Contents of this page

bd21364_  Rider Story - Anne-Maree Neal

bd21364_  New Hope School at Tall Timbers

bd21364_  Mia - Bill Harvey Memorial Shield for Most Improved Saturday rider

bd21364_  Adam - What RDA means to their family

bd21364_  Banjo

bd21364_  Senses and Fun Program Warrah

bd21364_  Kristel

bd21364_  Peter

ridersbd21364_  Saturday Award winners

bd21364_  Highlight of our Week - Holroyd School

bd21364_  Senses and Fun Program - Mary

bd21364_  Avalon's Story

bd21364_  OT Student at RDATT

bd21364_  Habitat Stepping Stone

bd21364_  The Hills School at RDA

bd21364_  Renee Smith - My Trip to the RDAA National Championships

bd21364_  Patrick - Lions Kuringai Encouragement Award

bd21364_  Alice Woods - Tots on Horseback

bd21364_  The Mounted Classroom

bd21364_  Rhyss Moussa - Tots on Horseback

bd21364_  Girraween School at RDA TT

bd21364_  Horse Riding! Horse Riding!







P9190407IMG_118726 years ago I was a young mum on the run when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Ten days later before I had the opportunity to tell him, my father passed away. As you can imagine, this was a very harrowing time for me and my family. Since then I have struggled with physical limitations as well as significant challenges to my mental health. In 2015 I spent 11 weeks in a mental health facility and when I came home I decided to challenge myself to take part in activities that were completely out of my comfort zone.  Horse riding was one of these and that is how I became involved in RDA Tall Timbers.  I have a weekly private lesson with our fantastic coach Sophie and horse Shiraz as well as a session on RDA’s mechanical horse Mac. 




From the very first day at RDA TT I felt warmth and kindness from staff and volunteers. When you have a disability you can often experience a sense of being on the outside, of not belonging but at TT I have felt nothing but a sense of belonging, of being included and valued.

The benefits I have received from being a client firstly is that I am still on my feet. Physically it has improved my core strength, balance and posture as well as maintained my muscle tone and cardio fitness.  My self-esteem and confidence have grown while developing a bond with my sweet horse Shiraz. I have made many friendships and now participate in more community activities.


Being a client at RDA TT I have had the opportunity of observing and experiencing the way it includes people and values the principles of access and equity as well as diversity and participation. I am one of many that enjoy equine therapy in a safe and fun environment. All of this has made me want to contribute to the organisation. A person diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has limited energy, but I feel so grateful to RDA TT for their commitment to me and others that I joined the committee and am doing my bit to help continue their wonderful work.  Thank you to RDA for the beneficial programs, the fantastic volunteers, staff and horses.

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By Fiona Hutchins, Class Teacher


PA230043Six students from New Hope School have participated in Riding for the Disabled during Terms 3 and 4. This is the first time that we have had students participate in the program. We are thankful that this service enables us to provide the opportunity for our students to ride and develop a sense of competence in an activity that others, without disabilities, also find pleasurable. The students have enjoyed all the educational activities and games that are incorporated into the riding program. They have particularly loved the trail rides, venturing out past the dam and around the paddocks.


Our staff have been impressed with the professionalism and care of the Riding for the Disabled staff, who have made our students feel welcome, understood their unique needs and ensured their safety.  The students have been nurtured to develop an individual connection to the horse they ride each week, as the staff have reinforced the horses' names and encouraged each student to pat their horse at the end of each session as a farewell gesture. The staff has also provided recognition of the students' efforts and gains through issuing a rider of the week trophy and certificate.


We have been proud of our students' behaviour whilst at Riding for the Disabled. It has been pleasing to see the students initiating the process of getting ready for the session by selecting and putting on their boots and helmets. We have also been delighted with the way the students have individually thanked the staff leading their horse, at the end of each session. The students have developed a real sense of ownership over the experience.


Many of the parents have expressed that they have been pleased that their child was selected for the program and have seen benefits for their son or daughter. We would recommend this program for all students but we are particularly appreciative of the way it allows our non-verbal students to be an actively engaged member of a group through doing and participation.





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cid:E682047F-CDA7-4983-8D87-8A2B3C4A47E3Like most parents of kids with special needs, we were told that early intervention can make significant difference.  Mia started therapy at 3 months old and has continued to her current schedule of 3 to 4 hours per week not including home based exercises and revision. 


Whilst Mia has progressed far in her sweet 6 years, she still has many challenges. The key for Mia is the frequency and intensity of therapy.  The challenge for us as parents is to find the "sweet spot" where we continue to develop greater capacities and skills, whilst avoiding "burn out" and the inadvertent introduction of behavioural or emotional issues. 


This is where the program at Tall Timbers is nothing but pure magic. 


Whilst to the trained eye it might seem like through riding and the associated games we are improving the poor integration and modulation of Mia's vestibular-auditory-visual triad, mediating her postural tone and regulating her arousal states, but for Mia... well for Mia it’s FUN.  


Challenging but Fun.  We have never had a meltdown or experienced avoidance about going to riding. 


And it’s fun for us too.  


The difference in Mia from her first day riding less than 12 months ago to her most recent ride this Saturday past is so noticeable.  She is a different child.  Her body and movements become engaged.  She is calm with improved self-regulation.  She demonstrates improved sequencing, planning and overall organisation.   She has improved attention skills and awareness.   But perhaps more importantly, she is proud of her self.  She feels accomplished and self-empowered.  The award for most improved rider is a bonus proudly hanging on her wall, and talked about to anyone who will listen. 

 I can't thank enough the support team of people and horses who meet us on Saturdays, and the many people and contributors behind the scenes.



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By Jo Raciti (very proud mum)


P1140810My son Adam is a seven year old boy who was born with a genetic disease called Joubert Syndrome.  This resulted in delayed milestones, poor balance, an eye-problem call oculomotor apraxia and poor gross and fine motor skills.  Adam did not start talking until he was 2 and a half and he could not stand up until he was about 3.  He spent the best part of 12 months in a standing frame.  He took his first four steps with the aid of AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthosis) on his third birthday.  He was given a walker to use but he told me that he would walk without it and he did because he is a very determined young man.  Last year Adam developed Hypermobility Joint syndrome and has experienced some severe pain at times.  But he loves life and he loves animals and just wants to participate in as much as his little body allows him to.


Last year we were fortunate to gain a place at Tall Timbers for a semester of horse riding with the RDA.  He rode Kahlua, one of the most gentle and patient horses I’ve ever seen and the improvement in his balance was quite incredible.  Before he started with the RDA he could only hop about 8 times on the same leg before falling over.  Now he can hop at least 30 times on the same leg!  Horse riding improved his core strength and stability – the first years at school saw him experience many falls in the playground.  Now at recess he is joining in the soccer game on the oval, not ‘front and centre’, but joining in at least which is fantastic.  He participated in the Mounted Games and won his very first ribbons.  It was my proudest moment to date.


We are truly grateful to the RDA, its staff and wonderful sponsors for allowing him to have this opportunity again this semester.  He has a real love of animals and participating in this activity each fortnight has improved his self esteem and confidence.  Not many seven year olds are able to say that they ‘ride’ regularly and to put him into an ordinary riding school would put him at risk of injury.  Adam feels safe riding at Tall Timbers and it is only with the support of generous donors and volunteers that this program can be offered to children such as him.  We thank you for this incredible opportunity.  For us, this is more than therapy for Adam – this is a way of accessing the community.  We are sincerely grateful.  Thank you for bringing such joy to our little boy’s life.






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By Diana, Banjo’s Mum


Banjo loves his session at RDA Tall Timbers on his horse Chocolate. John and Kim have really connected with Banjo and have worked out his funny sense of humour and how to make the session so much fun.

Riding is his favourite physical therapy and he gets so excited when we arrive.


Banjo was born at 24 weeks gestation and after a rocky 150 day stay in the neonatal Intensive Care Unit we finally got to take him home. Banjo was diagnosed with Dystonic Cerebral Palsy when he turned one as he had not met any of his developmental milestones despite having clear MRI scans. Since then we have searched for the best therapy to support him and help increase his head control and core strength. Horse riding has provided this for Banjo and allows him to have fun at the same time. Banjo loves being around animals and they can really calm his dystonic movements down and allow him to relax. We are so thankful for the RDA team as its having such a positive impact on Banjo’s life and his physical strength. It been amazing to watch him progress as he started basically laying on the horse and he is now able to be positioned in a sitting position and hold his head up.


Thank you to the team, we look forward to our next session.










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By Warrah staff - Anoma, Bijli and Ingrid


DSCF8108Our clients eagerly waited to start RDA again for this term. During the break, Lyndal always asked, “When do we go to RDA again?” they were thrilled when they saw Michelle, the other volunteers, and all their favourite horses.


Alex and Damien could not wait to get back to it; Alex knew exactly what he needed to do once he got there. He is keen to set up and get everything ready once he gets there. Sandy was new to the Senses and Fun program and she has enjoyed every minute of it. She was keen to get involved and do what was needed, making obstacle courses and leading horses through it.  She loves to be around the horses. Everybody loves the  gardening program as well as walking through the sensory gardens, looking for objects and seeing the seedlings they planted grow each week.


Lyndal was exhausted after all her hard work but was always so proud of herself and being able to help out. She knows all the names of the horses and named a toy frog, “Roger”.


We would like to thank Michelle and all the volunteers that come to help us each week. They are always so welcoming and always make sure everyone feels included.   Many thanks.










By Karina, Kristel’s Mum


When Monday morning rolls around, that can only mean one thing in our house – RDA day!


Kristel doesn’t need to be woken as she is up, dressed and raring to go. Having spent three years volunteering at RDA, it was time to ‘get back on the horse’ and challenge herself in a different way.


Kristel was first introduced to RDA in country Victoria at Myrtleford, but moving back to the city meant other things took priority. Finding a love of riding again has been the one constant in our weekly activities. Kristel had a rough patch with mental health for the last year couple of years. Being at one with her horse ‘Buddy’ seems to having a calming effect and sets the stage for a great week.


As a family, we are delighted with her progress and can see she enjoys her time at RDA and hope to see a horse or two in her next painting, as Art is her other love.














DSCF8244Peter is 50 years old and he has been attending horse riding with RDA for over 20 years. Peter is a happy person and seems to be well liked by RDA staff and other riders because of his pleasant personality.  Peter attends every Monday and he really looks forward to going throughout the week.  Peter attends during the first six months of the year and he would like to attend all year but understands this is not possible. 


Peter enjoys RDA and would dress up for the special occasion and tries to look his best for all the staff at RDA.  Peter lives in a group home with three other participants and by going to RDA he gets a break from his normal routine.  It makes him feel more confident and he feels worthy and important.  He likes to get the appreciation and motivation as he performs the various activities.














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IMG_6346Veronica was 8 years old when she started to ride horses at Tall Timbers Centre.


She was the youngest of her group and certainly the loudest!  She was very afraid; she would scream, hit herself or others, wiggling her body … she was extremely unsettled and unhappy.


After weeks of trying, I decided maybe it would be better to stop coming to the Centre and leaving our spot to someone else.  But talking to the RDA Coaches, we decided to try one last time and see if there were any changes in Veronica’s behaviour.


And that decision certainly paid off.  From that day Veronica’s behaviour changed suddenly.  She would go to her horse Indi without complaining or squealing; she would be calmer and more patient; she would complete tasks that we were asking her to do and she would say to Indi words such as “walk on” and “stop”.


At the end of the year Veronica received the Special Award for THE MOST IMPROVED RIDER FOR 2016. 


Well done to Veronica and everyone that worked with her!  I am a very proud mum!!!






By Sophie Scarlett, RDA Coach


Kasra participated in a semester of riding here at Tall Timbers during 2016. On Saturday’s, Kasra rode “Indi” where he enjoyed participating in all activities, especially those involving communication with our Saturday volunteer team.  Kasra progressed throughout the program from needing assistance through the use of a belt and 2  sidewalkers however this lessoned each week and Kasra had more and more moments where he was able to sit himself up unassisted. Kasra enjoyed riding Indi around the property as well as matching flags in his lessons.


At our Saturday Riders Christmas Party and presentation day, Kasra received the Bill Harvey Memorial Sheild for the most improved rider along with Veronica, which was a fantastic achievement!

Well done & thank you Kasra for joining us in our Saturday program for 2016.




Madeleine started at RDA very shy and quite reluctant to have a go.  She found it very overwhelming to even be up close and touch a horse.  Although with the guidance and support of the wonderful staff, Madeleine's skills, ability and confidence grew with every lesson. I had the pleasure of watching my fragile daughter blossom into an excited girl who couldn't wait to ride Kahlua  (her horse) each fortnight.  At the end of the course we attended the Christmas Party where Madeleine received a special Encouragement Award.  We are so proud of her and it was lovely to see how proud she was of herself.


Thank you to all who have helped Madeleine in her jouney at RDA.  The balancing and gross motor activities were fun yet challenging for her.  Madeleine loved every minute being there. Your time and kindness is greatly appreciated.        Madeleine's Mum.



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By Amy Parks, Teacher Holroyd School


DSCF7783Wow- what fun! Throughout Semester 2, a group of students from Holroyd School have had the privilege of attending Riding for the Disabled (RDA) at ‘Tall Timbers’ in Box Hill. Every Wednesday the students in J9 light up with excitement when arriving at horse riding. It is definitely the highlight of our week!


The RDA staff and volunteers were so welcoming and interacted with the students with such confidence and enthusiasm; the students were immediately at ease. The staff helped to make the students feel comfortable when interacting and mounting the horses for the first time. Many of the students were natural riders from the start!


The students quickly learnt the routine, listening to and following the instructions of the RDA staff. As the term progressed we started to see some great changes in the students.  We observed their confidence growing and saw wonderful friendships develop with both their horses and the staff at Tall Timbers. As the students were guided through a variety of fun activities while on horseback, we witnessed an improvement with their communication skills. Students were encouraged to talk to or sign to their horses, telling them to “walk on” or “Woah!” It was particularly exciting to see one student who does not usually speak, verbally repeat and follow the instructions to the game ‘Simon Says’. What a break through! It was a pleasure to observe the students have fun completing the activities in both the indoor and outdoor arena.


As our time at Tall Timbers comes to an end I would like to take to opportunity to thank our new friends. The students from J9 will miss Chocolate, Kahlua, Ozzy, Ishmar, Indi and Cheyanne. These horses have been very gentle and patient with the students from Holroyd School. I would also like to thank the wonderful volunteers and staff who have supported us each week to give us the best riding experience possible. Your time and dedication is truly appreciated!


RDA has been a wonderful learning opportunity for the students from Holroyd School. It is truly fantastic that our students are able to access such a terrific program!





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DSCF7708My name is Mary and I’m from Kellyville and am 65 years old.  I’ve been coming to RDA at Box Hill for over a year.

In that time I’ve come to know the horses Chocolate, Kitty, Pancho and Bailey.  Michelle has taught me the different parts of the horses and how to groom them.


I have become confident in walking “Choc” in the arena and grooming her.  I walk with her over obstacles and to her pen.  I now know how to lead her so she doesn’t stop to eat the grass.  My favourite part is brushing her and I know she likes it.  We also plant vegies in the garden with Michelle and water them and check how much they’ve grown.  My least favourite part is cleaning the pens and shovelling the horse poo!  I really love caring for the horses and I look forward to coming.  I’m happy to be a part of RDA at Box Hill.     Love Mary.


My name is Mary and I’m from Kellyville and am 65 years old.  I’ve been coming to RDA at Box Hill for over a year.

In that time I’ve come to know the horses Chocolate, Kitty, Pancho and Bailey.  Michelle has taught me the different parts of the horses and how to groom them.


I have become confident in walking “Choc” in the arena and grooming her.  I walk with her over obstacles and to her pen.  I now know how to lead her so she doesn’t stop to eat the grass.  My favourite part is brushing her and I know she likes it.  We also plant vegies in the garden with Michelle and water them and check how much they’ve grown.  My least favourite part is cleaning the pens and shovelling the horse poo!  I really love caring for the horses and I look forward to coming.  I’m happy to be a part of RDA at Box Hill.     Love Mary.





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By Kristie Chambers


DSCF7356Avalon is our 5 year daughter and lives with Cerebral Palsy.  When we signed Avalon up to attend Riding for the Disabled, it was mainly because we thought she would love the experience of riding a horse and getting a leg stretch to help her tight muscles.  That was 2 years ago and the benefits of attending the RDA each week go far beyond a leg stretch.

Avalon and her riding friends greet each other every week with huge smiles and can't wait to be able to get on 'their' horses.  Once she is riding her horse with her amazing leader and side walkers she gets to play lots of games, which is really fun therapy disguised as games.  We never imagined that she would learn to balance through her greatly improved core strength whilst doing a range of occupational therapy.  In any one session, Avalon will pick a coloured flag or soft toy alternating both hands and carrying them to a basket or flag pole. She learns colours and how to follow a simple direction.  She will walk her horse over poles on the ground and count them as she goes. She asks her horse to 'walk on' and has mock races with her fellow riders, all the while utilising muscles that she wouldn't normally be able to use due to her inability to sit or walk by herself.  As each session ends, Avalon will high five her walkers and thank them and her beautiful horse Chocolate for her fun ride, and leave asking how long until her next ride. Each semester there is also a presentation for all of the children where they are awarded certificates or ribbons for their super efforts and we are given reports of Avalon's achievements.


We are so grateful to this organisation for providing such a wonderful therapy and for the many types of benefits that Avalon gains from attending. It is definitely our favourite one to take her to that's for sure!!!





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by Bec Riley 4th Year OT Student


DSCF7405As part of my final year as an Occupational Therapy student at ACU in North Sydney, I completed a 9-week block placement at Tall Timbers.


I did not have direct supervision of an experienced OT working which meant I completed this placement with the guidance of Head Coach Nicole King and from all the other coaches and volunteers at Tall Timbers. The aim of this placement was to challenge me, to identify where occupational therapy sits in this environment and what benefits the involvement of the profession may bring to the service.


During my time at Tall Timbers, together with Nicole, we developed a mechanical horse exercise program to complement existing riders’ skills and to use as an alternative for those who may be unable to ride a horse. The program looks at all the benefits of horse riding (co-ordination, balance, core strength, endurance etc) but in a more controlled environment. I am still in the process of completing the paperwork for this program so that the RDA coaches at Tall Timbers may continue to use this as an additional benefit of the service.


Being at RDA Tall Timbers Centre has by far been one of the most valuable and educational experience I have had towards becoming a qualified Occupational Therapist, which I will cherish and carry for the rest of my career. The consistent love and dedication from Chanida, Nicole, Kerry, TT coaches and volunteers is admirable and something of note. These extraordinary people are instrumental in the running and upkeep of the Centre and go above and beyond for those in need.


Since the end of my placement, I have missed Tall Timbers sooooo much!!! I truly hope that one day in the future I will be able to return to Tall Timbers as a fully qualified OT or volunteer. This experience taught me a lot, forced me to think outside of the square and explore all avenues and creativities of my profession. It was heart-warming and exciting to say the least and my greatest thanks to all at Tall Timbers.


RDA Tall Timbers summed up in a few words for me would be: Education, Patience, Dignity, Love and Respect.


Special thanks to; Nicole, Kerry, Kirsty, Sophie and Chanida.




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By Paul Akers, Volunteer Property Maintenance


You may have noticed some little "Habitat" signs springing up around RDA, these signs are timely with all the residential development starting around us, and indicate a desire on our part to preserve areas for our feather, Habitat-cmykakfurry and slithering locals.


The object of the habitat program is to encourage individuals to think about the locals in their garden and provide food water and shelter where practical. Even small actions can have a lasting effect.


In past years the clay and shale embankments left after various construction programs have been planted with a wide variety of native plants common to the area. This has meant that the area on the eastern side of the property from the road to the back of the covered arena is now ideal for birds, animals and creepy crawlies.

That area is now planted with a variety of Bottle Brush, Lilly Pillies, Emu Apple, Rice Flower, Melaleucas, everlasting daisies, a few Sydney rock orchids and 4 different native grasses (Blue flax lily, Dianella, Lomandra and Kangaroo grass). There are also native succulents, Wonga Wonga vine and Hardenbergia, hidden in other areas around the place.


We wish to acknowledge the generosity of Hills Shire Council who have provided 1000s of plants over the years. The Hills Shire is an active supporter of the Habitat program. Should you be a resident of The Hills you will find they are very helpful in providing native plants from the council nursery open every Saturday morning. Other councils all have local planting programs.


With the residential development going on around us it is timely to preserve as much of the native habitat without disturbing our own activities.


Should you wish to know more about Habitat go to:




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David Thomas- Teacher at The Hills School


Throughout the second half of 2015, The Hills School has been privileged to have several students participating in the horse riding program at ‘Tall Timbers’ RDA in Box Hill.  Our students have been learning about being safe and having fun around horses.  We have made lots of new friends with the coaches and volunteers who help our students while riding in the horse stadium.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to learn about animals, to improve communication skills and to participate in the sport of horse riding. 

It has been amazing to see how well our students have overcome their initial uneasiness with the horses, of interacting with the RDA staff and of being so high off the ground.  At first, students were reluctant to mount the horses, now students show reluctance to dismount from the horses at the end of the session. 

We would like to thank the amazing staff and volunteers of RDA Tall Timbers who have been providing such a wonderful service to our students.  It is truly fantastic that our students are able to access such a terrific learning opportunity.


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RENEE SMITH – MY TRIP TO THE RDAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS week long trip to Werribee, Melbourne for the RDA National Championships was an amazing adventure and a life changing experience.

Our first job was to pick a suitable mount from a selection of riding school horses, organise gear and feed, and have my chosen mount was trucked to the competition venue.

We had just under 3 days to learn what made Custer, a 30 yr old pony, tick. Chanida had the busy job of taking him for walks, schooling, stretching, grooming, plaiting and encouraging him to drink when he started to get a little dehydrated. I however had the more laid back job of sitting by the arena and watching her and Nicole do most of the hard work.

By the start of the competition on day 4 of our trip, I had been presented with my team uniform (thank you RDA NSW for sponsoring this) and saddle blanket (thank you Maitland and Raymond Terrace Horseland), was making some great friends with the other 6 NSW riders and support crew, learnt a lot at a Judges Clinic, took part in the event Opening Ceremony, and was enjoying the opportunity to meet riders from other States around the stables and at the Welcome BBQ. One common thread heard amongst each of us was that it was so exciting to be here.   

Day one of competition was quite a tense experience for Custer, so we were scored 61% and 8th place in a class of 9. Day two of competition saw a far less stressed pony, and we were able to score 70% and first place. I was over the moon! We also competed in a small show jumping circuit- a post-injury debut for me, so the feeling was amazing. Last day of competition saw me scratch from the Working Trails event (my body was really beginning to hate me), but manage a 67% and second place in the dressage freestyle. Once again I was so happy with our ride and how Custer was developing as a dressage pony.

This trip truly was a life changing experience for me and I learnt so much about myself. Thank you so much to: RDA(NSW) Dressage Committee for entrusting me with your selection and sponsoring part of my costs, Nicole for being both my super coach and chef for the NSW team, Chanida for being my super groom and carer, the TT ladies who fed and cared for the ponies, everyone who picked up extra work at TT to allow Nicole and Chanida to come with me, and to all at TT who sent me treasured messages of good luck and support. I feel truly blessed and empowered by my experience, and I’m looking forward to my next riding challenge. 

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By Andrew, Patrick’s Dad


DSCF6035Patrick is 13 years old and has been riding at RDA Tall Timbers with Bernice, Kayla and Grace during his riding career. He has ridden Apex, Angel, Pancho, Kruger and his current horse Jack. He forms an attachment to each horse he rides but takes a little time to adjust to each change. 


Patrick is now accustomed to his routine of going to Tall Timbers every second Saturday. He enjoys his interactions with current coaches Kaye, Jan, Simone and Sophie who keep all the riders on their toes through a variety of activities to enhance their riding skills. Patrick loves animals and his morning at RDA begins with searching the yard and buildings for Pepper the cat. He finds his boots, dons the helmet and reviews the board to check if Kaye has put him on the correct horse. The games played and the interactions with the volunteers have helped Patrick’s social skills and communication. Patrick and his fellow riders have even had lessons in grooming and leading the horses from Chanida on days where they couldn’t ride. 


Patrick is generally very active and plays soccer, little athletics and swimming. He has competed in the Mounted Games in 2013 and last year was thrilled to receive his encouragement award. Riding provides a different outlet and a new set of challenges for Patrick. He has had to learn how to deal with people and horses, following instructions from the coaches and trying to get his horse to understand what he needs it to do.  He has also had to deal with last minute changes to his routine such as riding a different horse when his horse is not available.  Over the past year Patrick has developed more riding skills and is more confident when taking the reins when riding Jack.


As parents we are grateful for the opportunity Patrick has been given and thankful to all the volunteers who provide a great deal of support and encouragement during each lesson.



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By Julie Woods – Alice’s Mum


DSCF5717Alice suffers from low muscle tone (hypotonia) through her trunk and high tone (hypertonia) in her lower legs and has a speech disorder which is suspected to be apraxia. Alice’s independent walking has been severely delayed, mostly due to her very low core muscle tone, as strong truck muscles are very important to provide the balance which is needed for walking.


I had done a lot of research on the best exercises and therapy to improve Alice’s core muscle strength and came across a lot of information about horse riding therapy (hippotherapy). Most of the information came from the USA, so I was very happy to find RDA close to home and put Alice on the waiting list when she was 2 years old.


Alice was accepted for the tiny tots program when she had just turned 3 years old. When Alice first started she was very upset at leaving her mum, but after a while she was happy to go because she loved riding her pony Chocolate so much and now she can’t wait to leave mum and go for her weekly ride.


Also when Alice first started her balance and strength were so poor that she needed to wear a belt with handles on each side and had 2 volunteers on each side of the horse holding on to her.


Alice’s strength began to improve quite quickly and the support was gradually removed – to the extent that she can now ride without any support and with a straight back and can sometimes even ride holding onto the reins instead of the saddle.



At the beginning of the year Alice could sometimes walk a maximum of around 5 metres and now she is walking independently around the house and outside up to 30 metres and has recently started standing up from the ground without any support, which seems easy but actually requires a lot of strength and balance to achieve.


Another great thing about horse riding for Alice is that she can participate in a sport just like an able bodied child. Her twin sister, Grace, has recently started doing ballet classes and Alice often becomes upset that she is not able to do ballet like her sister, but when I remind her that, whilst Grace has her ballet, she has her horse riding with Chocolate it always stops the tears and brings a very very big smile to her face every time.


We would like to say a very big thank you Kirsty, all the lovely volunteers and everyone from Tall Timbers RDA for the opportunity given to Alice to participate in the riding program this year. Unfortunately next year we will be moving out of the area and with Alice starting pre-school as well as her speech therapy and other therapies will not be able to continue to attend next year.


Alice will always have fond memories of her time with Chocolate, thank you again to everyone involved.


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By Denise Waugh, Teacher, Windsor Park Public


High Five at RDA TTRDA Tall Timbers Centre at Box Hill has been an intricate part of our support classes program for many years. I have witnessed many students grow and develop a variety of skills through this association.


During this present year our small group of students have gained many skills as they come and experience this great opportunity to learn outside a regular classroom environment. I have observed their confidence increase and the development of a rapport with both their horses and the staff at Tall Timbers grow.


We start our semester with setting goals that we would like our students to achieve through this experience. For some this may be just listening and following instruction. This is accomplished through activities where there is the opportunity to increase listening skills by following verbal instructions. These activities also build a relationship of trust between the students, their horse and leaders. There is a great deal of interaction also with staff and peers through a variety of games where students can encourage each other as they complete tasks. These are based on games that are fun and allow interact with peers through the course of the lesson. For other students it is about the physical gains that come from the experience of having a physio workout on horseback. All of our students benefit from the exercise given through activities that make them bring their upper limbs across their bodies to stretch and strengthen muscles. The support and improvement to their core strength, muscle tone and balance as they work out each week is of great benefit to many of our students. 

It is a pleasure to observe these students as their faces light up and they have fun completing the course of activities in both the indoor and outdoor arena.



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By Elaine Moussa, Rhys’ Mum


DSCF5276I was told the first week of my son’s life that he had low tone, he was transferred to Westmead children's for further tests as he wasn't able to suck. Three weeks later we were discharged with the diagnosis of hypotonia.  Fast forward three years, numerous specialist appointments and quite a few tears we have a diagnosis of global Dyspraxia, along with hyper mobility, and hypotonia.  Dyspraxia is a neurological developmental disability which is present from birth.  It’s a motor planning disorder. "The person knows what they want their body to do but they cannot get their body to do it."   Rhys' gross, fine and oral-motor skills are all affected.  At age three he has approximately thirty single words and struggles to hold a pencil and do activities that the average three year old can do like feeding himself. He has the kindest nature and is very sensitive, shy and empathic. From a young age has loved animals.

As most parents with a child who has a disability will contest, researching how to help them becomes part of your life. It was last year through Googling that I came across information on Riding for the Disabled and its benefits.  I knew straight away that Rhys would love horses but hadn't quite expected how quick an impact it would have on his confidence. Rhys started preschool this year two days a week and until he started horse riding never spoke a word in class. He adores chocolate (the horse “lol”) and hearing the words and actions that come from his mouth every week during his session never fails to shock me! I honestly do know what it triggers in his brain but it’s amazing to watch and on the weeks when I despair and feel like he's not progressing, going to horse riding always leaves me with hope.


His preschool teachers are amazed at how much he’s progressed and how much more confident he is! I am very thankful to all the staff at RDA for having such a positive impact on all our lives not just Rhys’.


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By Joanne Ferns, Relieving Assistant Principal, Support Classes


DSCF5317For 5 years 6 students from Girraween Public School Support Classes have been experiencing horse riding, most for the first time. It is with eagerness and excitement the students in year 5 or 6 know they may get to go to Tall Timbers. For them it is the joy of an excursion out of the class each week and they get to experience something new. The development and change in the students is often outstanding and immeasurable.


This year I have seen one tall year 5 boy who often stoops when he walks and has difficulty expressing his emotions change dramatically when he gets on a horse. He sits up straight, rides around with a grin on his face and chats freely with the volunteers with him. He has grown in confidence and most importantly is taking pride in his achievements.


Another year 5 student who sometimes struggles to communicate effectively will talk nonstop to the volunteer with her. This is noticeable in the car as we approach Tall Timbers; she starts chatting and doesn’t stop the whole time. She is a child who has found it difficult to concentrate but has shown improvement not only at riding but also in the classroom.

The improved confidence in a year 6 boy has been amazing. Before attending horse riding he had difficulty reading the body language and social signals we give when communicating with others. Now he is more aware, will speak up for himself when he is unhappy and displays increased confidence in the playground.


Two amazing students who had no experience at all with horses, never patted one let along ride one are now confident in using the reins to independently direct their horse. They will both ride with big beaming smiles and will tell anyone who is prepared to listen how great the riding is at Tall Timbers.


We had one reluctant rider this year who really found getting on a horse difficult. With much encouragement and support from the volunteers he eventually got to ride. The first time he was a bit anxious but this has decreased considerable after his first experience. He now speaks confidently to his horse giving clear instructions and chats freely with the volunteers supporting him.


From a teacher’s point of view, there have been many times I have got a bit emotional when I have seen the incredible progress the students have made. It is so wonderful to see the transformation of students that an experience like horse riding at Tall Timbers can bring. All the volunteers that have worked with the students have been amazing; they have the knowledge and patience to give the children an experience they will never forget. They have known when it has been time to push the students a bit further or to give them gentle encouragement. It is such a privilege to be able to give our students this experience at such a wonderful place as Tall Timbers!


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By Samantha Ellis K-2T Class Teacher (relieving) & Fiona Jackson School Learning Support Officer

Sherwood Ridge Public School


“Horse riding!”      “Horse riding!”  


DSCF4872This is how I’m greeted by one happy, cheerful, Kindergarten student each Wednesday morning. It makes everyone smile! Of the three support classes at Sherwood Ridge Public School, 6 students from Kindergarten to Year 5, have been chosen to attend Horse Riding for the Disabled at Tall Timbers, Box Hill for this semester.


Leaving as soon as the school bells goes and the roll has been marked, the students enthusiastically pile into the car with one classroom teacher and a teacher’s aide. Once arriving at Tall Timbers, the children change into their horse riding attire of boots and helmet. There is a clearly visible chart that reminds each child what size boots and which helmet needs to be worn. The students are also able to read which horse has been allocated to them that day.


Students are individually mounted on to their horse and begin activities in the arena. One activity called “Stop and Go”, teaches students to say, “Walk on” and “Whoa” to make their horse move. Other activities involve manipulating flags, cans, beanbags and hoops, which not only promotes their horse riding confidence but reinforces colour recognition, development of gross motor skills and often discussion on themes that the student is learning about back at school. One favourite activity is to go on a trail walk where the horses are led out of the arena and around the property. The students couldn’t stop talking about what they saw. Each week there is a perpetual trophy awarded to the Rider of the Week and a certificate that they are able to keep.

The whole program is highly professional, well-organised and yet flexible enough to cater to the individual needs of the students. It is impressive to see the number of volunteers who are there each week to lead the horses and walk with the children to encourage their participation. The staff is caring, friendly and extremely approachable, particularly if a student requires extra support or attention. There is an atmosphere of camaraderie and a sense of belonging to a special family.


It hasn’t always been a happy greeting by this Kindergarten student mentioned at the start. In her first week, despite much coaxing, she point blank refused to get on her horse and there were many tears. In the second week, with some tears, she reluctantly decided to have a go. In her third week, while there was some trepidation, she mounted her horse and then there was the huge smile of satisfaction and enjoyment of having overcome her fears. Now, she begs to be the first one on her horse and you can’t wipe the smile off her face! This experience will be with her for life. She realises that while situations can be scary, she knows that with support she can face challenges in life. Horse riding has enhanced her self-esteem, taught her new skills, enabled her to develop new relationships and further her oral proficiency.


The staff has tremendous experience working with children and this was evidenced in their ability to entice a once reluctant student into a beaming, confident horse-rider. She’s able to hold the reins of her horse and proudly instruct it to “walk on”!


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