It was almost by mistake, six years past Easter, that I stumbled upon Thornton Rose, Riding for the Disabled, just outside Rosewell, in the beautiful Midlothian countryside, writes Tommy Lawson.
I dropped off my daughter to volunteer and stayed just in case she wanted to come home early. I gave the late Bill Johnston, then chairman, a hand to muck out some stables. The next week I visited again and haven’t left since.
I found a group of volunteers going quietly about their business, changing the lives of those challenged by disability.
My first visit was on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. The Saturday session is mostly younger riders and they arrived at the yard with their parents and carers. Lined up across the yard were the horses, volunteers by their side. The riders made their way onto the decking and one by one, climbed aboard their horses, assisted by the instructor and volunteers.
Three things struck me. Firstly, the effect that climbing upon the horse had on the rider. Most became extremely calm with big smiles as soon as they were in the saddle. Secondly, these big powerful beasts, some towering well above their handlers, knew exactly what they were about, what was expected of them and changed their behaviour to suit the rider. Thirdly, the commitment of the volunteers, giving freely of their time to change these riders’ lives and to care for the horses, not only during riding sessions but on every day of the year.
The group needs funds. They need volunteers and friends in the community to help with the many tasks that are involved in running such a group.
They have a vision to move to their own riding centre and to widen the services they give to the community. This is the only resource of its kind in Midlothian and there are substantial waiting lists for places in every group.
If you would like to help in any way contact Kay McBride, Group Chairman, via Facebook or at www.thornton-rose-rda.org.uk
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