Rider Stories 

From the riders

Rosemary Saunders

Diagnosis – Multiple Schlerosis
Age - 55 years    Attending RDA – 5 years

I have had MS for 25 years, which has been gradually getting worse. I now rely on a wheelchair fulltime. Weekly riding at RDA helps me to sit upright and use all my muscles in a way I don’t use them in a chair. I feel like my internal organs get a ‘massage’ while riding the horse and my legs are stretched in a more prolonged and lasting way on the horse that I can accomplish at home.  All in all my body gains huge benefits from this exercise.  It is great to do something physical and ‘normal’.

Kate Natusch

Diagnosis – Cerebral Palsy
Age – 33 years Attending RDA – 2.5 years

I came to RDA as a child but have been fortunate to come back as an adult.  I love animals and live on a farm.  RDA allows me to be active and maintain my ability to walk for as long as possible.  It is great fun and I love it.  As a child there are many opportunities available for therapy and sport but as an adult there are very few.  Having access to extra activities is even more important as you get older and RDA is a great place to come, not just for exercise but for the fun group we have.

Luke Martin

Diagnosis – Brain Haemorrhage – Right Hemiplegia & Epilepsy
Age – 14 years Attending RDA – 3 years

I have just turned 14.  When I was 1 month old I had a brain haemorrhage which left me with right hemiplegia and epilepsy.  I love RDA and have been going on and off for many years now.  Riding helps me physically.  It stretches my muscles and helps with posture and balance.  It is also great for social interaction and is great fun.  Sharon is my coach and she is so kind and caring.  All of the volunteers are amazing and very helpful.

Hayden Roper

Diagnosis – Wilsons Disease
Age – 29 years Attending RDA – 2 years

I suffer from a rare condition called Wilson’s Disease, which is basically copper poisoning due to my liver not processing copper properly and it building up from birth.  Although a liver disease, in my case I have been affected neurologically and psychologically as the copper has damaged various parts of my brain.  It has pretty much robbed me of everything, from talking to walking, even my eating is now through a feeding tube.  I have also lost friends and independence.

I led a normal and active life, although with lots of headaches until about 2010, totally unaware the disease was lurking.  I had been in the workforce for about six years prior to becoming ill.  I was 23 when my health started deteriorating and it took a year to diagnose, meanwhile I was going downhill and increasingly losing my ability to function, both mentally and physically.  I eventually ended up with admissions to the Mental Health unit, and then to Tauranga Hospital where I become unable to hold my head, sit, turn over in bed, or even position my head on my pillow.  I had lost a lot of weight and a feeding tube was inserted.  I also choked a lot as I was unable to swallow and manage saliva.  Eventually I was stabilised and returned home in early 2013 needing 24/7 care and having lost my ability to do anything for myself.

I eventually started at RDA with the support of my family, caregivers, and those at RDA.  It was one of the first activities I started going out to do.  At first I couldn’t even stay upright on my horse, but over time my core strength has improved, and my balance is slowly making some improvement (I’ve learned how to steer my horse too!).  The dystonia in my neck means it’s hard for me to hold my head straight, but this has definitely improved from when I first started at RDA.  This year I seem to be making slightly faster improvement, although it’s all very, very slow and has a fairly uncertain/unknown outcome.  I am being treated to remove the copper, but only time is going to show how much of the brain damage I am going to be able to overcome.

RDA has also been a social experience for me and by having to communicate with new people and my horse, I have gained confidence and made new friends.  The support and care shown by both RDA staff and their many volunteers, give something special to look forward to each week and I love coming out here.

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