Together with fifty other volunteers, Albert and Yvonne Donnan support the local Riding for the Disabled program. Children are welcome to learn to ride and interact with the horses. The Donnans lead and feed the horses, teach the kids riding skills and help out in the kitchen buttering sandwiches.
"Riding horses helps the kids build up their core body strength", explains Yvonne, "but the actual riding is only secondary. The real benefit is the social interaction and relationships the kids develop with both the horses and people."
Albert and Yvonne have been involved with Riding for the Disabled for over thirty seven years. Their youngest daughter was born with an intellectual disability and watched her three siblings at pony club and gymkhanas, eager to participate.
The Donnans recruited both horses and volunteers to start up the local RDA chapter. It has now become a vibrant and interactive community access activity within the greater Shepparton region.
"We have had kids who have never seen a horse before, or couldn’t put their hand in their pocket transformed after coming here," said Yvonne. She went on to explain that, "you may not always get words but you get the smiles."
All the horses in the program undergo rigorous screening by the inspection committee. This ensures that they are docile, good natured and can cope with sudden movement as some of the kids throw their hands around impulsively.
Their son Ray who also helps out laughingly says, “that it is only a myth it's only about the riding, it actually keeps the oldies active!”