The saddles were purchased with a grant from the Fonterra Grass Roots fund and have been specially designed in Germany. They help distribute the rider’s weight across the horse’s back.
This is important as some of the riders are unable to hold themselves straight in the saddle.
Riding Coach Ashley Johnson says the club has 80 members, ranging in age from pre-schoolers to people in their 50’s, and the horses provide much needed therapy and life skills by helping them to improve their mobility and confidence.
“A lot of the skills you need for horse riding can be transferred to everyday. For example for some of our members the muscles needed for swinging a leg up and over a horse can be the same ones needed to lift your leg up and into a bath at home, and holding the reigns can help with fine motor skills like tying a shoelace.”
Ashley says the horses also help children with communication problems.
“A lot of autistic kids will only communicate through their lap tops or speech boards at school. For these kids, forming a bond with the horse is sometimes their first real friendship.”
Fonterra’s Global Sponsorship Manager Kane Silcock says the Grass Roots Fund supports initiatives that enrich people’s lives and benefit their community.
“It’s our way of supporting projects and ideas that bring our communities together and make them better, safer and more vibrant places to be. It’s a way to say thanks to the people of New Zealand.”
The Eastern Bay of Plenty club expects the saddles to arrive in two weeks.