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Uli's Story

‘Uli’, a 19 year old, 119 cm tall registered purebred welsh pony, joined the ranks of Dunedin Group RDA in 2014 after the Group purchased him from a family in Alexandra.

Prior to his role at Dunedin Group, he enjoyed a successful show career competing in lead-rein and first-year ridden events under the name 'Waitangi Uli', where he also spent a lot of time around children.

Dunedin Group Operation Manager, Katy Ferguson, describes Uli as ‘bombproof and ‘cute as a button’.

“He’s a true babysitter, and makes sure that he doesn't do any more work than he has to.”

During Uli's first few weeks at RDA, he joined in the RDA sessions to watch and observe but was not matched with any of the Riders.  Katy remembers that the Volunteers soon learned about Uli’s one true pony tendency: he could untie himself quicker than they could grab their riding gear.

“After just two sessions of observing, Uli decided it was his turn to join in - so he promptly untied himself and started walking around with the rest of the horses and ponies in the arena, just casually walking with the crew like he’d been there for years.”

As a result, Uli continues to provide many of the RDA Volunteers and young children with a valuable lesson on how to tie a pony up properly.  But while he may appear to be a relaxed pony, the staff discovered that Uli has one fear: Alpacas.

“We aren’t exactly sure why Alpacas are particularly scary for Uli”, says Katy, “but he seems to grow to at least 15 hands, snorts and flips his tail right over his back when he sees one of the Alpaca that live up the road.”

“It’s funny because he doesn’t have a problem with llamas, sheep, goats, motorbikes or screaming children, just Alpacas!”.

RDA Horse Uli played a vital role in the recent transformation at Dunedin Group RDA, who went through a number of significant changes last year.   As part of that shift, the Group upgraded their facilities and sold its previous cohort of horses, replacing them with five ‘experienced, safe and quality’ new horses.

Katy says that some of the horses they had previous owned were difficult for the children to handle.

''By comparison, the horses we have now are very special and very patient. They don't put a foot wrong. It has really helped to change the direction of the programme.''

Uli also very much changed the way Dunedin Group RDA approached therapy.  They had a number of clients who are simply terrified of horses - particularly the larger horses which can be intimidating - yet not all of the clients could ride little Uli.

Dunedin Group Head Coach, Tracey Cooper, took on these students and had them work in hand with Uli, gaining exceptional confidence and ability through leading, brushing, bonding and simply enjoying Uli.

“Being involved with the horses was a fantastic experience for the children and was very beneficial”, says Tracey, ''by riding or just interacting with the horses, they are having therapy without realising it.”

Dunedin Group RDA works with 55 children with disabilities every week, with the support of more than 100 volunteers, many of them university students.  Find out more about this Group by going to their website www.rdadunedin.org

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