Riding has given Destiny the confidence to try new things!
Destiny has been a rider at Riding for the Disabled since she was just two years old. She was born with cerebral palsy. Her riding has been as part of an intensive physical therapy programme.
Until undergoing complicated leg and spinal surgeries in the USA when she was six, Destiny couldn’t walk or stand independently. “She needed masses of physio after the surgery, but it meant she could finally walk on her own,” says Destiny’s Mum, Marlene.
For a child with severely limited mobility, this was an incredible achievement. “When she first came to RDA, she could sit up by herself, but her balance was not wonderful and she could only stand with help,” says Anne, one of her RDA coaching team. “Tight leg muscles are an issue for people with cerebral palsy. Riding mirrors the movement of walking, and strengthens and stretches the leg muscles.”
Destiny started riding again eight weeks after her surgery as part of a range of activities aimed at increasing the strength in her legs and improving her overall balance and hip movement. Destiny’s RDA support team has been part of a dedicated group of specialists who’ve helped her achieve her goals.
Cerebral palsy affects one in five hundred babies born in New Zealand and is the most common cause of physical disability in early childhood. Taking part in the RDA programme is one of the best therapies available. In addition to the physical benefits from riding, RDA gives riders the confidence to try new things.
For Marlene, with other children to care for, RDA offered something she and Destiny could do together. It also gave Destiny a way to better fit in. “Put her up on a horse and she’s equal with her peers,” says Marlene who acknowledges this is not something Destiny can ever achieve in school sports.
Marlene herself has been so moved by her involvement with RDA, and the impact it has on so many children like Destiny, that she is now volunteering one day a week to give back to others something of what she’s received.
At 12, horse-mad Destiny is now a confident rider who has achieved her goal of being able to trot independently. Last year, she even joined the nearby Pony Club on a trial basis — this was a wonderful achievement — but her Mum felt she had a little further to go before becoming a permanent member.
Marlene says it’s been one of the best therapies Destiny’s had. “She just loves her riding sessions. She’s never not wanted to go. We’re so lucky to have this available for our kids as the outcomes from riding are invaluable.”
Our amazing RDA horses and ponies are fantastic and our riders build close bonds of affection with them.
Over the years Destiny has ridden several ponies as her confidence and ability has increased, including Saint, and now Lily. RDA horses are special — they need to be unflappable, patient and kind. They are so important, but our volunteers are even more important. They are key to ensuring that riders like Destiny can ride. Many of our riders need four volunteers to be able to ride – a Coach, a Leader (for the horse) and two Side-walkers to make sure that the rider does not fall off and to keep the rider safe. As well, the Side-walkers talk to the rider and encourage them to do their stretches or play the learning games.
The lockdown was a hard time for Destiny who kept asking, “Can’t we just go and see the horses?”
“Destiny would ride all day every day given the chance — she’d likely do her homework on horseback if she could”, says Marlene.