At the moment we can only cater for children on Monday mornings during school term times. Children must be aged between 3 and 14 years, and within a height and weight range that is appropriate for the ponies.
Children with any disabilities are considered, both physical and mental. We have catered for children who are blind, recovering from a stroke, or have lost, or lost the use of, a limb(s), to those with autism, cerebral palsy, or Down’s syndrome, and those with many other issues.
All children are assessed and have a trial riding session. If considered suitable they are offered one year’s riding. At the end of this period they will again be assessed, and suggestions made as to their way forward. If we have space and it is decided that it would be beneficial then another year may be offered. Please understand we try to reach and help as many children as possible. Sometimes there may be a waiting list and if we are unable to help we will always try to suggest alternatives.
For each half hour session we ask for a donation of £5, to go towards the hire of the ponies, and the other expenses we incur.
A Typical Session
What do we do on Monday mornings?
Good question, the aim is for everyone, children and helpers alike to have fun. There are three key parties:
While the children are having fun, they are learning, building up their core strength, gaining in confidence, and learning how to interact with other people and animals.
The helpers use their valuable skills to develop an empathy with the ponies and interact with the children. No experience with either ponies or children is required as all will be taught or come naturally.
And we mustn’t forget, the most important part of the trio, the ponies! They seem to sense the need to be calm and well behaved, and sometimes the naughtiest pony, with training, can become an amazing RDA pony.
I will try to explain each part of the above in more detail. I hope you will find it interesting, and maybe encourage you to visit us and possibly join us as a volunteer. You can always text me on 07535 347039, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to make an appointment to visit.
I’m sure that most people think that the children are just plonked on a pony’s back to then plod around for half an hour.
Depending on their physical abilities, they are taught to mount: to step up onto the mounting block, to hold the front of the saddle, learn which foot to put in the stirrup, and how to swing their right leg over the saddle, and put that foot in the stirrup. This engages their memory, their ability to lift and use their legs. It’s amazing how once up there, their natural balance takes over. This in turn helps to build up their core strength. Even those with serious disabilities adapt to the motion of the moving pony, and that motion in itself causes the body to automatically use muscles which the rider may not normally use.
For the occasional riders who never manage to do any of the above, the benefits are still many, and all riders benefit in different ways.
Once the rider is sitting on the pony, he/she is encouraged to hold the reins, and tell the pony to walk on saying “one, two three walk on”. Similarly the command “one, two, three whoa” is used to stop the pony, though the leader obviously has overall control of the pony. The side walkers offer the rider assistance as required, helping with balance if necessary, showing how to hold the reins, and explaining how to use them for stopping and steering. We use coloured reins as often the children don`t understand left and right, so it’s red for right and blue for left.
The ride starts with a walk round the inside perimeter of the school. This loosens the child’s muscles and gets them to relax into the motion of their pony. The children learn to steer in between poles, change direction, stop and start on command. To help build their strength, balance etc they learn exercises, from touching their knees, hands on their heads, to standing in their stirrups.
The second half of the session involves games. One of our volunteers has made us many different toys: camels, fish, butterflies, mice, to name but a few. These are hung on posts on one side of the school and the children select one as instructed and carry it across the school where they will find a bucket or a net in which to place it. Likewise they have coloured balls which they drop into rings, or they go shopping with a bag into which they place certain items from around the school. A great favourite is to collect boats and ducks and float them in a water filled trough which often involves a lot of splashing and laughter. We are always thinking of new games, and although we call them games, they are designed to ensure the children are constantly learning and gaining in confidence.