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Changing Lives At RDA NSW

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By Josh Kerwick

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At RDA NSW Tall Timbers Centre, Nicole King was only 12 years old when she first started volunteering at Riding for the Disabled NSW in Ryde. “I was a horse mad kid!” Nicole says. “I learnt a lot of skills through great mentors and other volunteers at the centre.”

Thirty years later, she’s the Head Coach at RDA’s Tall Timbers Centre in the Gables. “It was an opportunity not to be missed – there’s a reason you get offered opportunities to do things,” Nicole adds. So you might as well jump at it and see where it goes.”

The Riding for the Disabled Association NSW was founded in 1972 by Pearl Batchelor OAM after she visited the RDA in England in the early 1970s. The first lessons were held at Pearl’s Tall Timbers property, originally in West Pennant Hills, where the first participants in the program came from Northcott Society and Crowle Home.

Since then, there have been many changes at the Tall Timbers Centre, including two changes of location to Kellyville in 1976, and to the current Gables site in 1999. Now located near the border of the Hills Shire and Hawkesbury Council areas, participants come to RDA from all over both regions and beyond.

For Nicole, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at Tall Timbers. Each participant has a personalised program designed to be engaging, therapeutic and fun. “Participants are able to learn skills on the ground working with horses that will translate back into life or work skills.” Nicole explains.

Changing Lives At RDA NSW

Not only are the programs hand-picked for each participant; the horses are too. “All the horses have their own story, their own likes and dislikes,” Nicole says. “We match our riders with our horses and our volunteers to make sure it’s a happy combination.”

That connection with the horses and the use of riding as a therapeutic activity has seen many success stories come out of the RDA Tall Timbers Centre. From young people whose favourite time of the week is with their horse, to the adults with acquired disabilities who have needed a reason to do an activity outside of their home,

RDA participants can enrol for any number of reasons and find themselves enriched. Nicole recalls one particularly touching story: “One participant had their first words on the program. His parent come one day to watch, and said ‘I don’t hear him talk at home.’

And we thought ‘He talks to us no worries!’ Everyone has a reason for being here, and needs to be here. Seeing them transition is really rewarding. We love seeing the participants thrive in this environment, and that’s the role of the organisation; it’s why we love it.”

RDA Tall Timbers Centre is funded by donations and fundraisers. Upcoming events from the Centre include their Charity Race Day at Hawkesbury Race Club on the 8th of October, which will support five other RDA centres, as well as Bunnings BBQs on the 23rd and 24th of September.

Make a donation or find out how you can get involved with the Tall Timbers Centre at https://rdanswtalltimbers.org.au and keep up to date with the latest events at https://www.facebook.com/RDATallTimbers

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