Horses that Heal

Riding for the Disabled Association Singapore (RDA Singapore) is an ANZA Action selected charity, which provides equine-assisted therapy to children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. RDA volunteer Kerrie Davis talks about how she became involved.

Why did you decide to volunteer with RDA?
Having left full-time employment in Australia to move to Singapore with my husband it didn’t take me long to realise I needed to come up with a way to keep busy. Volunteering was something I’d always planned to do to fill in the days and to keep my sanity! Searching through volunteer sites on the internet I came across the RDA and thought: ‘wow this is something different’. I went to an open day and was shown around, and then as a recruit had some training. The staff and volunteers made me feel very welcome and I was keen to start working with the riders.

What work do you do?
On arrival we have a briefing about the morning classes, help set up the planned activities in the arena, meet and greet the children, and make sure they have their helmets. We then do some stretching to get ready to get onto the horse. My job is as a side walker (all volunteers start as a side-walker). There are two side walkers on either side of the horse who offer support, guidance, assistance and encouragement to the rider. We talk with them during the session to make them more comfortable and confident and guide them through the activities.

What’s rewarding about the work you do?
The children are amazing. During their 10-week program they’re introduced to a new experience, new people and horses and it’s amazing to see how well they adapt and cope. To see the eagerness on their faces and the changes in their confidence each week is incredible. I also really enjoy being with the other volunteers, having a chat, sharing experiences and working together.

What results do you see?
From introducing yourself to a child on the first day, the connection begins, and they put their trust in you. Over the course of the program their confidence and ability flourishes, as well as their speech and listening skills, following instructions, posture and balance. This doesn’t happen on the same scale for all the riders. As they are all individuals with varying levels of special needs, you see a varying level of improvement. Some may be able to ride by themselves by the end and others may still need full support, but it’s the little achievements you notice like big smiles, laughing, strength in their core muscles, balance, communication, self-control, alertness and enjoyment that makes it all worthwhile.

RDA Singapore was founded in 1982, with just 5 riders and a whole lot of heart. Since then, more than 6,000 disabled children and adults have experienced the benefits of the therapy that horses and ponies so lovingly provide. Therapy sessions are conducted six days a week with the help of almost 300 volunteers each week. Volunteers are welcome (over the age of 16) and RDA is always grateful for donations, which supports therapy horse upkeep and ongoing programs. To find out more about RDA go to rdasingapore.org or facebook.com/rdasgp

RDA is holding a fundraising movie night with a screening of CAPTAIN MARVEL
on Thursday 7 March at 6.45pm, Golden Village Plaza Singapura. For tickets head to giving.sg