The ride of their lives

Matthew Antonelli rides Floyd. 149824


WITH riding sessions beginning next month, Barwon Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is searching for new volunteers to bring equine joy to people’s lives.
Matthew Antonelli, who has cerebral palsy, has ridden with RDA Barwon for nine years.
Barwon RDA member Genevieve Briese said Matthew, 19, was one of many who had benefited from the riding sessions.
“He was prone on the horse owing to his poor core strength,” she said.
“Over the years and due to his horse riding, his core strength improved so that he now sits upright.”
Matthew’s mum Joanne said the riding sessions had given him vital exercise and freedom.
“He loves it – he’s mostly in a wheelchair so it gives him a different view of the world,” she said.
“Even though there are people around him and helping him, he feels free.”
Joanne said it had helped him to retain some ability to walk and “helped keep his hips in their sockets”.
“Once upon a time surgeons thought he might loose his ability to walk – but he’s still using his walker,” she said.
Head coach Marg Battye has been with the group for 30 years and is one of many volunteers donating their time.
Secretary Susan Dodson said Marg ensured “riding became an inclusive recreation” during her years with the group.
“Such is her passion, that in the early days, she rode one horse and led several others to the RDA venue,” she said.
Susan said the group needed extra volunteers, as some riders need two side-walkers and a third person to lead the horse.
“No specific knowledge is necessary, just a willingness to work with young riders,” she said.
Barwon RDA will hold a volunteer training day on 26 February at Koombahla Park. Riding sessions run on Thursday and Friday mornings, starting 3 March.
For more information contact volunteer manager Helen Buckley on 0475 768 089 or secretary Susan Dodson on 0409 931 384.