Riding for the Disabled Oakford is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation based in Oakford, Western Australia that provides multi-diagnostic services to disabled children and adults in our community through horse riding activities.
It is a common fact that horse riding is a good source of exercise and the centre provides an excellent social network for all the participants boosting their confidence and self esteem through social activities within our centre.
Research has shown that 1 in 12 children in Australia are born with a disability and that 1 in 24 have a severe core activity limitation.
Of these children, 63% experience difficulty at school communicating and adapting in a social environment, which is why RDA is such an important aspect to their lives and wellbeing, both physically and socially.
RDA Oakford is about helping those who suffer from a disability and who need recreational, physical or mental help.
We help some forget the pain of a trauma, those who need extensive physio we give this to them in a fun hour of riding, those who are always in a wheelchair we give them the opportunity to look down on people instead of always having to look up.
Most of all, we are here to put a smile on the faces that haven’t had a lot to smile about, to encourage and help those who have to struggle with every step they take, and to be able to make a difference (even for a short time) in someone’s life.
Liam’s RDA Story (as told by his Mum)
Liam is an eight year old boy who has Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. He started riding ponies in Tasmania, in a person’s yard/paddock, where
It was rough and rocky terrain, and very hard with only one side walker, but the delight on Liam’s face and his enthusiasm far out weighed the poor conditions.
Then we moved to WA and Liam joined RDA Oakford. He hasn’t looked back and there is now a lot more attention to safety and teaching, also teaching Liam respect for his horse.
He didn’t really know the days of the week but once horse riding started, come Thursday morning, Liam would be signing ‘horse’ at the breakfast table. Amazing.
He was not happy if it was raining and we had to tell him the night before that it was cancelled as he was very disappointed with the last minute cancellation.
When Liam first started he needed two side walkers to hold him to sit up straight. He has improved to a level where now the side walkers only occasionally have to verbally remind him to sit up, or give a little physical prompt. His upper body strength has improved out of sight since riding.
Not only has it helped his upper body strength but he is also now able to do things across his body. For children with Down syndrome the skill of being able to cross the midline is very difficult and needs lots of training. During riding this skill is practiced and often Liam didn’t realise he was crossing his midline as he was too busy riding and having fun. Wow lots of physiotherapy happening and no protests from Liam.
We have also seen big improvements in Liam’s ability to follow instructions and his comprehension levels have improved as well. Liam has had a great year of learning at RDA Oakford and it has followed on at school and home.
To see Liam sit up on a horse and be higher than everyone and see the world from that height instead of from the floor, wheelchair or walker height is just great and you can see the self esteem it gives him.
Liam has had trouble with his hips for the last year and the specialist has encouraged Liam to continue riding as it is a great position for his hips when sitting on a horse. He has recently had hip surgery and just 8 weeks after surgery has been given the all clear to go riding again.
This is great encouragement for us as parents when Liam’s orthopaedic surgeon sees the value of horse riding in Liam’s life.
Liam’s cheekiness and great sense
of humour also comes out when
he is on his horse "Bluey". It is a
challenge at times for the volunteers but kept well under control so that
he still listens and does the activities
he needs to do.
It is a credit to the volunteers the
way they handle Liam, still being
able to have fun and enjoy his great character but keeping his behaviour under control.
A big thank you to every one at RDA Oakford, especially the organisers, the volunteers, and all those that contribute whether by donating money or time.
Your contribution is very much appreciated by Liam and us, his family.