Have you been following our series about Toffee, the trainee Riding for the Disabled Association pony? We’ve been hearing about his progress in his first year with the RDA Cotswold Group since February. Through the year, all over the country, more than 19,000 volunteers at 500 RDA groups help 28,000 riders and carriage drivers with disabilities. The RDA motto is “it’s what you can do that counts.” RDA ponies are a vital part of helping riders to reach their potential.
Toffee is the latest in a succession of “Friend” series about animals who help others. Do you remember wonderful Widget, the labradoodle who trained with Canine Partners? Last year we also followed Labrador sisters Nita and Nena, in their Canine Partners training. All three are now helping human partners with disabilities to live more independently.
This year we’ve moved from helping paws to helping hooves. Toffee is a sweet Welsh Section A pony, only 11.2 hands high. He’s well used to Pony Club activities and gymkhana games from his days with a family. Now, he’s playing an important role, helping children between the ages of four and nine to develop their riding skills.
Although Toffee is used to children and to being ridden, being an RDA pony brings with it special responsibilities. Many of the children who come to RDA lack confidence at first. It’s vital, then, that RDA ponies are patient and gentle. It’s also important that the ponies adapt well to new experiences, so that they can give their riders confidence.
Of course, they need to get on with the other ponies, too. And they must work well with the trainers and volunteers at their group.
It’s great to hear how well Toffee is progressing with each new experience. We’ve followed him as he’s become familiar with his new home and the people and other ponies he meets there. We’ve met his first young rider, Skye, and heard how she, too, is benefiting so much from her riding lessons with Toffee. In our next instalment, we’ll find out how Toffee gets on when he’s introduced to the new Sensory Garden at Cotswold RDA. You’ll love the pictures as he encounters the different objects there!
You’ll be able to read all about Toffee in the Sensory Garden in our June 17 issue – don’t miss it!