cial bond’ forged over 20 years in the sad­dle

Marlborough Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - PAULA HULBURT

Benn Thomas started rid­ing horses as a child and 20 years later, he now vol­un­teers at the cen­tre which shaped his life.

In two decades of rid­ing, the ac­com­plished eques­trian has never missed a week.

Week in, week out, Thomas has turned up to put Marl­bor­ough Rid­ing for the Dis­abled’s horses through their paces.

In that time, he has grown from a tod­dler who could barely walk to the con­fi­dent rider he is now.

And in a kind-hearted bid to help those who helped him, Thomas now gives up his time to help out at at the Blen­heim­based cen­tre.

He is among those help­ing with prepa­ra­tions for a spe­cial open day on Sun­day.

‘‘I never get scared and only fell off once. I’ve had a lot of dif­fer­ent horses as I’ve grown but I love Sun­dance and he’s a lovely trot­ter.

‘‘I’ve made friends but I’ve been here the long­est so they leave but I also love just be­ing by my­self too,’’ he says.

At around 14 hands high, Sun­dance tow­ers above Thomas but the pair share a spe­cial bond.

Thomas’s mother, Brenda Agent say she cred­its horserid­ing with help­ing im­prove her son’s bal­ance and pos­ture.

‘‘I don’t think he was even walk­ing when I first brought him here and it’s been quite amaz­ing to watch.

‘‘It’s re­ally peace­ful and when you watch you can see there’s a con­nec­tion be­tween Benn and the horses, es­pe­cially Sun­dance.

‘‘He’s had a good bond with all the horses he’s rid­den,’’ she says.

The not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion uses horses for ther­apy and un­der­takes a tange of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing ris­ing lessons for able­bod­ied clients.

Marl­bor­ough Rid­ing for the Dis­abled man­ager He­lena van Velthooven started at the cen­tre as a 7-year-old who rode in the af­ter-school pro­gramme be­fore later be­com­ing a vol­un­teer and then man­ager.

‘‘I’ve known Benn a long time and have seen how much he’s im­proved and what a bond he has with the horses.

‘‘We have around 60 RDA riders through a week and about 15 vol­un­teers but we al­ways need more,’’ she says.

The an­nual open day will in­clude client demon­stra­tions, ther­apy ses­sions, dres­sage tests and a mu­si­cal demon­stra­tion from Marl­bor­ough Grand Prix dres­sage rider Melissa Gal­loway and her horse Win­der­mere J’Obe’i.

Gal­loway is the un­der-25 Grand Prix cham­pion and re­cently won the world dres­sage chal­lenge in Aus­tralia.

Pony rides, trac­tor rides, cake stalls, cof­fee cart and Mr Whippy ice­cream will also be in­cluded in the day’s line-up.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion visit rda.org.nz or on Marl­bor­ough RDA on Face­book.

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