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Daniel's Story

Daniel has been only riding at Hutt Valley Group RDA for a few months, and in that time his family has seen a marked improvement in his quality of life.

When Daniel first entered the RDA Riding Programme, the goals set by his Riding Team were relatively straight-forward; to build up his muscle core and increase his communication skills.

Daniel is severely autistic, coupled with severe developmental delay, and his poor muscle tone means he has difficulty with his posture and control over various parts of his body. He is also unable to communicate verbally.

Hutt Valley RDA Assistant Coach and NZRDA Training Coordinator Sue Allen says that for Daniel, his riding therapy programme is built around participation, interaction and enjoyment.

“We give Daniel a prop - usually a ball - that he uses to let his team know that he wants the horse to move forward, or ‘walk on’.”

Familiarity is also an important part of the programme.

“We make sure that Daniel has the same Horse and the same Volunteers each time he has a riding session with us. This helps build a rapport and makes him feel safe and secure by being in a familiar environment.”


Daniel’s mother Nicky has been impressed with the results she has seen after only a short amount of time in the RDA Riding Programme.

“The programme is teaching him to become more responsible. He now reaches for the ball when he wants the Horse to move forward again, which is a big breakthrough in his ability to communicate.“

In just the first three weeks, the movement of the Horse during his riding sessions has helped Daniel to substantially build up his leg and stomach muscles - he now sits up straight in the saddle, and can even correct himself if his position changes.

In the long-term, Daniel and his family hope to continue improving his posture and core muscles, which will give him increased control over his body movement.

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