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Devon, Volunteer at Te Aroha Group RDA

The new Head Coach at Te Aroha and Districts Group RDA, Devon Trethaway, is making great strides with her coaching abilities.  But it’s her unusual pathway to this position that makes Devon’s story especially noteworthy.

Devon, 21, has been involved with Riding for the Disabled since she was six years old, when the Child Development Centre in Hamilton recommended she join Riding for the Disabled as a Rider. 

Devon has high functioning Asperger’s, as well as mild cerebral palsy.  The latter meant that her ability to run was hindered from an early age, which affected her being able to play team sports at school.

For Devon, her first experience of an RDA Riding Session was an exhilarating one.

“Riding at RDA gave me a feeling of freedom and mobility that I had never felt before.  I was instantly hooked.”

She remembers being part of many learning and educational games as part of these riding sessions, such as treasure hunts and letter matching on horseback.  Often the prize for a Rider winning these games would be to “go for a trot” afterwards, an incentive which greatly appealed to Devon.

As she steadily progressed at Te Aroha Group RDA, developing both horse-related skills as well as increased confidence and mobility, Horses became an increasingly big part of Devon’s life, which she says was surprising.

“I hadn’t had much at all to do with Horses before Riding for the Disabled, and I didn’t come from a ‘horse-mad’ family.”

At eight years old Devon was given her first Horse, a retired RDA Mare called Pebbles, to ‘muck around’ on.  Devon says that Pebbles taught her a lot about Horses in a wider sense, including ‘how to hold on’ to keep from falling off.

At about 14 years, Devon started to take an increased interest in Riding for the Disabled, working with the then-Coach to tack and exercise the RDA Horses, as well as leading the Horse during riding sessions.  This expanded after Devon left school, as Devon took on more volunteer work alongside the Coach at riding sessions, even leading the occasional group.

Then in August 2013, an opportunity presented itself for Devon to take on the Head Coach role at Te Aroha Group RDA, a prospect she says initially daunted her.

“It was scary at first, and I was very nervous – but the Riders were very welcoming and accepting of me, but I know what to do and they helped me ease into the new role.”

One advantage Devon quickly found was that, as an ex-Rider herself, she was able to bond and communicate with the younger Riders at Te Aroha Group RDA more easily.

“I found I could relate to the children, as I had been in their shoes as an RDA Rider.  I was able to explain things to them in a way that worked for them, and they listened to me as a result”.

Today Devon is thriving as the Head Coach at her RDA Group, as are the Riders that she coaches twice a week.  In addition to her coaching duties, she now has several Horses of her own, and has also competed in Dressage and Special Olympics events.

Devon has also recently been given a placement at the Training For You institute, where she is studying her National Certificate in Equine, Care and Handling, to complement her existing sills and experience.  Looking to the future, Devon plans on being part of Riding for the Disabled for years to come.

 “I really love working here, and seeing the difference we make in the lives of children with disabilities.
I’m so grateful to RDA for helping to give me opportunities to compete with ‘able-bodied’ people, and it’s great to be helping to provide these opportunities to new Riders.”

Read more of our RDA Volunteer Stories



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