Charity in Singapore: Riding for the Disabled, Singapore

Sian Brook Gillies talks to BEAM about volunteering at RDA imageSingapore for over six years.

I arrived in Singapore in July 2012, looking for something different to do before fnding a job as a Montessori teacher. I love the outdoors and being around horses, so as soon as I found RDA I signed up.

RDA offers free weekly therapy riding or hippotherapy sessions to people with special needs, aged between six years old to sixty. Normally they will attend a block of 10 sessions of 45 minutes each. 

The therapy benefts people physically, mentally and emotionally. The physical movement of the horse can help relax tight leg muscles, eg. from conditions such as cerebral palsy and from sitting in a wheelchair. It also helps build core strength from learning to maintain a good posture and balance. Cognitive skills are developed by participating in various activities set up in the arena, appropriate to the groups needs and abilities. Interacting with volunteimageers and horses help develop the riders emotional and social skills. They build relationships and learn to cope with new situations, often out of their comfort zone. As well as activities in the arena, we often go on a short trail ride (“jungle walk”) or around the polo club stables.

I started as a ‘sidewalker’, walking alongside the rider, supporting when necessary while encouraging participation in activities and independence in all areas. This is very rewarding as you get to know your rider over the weeks and it is fantastic to see how much they achieve. After a few terms, I trained as a leader. The leader looks after the horse: preparing (tacking up), leading during the session and then taking care afterwards before taking the horse back to the stable. This is also very enjoyable, getting to know the different horses and how to handle them. I was then invited to train as an AI (Assistant Instructor) to help the staff instructors plan and manage the sessions. I love doing this as you get involved in all the different parts and it is very satisfying when your lesson plans help the riders progress so much.