Oxford University Riding Club

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OURC has a volunteering link with local Riding for the Disabled group, RDA Abingdon. We regularly send volunteers to help out with the work of this amazing group that makes riding accessible to riders with a range of disabilities. Volunteering usually involves helping to lead the horses for an hour's lesson, helping riders on and off the horses, and occasional yard duties. Previous experience is not necessary and whilst the ability to make a regular commitment during term-time is helpful, it is not essential. Most RDA groups rely on volunteers and are incredibly grateful for any help offered!

If you are interested in our programme with RDA Abingdon, please email [email protected], and check out their website http://www.rda-abingdon.org.uk for more information about the group!

Here is an account from one of OURC's regular volunteers, Emma Moran, about her experience of volunteering with RDA Abingdon:

'I have to be honest: it was September, I’d moved to a new city to go back to university and term hadn’t yet started.  I needed a cheap way to meet new people and get close to some horses.  My initial reasons for becoming an RDA volunteer were not exactly worthy.  However, as soon as I arrived at Lower Lodge Riding Centre for my first class, I started to suspect that my reasons for continuing would be somewhat different.  The class I help with is mostly attended by very young children at the earliest stages of their riding – it sometimes takes a number of classes before new starters can even be persuaded to sit on a pony.  The riders have varied learning and physical difficulties, including Downs Syndrome and Autism.  There are usually three helpers per rider – one to lead the pony and two side-walkers to help the rider to maintain balance and to carry out the lesson’s activities.  These activities include physical exercises on horseback, posting letters around the school, navigating obstacles such as bending poles and the ‘splishy, sploshy river’, not to mention lots of singing.  It quickly becomes apparent that one essential quality in the volunteer is the willingness to make a fool of yourself!  There are times when classes are frustrating; when a child won’t engage with you; when the tears of one rider spark off another; when a pony plays up and makes life difficult.  But there are other times when you realise why you persist in showing up to this draughty barn in the cold, dark evenings to weave through traffic cones and sing The Grand Old Duke of York ad infinitum.  They are the moments when a child uses his reins to steer his pony for the first time; when he pats his pony to thank him for the lesson; when he sees himself riding past in the mirror and smiles.  As for my original plan…well, the people certainly are friendly and you can hug the horses if you like.  Also, it feels good to know that you’re giving your time to help these children and their families.  What I hadn’t realised was how much more they would give me in return.'

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