Mondays and Wednesdays are a hive of activity at Mornington Racecourse. Here from 9.45am until 1pm, coaches, volunteers, horses and riders all have an exciting and rewarding day. Janet Moran is the leader at the Mornington branch of Riding for the Disabled where they’ve been offering carriage driving since they began operations 25 years ago. RDA is a nationwide program that focuses on developing abilities and enriching lives by providing sporting and recreational opportunities for riders and drivers with a disability. Its mission is to enable people with disabilities to experience enjoyment, challenges and a sense of achievement through participation in equestrian activities to improve their quality of life, extend their abilities and develop new life skills.
It was by chance that Janet got involved in 2005. She runs a thoroughbred racehorse farm on the Peninsula with her husband Peter and was approached to help with driving a horse in a harness at RDA Mornington. Janet soon took over RDA Mornington from Ann Robinson, and her role has progressed to being on the carriage driving committee for RDA.
RDA Victoria is a volunteer-based organisation and is beyond proud to have offered its services for more than 40 years in Victoria. In each of its 34 centres across the state, it provides suitable horses, trainer volunteers, accredited RDA coaches, and riding and safety equipment for equestrian activities. Drivers and riders enjoy the experience of developing their riding and carriage driving skills while enjoying the movement, freedom, sensory feedback and exhilaration of riding or driving a horse. RDA Mornington’s carriage-driving program is an alternative to mainstream riding as it is personalised for those in wheelchairs or for those people that are unable to mount a horse.
From its community centre, which has been open for 18 months thanks to the MRC Foundation, RDA Mornington continues to offer opportunities for clients to extend their abilities, become more flexible, improve their balance, core strength, posture and co-ordination, develop relationships with the horses, and socialise. People with all types and levels of disabilities, whether congenital or acquired, are accepted equally.
“It’s very rewarding seeing the development of the participants,” Janet said. “We had one client who was in a wheelchair and couldn’t move her body. We started her in the carriage as the horse walked. Her face lit up as she was able to move freely with the horse; we progressed to a trot and she laughed.”
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the program. “We’re always happy for more help,” Janet said. “We have plenty of roles on offer; whether you are horse person or not, we can find a role for you. No experience is necessary as we provide all training on site. Our roles aren’t demanding; they are relaxed. You just need common sense.”
To find out about volunteering at the Mornington branch, call Janet on 0425 732 758. To join as a rider, RDA Victoria charges an annual registration fee and it costs $8 for each session at Mornington Racecourse to help cover the horses’ expenses. Janet said RDA Mornington was grateful for its donated horses, money from Bunnings sausage sizzles, the support of farriers and dentists, and sponsorships from Mornington Racing Club, Balnarring & District Community Bank, Peninsula Aero Club, MRC Foundation, Griffiths Racing and Crowders Community Real Estate. Go to www.rdav.asn.au for more information.