Smurfie the Pony is helping riders to gain in confidence

Smurfie the Pony is helping riders to gain in confidence

June 30, 2022

I’d like to tell you a bit about Smurfie and what he does each day and each week, and especially about his favourite food.

He’s a chilled-out pony. He would prefer to do as little as possible if he could!

He is one of the kindest ponies you could ever meet. He has a kind eye. He builds the confidence of the riders, due to his friendly demeanour.

He’s also a strong pony. He’s a 15 year old Gisborne bred gelding. He’s 14.2 hands high in horse terms or 147.5 cm. He’s dark brown with four white socks and is handsome, shiny, and most importantly, sound. His size, character and movement make him ideal for RDA.

The non-verbal riders in particular seem to respond to him because he is so kind.

Some riders have disabilities that are more hidden than other disabilities and he responds so well to all riders.

This is because he is generous in personality and he has a beautiful temperament.

Horse Managers and volunteers make sure that Smurfie gets what he needs. There are checklists for horse and pony workloads and there are standards for horse and pony welfare. Each year, we make sure that the standards are met, and that ensures that ponies like Smurfie keep in awesome condition.

So what about Smurfie’s welfare? How does he get taken care of?

Every six weeks or so, depending on the season, his hooves are checked by a farrier. His teeth are inspected annually by an equine dentist. Our horses receive regular treatment such as physiotherapy to keep them in tip top condition.

The horse manager and volunteers take great care with his food. Smurfie gets horse pellets, chaff, vitamins, and flax seed oil.

Every day he gets checked. On his working days he is walked around to warm up before he begins his day working with riders.

What’s Smurfie’s Favourite Food?

It’s a carrot. He has a very good carrot-detecting nose! And every now and then, for a special treat, Smurfie might get an apple. Yum!

And what does a typical day look like for Smurfie?

By 8am the horse manager and volunteers get him from the paddock and bring him in near to the arena. Then they take off his cover and groom him. After that he’ll get a feed of hay. Next, is tacking up with all of the items needed to look after riders.

Then there is walking around several times to warm him up with the horse leader and he’s ready to start work.

Tell me about the kind of riders Smurfie helps

Here are some of the riders that Smurfie helps on one of his RDA ride days.

The first rider is an adult that is deaf and blind. So this rider appreciates being able to do an activity that they find rewarding and makes them happy.

The second rider is a teenager who has autism. They find riding very calming. It enables them to concentrate.

The third rider is a primary-age student who has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. For this rider, Smurfie is a great confidence builder. One day this rider got a rosette for his work at Riding for the Disabled. When he got back to school he rushed to find the Principal. “Look what I’ve got!” he said.

And the fourth rider is someone who has anxiety. Someone who has experienced trauma can be very anxious. Over time, this rider bloomed. They became a natural rider and everyone could tell that this rider had changed and become so much braver and more self-confident. What a change in this rider! Now they were ready to enjoy being an active part of their community.

In between each ride Smurfie enjoys a short rest.

After the rides, what does Smurfie do next?

He gets a feed, the tack is taken off him, and he gets brushed down. Then he is turned out into a paddock where he enjoys grazing.

Smurfie loves being with another pony. His best friend is Nemo, who is a Gypsy Cob.

And on a non-riding day?

Smurfie works three days a week. The rest of the week he might be resting, or he might be ridden by an able-bodied exercise rider.

This keeps the ponies supple and muscled up. The ponies need to be fit and conditioned to do their work – so that the riders can get the most benefit from the pony. It’s also great for their brains to be out and about in the world doing pony club, hacking, beach rides and whatever else they may enjoy.

About horse and pony enrichment

Smurfie recently got to participate in a pony club competition. The judge said he was one of the nicest ponies he had ever seen. He got a blue ribbon and a red ribbon. Smurfie also gets ridden by an able-bodied exercise rider regularly, so he gets a different workout.

It’s all about the riders

Each rider is working towards their own individualised goals. Each pony is helping the rider to reach their goal.

Your donation will be used to help with training of coaches and volunteers, so ponies like Smurfie are well looked after while they are helping riders.

You can choose to donate so ponies like Smurfie can help riders to reach their goals.

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