Sarah is pictured with one of the longest-serving horses in the Ballina and District RDA, Sam.
Twelve year-old Sarah Bodenham has been around horses since she was 18 months old and her love of the animals is obvious. Sarah is one of the most regular and long-term attendees of the Ballina and District Riding for the Disabled programs, and the horses have become her friends.
Mum Kerry Bodenham said Sarah was referred to the program aged 18 months old after a doctor advised there was little chance her baby would ever walk, talk or eat solid food.
“This program changed all that. We were amazed at the way she took to it and within a few months she literally leapt forward in terms of progress. She even learned to walk and talk,” she said.
“When we returned to the doctor six months later, the doctor was blown away by the change and wanted to know what we had done.”
Sarah has an unidentified muscle disorder that causes constant pain in her joints and muscles. The Riding for the Disabled program has helped build muscle tone and strength, as well as significantly improve co-ordination and of course confidence.
Kerry said the transformations were a regular occurrence at the RDA’s Teven centre.
“This place is just a magical place of healing — it brings out the best in everyone — coaches volunteers and children.”
Sarah aspires to continue her training with the horses to eventually become a coach and help other people with disabilities overcome some of their own hurdles.
Coaches are critical to the program and, being a Registered Training Organisation, the RDA has very strict rules on accreditation for both coaches and assistant coaches.
This year, the NRCF provided $2900 to the Ballina and District RDA to train three assistant coaches and one coach to help continue this important work.
In thanking the NRCF, RDA Senior Coach Kerry Johnston said that the ongoing training of coaches, instruction and care of horses and recruitment of volunteers was essential for the organisation to service its 55 students.
“We receive no government funding and every aspect of our programs is funded by the money we raise ourselves,” she said.
“We have already had to withdraw some of our sessions due to lack of coaches so this grant will help secure a pool of coaches to maintain our current program,” she said.