GAIN Equine Nutrition is partnering with Riding for the Disabled Association Ireland (RDA Ireland) to support the free horse riding and carriage-driving sessions the charity provides to hundreds of children and adults with disabilities every week.
The three year partnership with the charity is in keeping with GAIN Equine Nutrition and parent company, Tirlán’s Living Proof sustainability strategy and the world-class food and nutrition co-operative’s commitment to supporting its farm families and the communities in which they live.
RDA Ireland was established over 50 years ago and its 360 volunteers work in 30 groups across the country to provide all-important weekly riding or carriage driving-sessions to over 300 children and adults with disabilities. The charity is appealing for willing volunteers who are comfortable around horses to come forward and learn from existing volunteers, many of whom have been with the charity for over 20 years.
The free sessions provide service users fitness, development of skills, socialisation, achievement and most importantly, fun, according to Cathy Byrne, RDA Ireland’s National Coordinator.
“The weekly lessons provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to people with a range of disabilities to enjoy safe, healthy, stimulating horse-riding activities. But it is not only the riders who benefit, our volunteers gain so much from the Association and we’re always looking for new help and support.
“Volunteering involves being part of a friendly team and it is a great way to learn new skills, make new friends, keep fit, and get a fantastic feeling of satisfaction that you are making a difference. No previous experience required but volunteers need to be confident around horses and work well as part of a team. Training is ongoing, volunteers are all Garda vetted and supported by their Group Coaches. The funding we’re receiving from GAIN Equine Nutrition and Tirlán will help us train and support our volunteers and run our organisation which has also just launched a Sponsor Riders Scheme.”
Joanne Hurley, Head of Equine, GAIN Equine Nutrition said: “Through our work in GAIN Equine Nutrition, we get to partner and support so many different parts of the industry from racing, bloodstock, high performance and horse welfare. It is great to be able to show our support to another really valuable part of the equine industry through this partnership with the RDAI. It is an association that enriches the lives of so many people right around the country and it is just wonderful to be able to give them our support.”
Julia Watson, voluntary coach, has been with RDA Ireland for over 40 years. “I started out in Clonmel and moved to Carlow 20 years ago. I get far more out of training than I could ever put in. The smiles on the children’s faces says it all. The saddest part for me is when the children graduate, when they finish their three year term. They are so happy, so content when they are riding. They enjoy memories here that will last a lifetime and the photos they get on horseback are something their families will cherish forever.”
13 year-old service user, Adam, is enjoying his first year at RDA Ireland centre in Carrigbeg in Carlow. “I love everything about horse riding. Tiger and Alfie are my favourite horses. Alfie because he was the first horse I saw here. Tiger is great because he does funny things with his lips and sticks his head out until I pull the reins really gently and he straightens up.
“It’s lovely to come up here on the bus with my friends. I like it up here and to have time out of school. The coaches are very friendly too. It’s all really good fun and I like learning about horses.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer with RDA Ireland click here https://rdaireland.org/information/rda-ireland-near-you