Jasmyn Pemberton is taking her first steps nearly a decade after she was told she would never walk.
Family members say Riding for the Disabled gave the Manurewa 11-year-old the confidence to get out of her wheelchair. Jasmyn has a condition called arthrogryposis that limits the movements of her limbs.
Mum Nancy Sylva says doctors told her Jasmyn might never walk.
"Jasmyn's always been really dependent on me, but since she started at Riding for the Disabled her attitude has completely changed."
The youngster started at the Totara Park Equestrian Centre in 2009. Ms Sylva says the whole family was keen for her to start when CCS Disability Services recommended the programme.
"Jasmyn was always a mascot for her older brothers at outdoor sports, so this was something she could do. We decided it was her turn to shine.
Her confidence improved as she realised she had the ability to ride the horses, and one day she turned to me and said `Mum I'm going to walk'".
It has been slow progress, but now Jasmyn is out of her wheelchair and walking with the help of a frame. Therapists work closely with Jasmyn's school to ensure her learning needs are also incorporated into the sessions.
"She's having so much fun she doesn't even realise she's learning," Ms Sylva says.
"But as a parent I notice."
Centre Volunteer Anne Chamberlain says riders benefit physically, emotionally and mentally from their once-weekly sessions.
"It's important that people realise this is not just pony rides," she says.
"Each of the nine horses based at the equestrian centre on Redoubt Rd has been picked specifically for its temperament, walking style and size. For some children this is the closest they will get to walking, so it's vital that the walk is similar to that of a person."
Find out more about Totara Park Group RDA by going to www.totaraparkrda.org.nz
Thanks to the Manukau Courier for this story.
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