‘Special bond’ forged over 20 years in the saddle
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.