I have just passed my one year anniversary for volunteering at RDA Richmond. This milestone has prompted me to reflect upon my time here and I couldn't be happier about spending over 1,000 hours at such a lovely facility.
Some people think I'm crazy for volunteering so much time, and you might think so too, but here's what I tell them:
I discovered RDA by accident and, being a lover of horses, I jumped at the opportunity to be around them. When I went to the training day everyone was so friendly and helpful, and I was immediately offered the opportunity to work with the horses directly. I was also shown around the property and the vision of the New Secret Garden was painted for me. RDA Richmond was brand new and I saw some fantastic, hard-working people who were all aiming towards getting the place running, always seeking ways to make it bigger and better. I felt right at home and knew I had the skills to help make the dream a reality.
In my year at RDA Richmond I have seen tremendous growth take place. We've doubled our number of horses, developed five Assistant Coaches, added around the same number of Trainee Assistant Coaches, quintupled our number of riders and amassed a small but indispensable group of volunteers who are loyal, hard-working and always greet everyone
with a smile. My journey from volunteer to Assistant Coach was supported at all angles and really fuelled by the friends I volunteer with, who are really more like family.
Through creating and implementing a Saddle Club program- where non-riders can learn about all aspects of horse behaviour, handling and care- and through coaching riding lessons, I have rekindled my love of teaching.
When I began at RDA Richmond it was all about the horses for me. Teaching Saddle Club and riding has allowed me to really get to know the people with disabilities on a personal basis and now I can't imagine my day without them in it.
While it's exciting to see RDA Richmond and the New Secret Garden expand and come to life, the biggest pay-off for me is being able to facilitate people with disabilities experiencing the sense of freedom, personal power, relaxation, achievement and joy that one can only get from interacting with horses. I love watching my students pass milestones and I love being able to
work with such a huge variety of people with disabilities as the constant challenge of adjusting lessons to each individual's capacity keeps me on my toes. The only thing that holds a candle to the feeling of helping people with disabilities achieve has to be the sense of gleeful community that our volunteers project.