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COVID-19: Horses changing lives for riders with a disability

14 July 2020

Horse riding is valuable therapy for riders with a disability, so having a dedicated space like the Samford Riding for the Disabled centre at Samford Showgrounds is important on many levels.

Secretary Jane Marsh says they are teaching riders four days a week and the lessons they learn can be life changing.

“We have approximately 70 riders in the club with a range of disabilities, from autism and intellectual impairments to cerebral palsy and MS, who normally ride weekly on one of four lesson days,” said Ms Marsh.

“Riding is therapeutic for them and really special because not many people get to do it – riding has many physical and social benefits

“For example, it helps their language skills by encouraging speech, and exercises the same muscles required for walking, which can assist some riders in progressing from their walker or wheelchair.”

With riders generally being led by volunteers who walk alongside the horses, having a smooth surface is important for everyone.

To level out the uneven patches, the surface was recently stripped back and re-laid with a solid, even base and topped with a custom sand and rubber mix, following a $51,981 Queensland Government investment.

“It’s so much nicer to work in, the uneven surface was very hard on the volunteers and horses, and it will also make the arena more attractive to rent out for dressage clinics and similar events,” said Ms Marsh.

An ageing timber and wire perimeter fence has also been replaced with a solid timber fence, which will be a lot safer.

The works were carried out by local businesses Equestrian Land Developments at Fernvale and Dividing Line Fences of Samford.

Ms Marsh said all riders are champing at the bit to get back in the saddle after having a sustained break due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Like many sporting clubs, we have been sidelined since mid-March, which has been really hard on everyone,” she said.

“We have formulated a return to riding plan which will see us come back in three stages from July, so by mid-August we should be back up and running properly.

“It will be nice to have everyone back teaching, learning and volunteering again so we can continue to make a difference to so many lives who really depend on horse riding as both a fun outing, and a way to improve their physical skills and mental health.