Our Riders

RDA continues to provide opportunities for our riders to develop confidence, social skills, strength, independence, focus and self-control. Our volunteers are very caring and experienced. They provide our riders with a unique experience that makes the learning outcomes, the physical benefits and the life skills gained enjoyable. Our riders love riding and parents see huge benefits from RDA.

Here are some rider stories you are bound to enjoy!


Destiny Shelford

Diagnosis: Cerebral Palsy
Age: 7 years
Attending RDA: 5 years

"My name is Destiny and I love going to horse riding. I started when I was little (2 and a half). My favourite horse is Saint and I love him. I like 4 point kneeling on Saint and riding backwards. Riding is so good for my balance and my hips. I didn't used to be able to sit up straight when I started and now I can and I am also learning to walk. I can't wait for every Monday so I can go to riding. I wish I could do it every day because horse riding is fun. "

"RDA has been one of THE best therapy's my daughter has ever done. She has never once, not wanted to go. In fact she would go every day if she could. I am so grateful to everyone involved in RDA and all the time everyone volunteers, to make this possible. We are so lucky to have this available to our kids as the outcomes from doing this every week are invaluable. Riding has helped to give Destiny the confidence she needs to get out there and try new things. Recently she did a photo shoot with Kim from Tall Tails photography which she loved. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, to everyone involved at RDA." Marlene (Destiny's mum)


Chris Wilcox

Diagnosis: Incomplete Tetraplegic
Age: 63 years
Attending RDA: 4 years, 6 months

My name is Chris Wilcox and I am a 63 yr. old mother and grandmother. In 2009 I had spinal surgery for a benign tumour at T1-2 level. Although I had never contemplated losing my ability to walk, the odds were not in my favour and I am now an incomplete tetraplegic. After 3 months in the Auckland Spinal Unit I was fortunate to have follow-up physio three times a week and made considerable physical gains over this period. When this program finished in late 2011, I suggested RDA as an ongoing therapy. Having been a volunteer at Drury RDA in the 90's and an upbringing on horseback on a hill country farm, I thought this might be something I could get to grips with. Totara Park RDA gave me the opportunity to give riding a shot and this is now a regular part of my life.

My first ride was VERY challenging, both for me and of course the group of helpful TPRDA supporters. ! ! ! My first "ride" consisted of 30 minutes on horseback, half -lying on the horse's neck with my legs and me being held by 2 side walkers. I think I talked the whole time - partly through fear and partly through excitement - it was so exciting to be doing something "NORMAL" as opposed to sitting in a wheelchair. I have continued to ride weekly and with a lot of encouragement from my side walkers and the team, I have improved from being a "sack of spuds," to riding independently. I am now able to trot over a short distance and complete short dressage assignments and it is such a thrill to feel so comfortable and free on a horse again.

The physical and mental challenges which I face every time I ride provide a huge sense of achievement which are difficult to duplicate and I am certain that RDA is the biggest factor in building and maintaining my core strength and positive attitude over the last 5 years and I very much look forward to continuing riding as a way of enjoying the outdoors. From my perspective RDA performs a very valuable role in therapy and is run by an enthusiastic band of volunteers. It provides positive physical and mental benefits which in many cases equals or exceeds the benefits of alternative therapies.


Caleb Jakeman

Diagnosis: ADHD and FASD
Age: 12 years
Attending RDA: 1 year

My name is Caleb and I have ADHD and FASD I am 12 and I have been going to RDA for 1 year. I love going to RDA because we get to learn new things, meet new people and ride horses. When it gets close to Monday I get really excited because I love riding my horse there. The horses are kind and loving because they help improve the lives of kids with disabilities. The coaches are encouraging and caring. They show us what to do in the arena. The volunteers know how to help because they know the horses they work with and they have bonds with the horses as well. The activities are fun and help improve coordination in everyday life. It has given me confidence, knowledge about communicating and made me brave because I imagine me talking in front of other people when I am on the horse.


Katrina Lee

Diagnosis: Down Syndrome
Age: 15 years
Attending RDA: 2 years

My name is Katrina. I really enjoy going to RDA. I go on a Monday and it is fun because I love my horse called Hershey. He is white and brown. The instructors are really friendly and help me to learn lots of new skills and tricks like trotting and picking up rings. The horse that I ride this year is called Hershey. He is really friendly and nice. The best thing about RDA is that I learn new skills and I have so much fun. When I first started at RDA I felt a bit scared but happy and good. Now that I have been going for a while I feel I have a good time at RDA, I am happy and have a great time at RDA. RDA has helped me with my life because it I have learnt to listen and focus. I love my horse and I feel very happy when I am riding him. I like to tell my friends about all the fun things that I do at RDA like I love trotting and going so fast. I would be sad if they stopped RDA because I really enjoy it and the horses and trainers are special.