“I may not be paid a penny, but the rewards I do get are so much more…”

RDA volunteers dedicate their time and energy to bring fun, therapy and excitement to our participants, day in, day out across the UK.  

Volunteering can mean different things to each individual, for some it is making new friends or spending time with horses or making a difference to other people’s lives and to others it is all three. This is Anne’s story, with a day in her life volunteering just before the pandemic.

[Photo 1: A Group photo of the volunteers of Greenwood RDA. Anne is able-bodied support rider on left-hand side riding the piebald mare, Suzie.]

[Photo 2: An awards session held to give riders their well earned rosettes. Anne is on the right-hand side holding the grey mare, Pride. Volunteer Patty holds pony Suzie.]

I have been volunteering for RDA for over 10 years and in my fellow volunteers have gained a whole new circle of friends. 

RDA is my lifeline. It’s somewhere where I’m not defined as my husband’s carer and have the support of my co-volunteers and the added benefit of working with horses (therapy in itself) – not to mention seeing the joy and excitement it brings to the children. 

On our last morning’s volunteering before the Coronavirus lockdown, we start at 8.30 am, gathering wheelbarrows, scoops and forks and trundle off into one of the fields our RDA ponies graze in. The sun is shining (for once!) and the skylarks are singing; we hear a pheasant somewhere close.  The ponies come up for a fuss and to see what we are doing. As we work our way up the massive field, we chat. To me, it’s like a therapy session – problems are shared and eased while we work, tacit and moral support given and received. And, of course, the field is cleared. We’ll also groom and muck out, and tack up and lead or side-walk when the riders come. I’ve had the support of others, been in the fresh air, and exercised so am more relaxed when I go home. Important too is the knowledge I’ve done something helpful. I’ve been useful. 

We also get to know the riders – we try to lead/side-walk the same pony and rider each week to provide continuity and get to know the riders. It’s rewarding (and can be emotional) to see a rider’s progress week on week. I remember one rider (now a regular) when she came for the first time.  Pale-faced and silent, plucking up courage to get on the pony. She climbs onto the mounting block and carefully moves onto the pony’s back. We take it slowly and let her adjust to being taller than her parent and aboard a living, breathing animal. Carefully, we move off. After 10 minutes of reassurance and chatting, the rocking motion of the pony’s walk and warmth of the pony start to work their magic. We ask if she wants to go back and get off (vehement shake of head). Then comes a gradual smile which is a full-on beam by the end of the ride. Now she can’t wait to be on board. 

I go home tired, but happy. I may not be paid a penny in monetary terms, but the rewards I do get are so much more. 

My years of experience with RDA have reinforced my belief in how important it is to support the small charities who make up the RDA national membership.   All work hard to deliver horse-riding as a therapy at grass-roots level and are the foundation of the Association known as RDA UK. Being local, and therefore accessible, is so very important for the families who need us, since so many of our riders cannot exercise in any other way.

If you would like to get involved and volunteer like Anne, visit our Find a Group page and get in touch with your local Group today. 

To find out more about Greenwood RDA visit their Facebook page.