Volunteers welcome at Cambridge RDA

Wrapping up their Thursday morning ride, from left, Brooke Searle aboard Pippa, Will Flavell aboard Toby, and Raphael Cimadom on Paddy, along with RDA volunteers (on ground, from left) Eloise Clarridge, Maria Davies, Julia Ebert, and coach Carol Penman.

A “Show Day” at Cambridge Riding for the Disabled (RDA) on Saturday, December 1 will give the public a chance to see what this fantastic local organisation is all about – and provide the chance for potential volunteers to get a feel for what they do.

The local organisation, which has been providing therapeutic riding to the community for over 25 years, is made possible by the work of do-gooders who donate their time each week. It operates every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning with about 60 children on their books, and with new year plans to add another day to their week (Friday mornings) helping the children on their waiting list as well as those in the community, the organisation is in need of more volunteers.

“The satisfaction you get out of it is enormous,” said Carol Penman, an RDA volunteer of 36 years and a Cambridge RDA volunteer for over six years. “You’re doing something for the children, and the community … I enjoy the horses, but I really enjoy the children.”

Carol said the Cambridge RDA team were a great crew, like a big family. Having attained her RDA coaching qualifications in 2002, she coaches every Thursday morning session at the premises behind the Gaslight Theatre, off Alpha St, explaining that her work was a way for her to give back to the community. “It’s just paying it forward, and it’s fun,” she said with a smile.

Carol Penman (right) an RDA volunteer of 36 years and Thursday morning coach, leads Toby the horse with Will Flavell aboard and Ciara Claridge assisting (left).

Vanessa Donnelly, Operations Manager at Cambridge RDA for the last three years and a volunteer for 13 years prior, held a similar affection towards the group. “We come for the horses but we stay for the people,” she said, adding that the children get so much out of the work they do. “We’ve had first words spoken here from five year olds who didn’t speak …They just love being here, the sheer enjoyment they get from being around the horses. … They can work towards a goal, try hard and achieve something.”

Vanessa said volunteers don’t need to have any experience with horses, anyone from 14 years old and up can get involved, as long as they’re fit enough to walk the horses and be able to react to them in an emergency.

“You just need to have compassion and empathy,” she said, explaining that volunteer work could range from walking alongside the horses, leading them, supporting riders, to other odd jobs like working in the paddocks, cleaning out the holding pens or making morning tea.

“It’s such a good community group, just a great bunch of people,” she said. “You get fresh air and some exercise without needing a gym membership!”

To find out more about Cambridge RDA contact Vanessa on 021 902 892, email [email protected] or head along to the Cambridge RDA Show Day, 10am – 2pm at Cambridge Riding for the Disabled, 8 Alpha St.

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