Horse-riding gives disabled ‘confidence’ and ‘independence’

Melissa Law
RDA rider Alina Seow has been inspired to do horse-riding competitively and has won three medals to date. (Photo courtesy of Alina Seow)

Founded in 1982, Riding for the Disabled Association of Singapore (RDA Singapore) is the only charitable organisation in Singapore that provides free therapeutic horse-riding programmes that benefit people with physical and/or learning disabilities.
 
It aims to assist its riders in their rehabilitation process and help them gain improved respiration, balance, coordination, mobility and flexibility. It also aims to help them gain self-confidence, improved communication skills, trust, motivation and self-esteem.
 
One beneficiary, 14-year-old Alina Seow, who has cerebral palsy, says that these horse-riding sessions have “greatly improved” her posture and balance.



 
Seow, who has been with the organisation with two years, has even gone on to do horse-riding competitively. She has won three medals to date, thanks to the dedicated coaches and volunteers who are “nice, friendly and willing to help.”
 
Besides the 10-week sessions that it offers to its 180 members, RDA works with special schools in Singapore to incorporate this therapy-based riding programme into their regular curriculum.
 
Win-win relationship
 
RDA’s horse-riding sessions have also impacted its volunteers who have witnessed many riders improve physically and psychologically over the course of these sessions.
 
Chua Yew Boon, a 70-year-old volunteer who has been with RDA for eight years, said, “I remember a boy, Joseph. When he first came he could not sit upright and had to be laid across the saddle for a session or two. Now he can ride well.”
 
Chua also told of stories where riders with hearing and speech impairment started off not being able to speak, but miraculously learnt to say horse commands after a few sessions, to the surprise of both volunteers and parents.


 
With more than 4,400 riding lessons conducted annually, RDA Singapore needs all the help it can get to keep operations running smoothly.
 
“We rely heavily on volunteers to help us run the programmes, and our day-to-day running costs amount to S$1 million annually. These are covered entirely by donations, sponsorships and RDA-organised fund-raising efforts,” said Daniel Chua, RDA Singapore's executive director.
 
“I will certainly have no hesitation in asking people to come and volunteer at RDA, as long as they are fit and well. They do not need to be a rider or have knowledge of horses. All that is needed is a willing and caring heart,” said the elder Chua, who often witnessed the infectious dedication of fellow volunteers.
 
“The reward we (the volunteers) have received is precious and cannot be measured,” he said. “RDA is an organisation that changes me… for the better. The work keeps me fit and happy, and (instills in me) a desire to help those with disabilities.”


 
For more information on how to help RDA Singapore, please e-mail volunteer@rdasingapore.org.sg. To donate, please visit http://www.rdasingapore.org/donations.
 
Yahoo! Singapore 9
Singapore 9 is Yahoo! Singapore's annual National Day honours project. Back for the third time running this year, we are honouring nine charities in Singapore in the lead-up to the nation's birthday on August 9.  Join us to Change A Life!

Related stories:
Muscular Dystrophy 'a blessing in disguise'
Man who lived in cemetery finds shelter
Blind lady places her life in four paws