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Widecombe History Group Talk
Riding for the Disabled was the title of a very enjoyable illustrated talk at our May meeting given by our member Lynne Pidgeon
Lynne gave us a real insight into the workings of The South Dartmoor Riding for the Disabled Group. She has been involved with this wonderful service for more that 14 years now. Looking at her and the faces of the young people involved made it obvious to the meeting what a wonderful service those involved with that organisation provide. She explained how the Romans & Greeks of bygone days realised the therapeutic value of connection with animals and this was carried forward by the French in 1875. In 1901 this idea was started in the United Kingdom and has gone from strength to strength since then supporting one hundred years of benefit to people with physical difficulties. Orthopaedic Hospitals also realise what a benefit to rehabilitation controlled horse riding can have. A hospital at Oxford used riding to help rehab members of the armed forces in the days of WW1 and also help victims of Polio. In 1951 it was agreed that this could be another form of physiotherapy and has been utilised ever since. Stoke Mandeville Hospital also uses riding to help their patients. Many small riding establishments supported this idea and several set up riding for the disabled within their stables. Man power is critical for these groups. It takes at least three able bodied people to manage one disabled rider, two people (one each side) to walk along beside the horse and a leader who is responsible for controlling the animal. All these activities take place in a formal arena and as one would expect 'health & safety' and 'risk assessment' is a MUST. The South Dartmoor Group began 38 years ago with horses hired locally at Yelverton. Now they use a wonderful facility at Bickleigh Barracks Stables. The service is free to the riders so an ever lasting process is Fund Raising. They run their classes in the period April to September on Tuesday evenings, there are two sessions one at 6.15 p.m. and the second at 7.15 p.m. This gives each rider a 45 minute experience and to look at the expressions on their faces one can immediately realise what an excellent project this is. The group have to hire the horses at £10 per hour and helpers/volunteers are always needed and they are put through a thorough training procedure and are regularly checked to maintain the high standard needed. The other thing is the suitability of the horse to the rider and great care is taken to ensure that this works well. As one would expect rules and regulations have to be adhered to and this is good. The saddles, reins, grasps and hard hats are all compulsory. Straps are often better than reins and special stirrups have been designed to avoid problems in case a foot should slip while riding. The horses have to be of a quiet temperament so that they do not 'shy' at sudden noises or distractions and they are all led by head collars for the benefit of all concerned. The aim is to give all riders an enjoyable and invigorating experience while being controlled by efficient and experienced volunteers. We were shown photographs and the expressions and attitude of all those taking part had to be seen to be believed. Everyone connected with this project were so happy in what they were doing and all those that give of their time and energy must be congratulated.
Go to their website to find out more:- www.southdartmoorrda.co.uk
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