VRC lends helping hand to Riding for the Disabled

10 January 2023 Written by VRC

The VRC was recently delighted to work with Riding for the Disabled Association Pakenham, helping to fund their all-weather arena via a donation worth almost $60,000 from the VRC Equine Wellbeing Fund. They also donated part of a training track from Flemington, as well as VRC equipment and staff’s time to help with maintenance.

In 1964, Peter and June McIntyre established the first classes for riders with disabilities in Kenmore, Queensland. They were inspired by the Danish dressage rider Elizabeth Hartel. Despite a disability due to polio forcing her to use a wheelchair, she won a silver medal in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Her achievement changed attitudes towards people with disabilities at international levels, inspiring a new focus on ability and achievement.

Riding for the Disabled Australia supports State and Associate members to enable people living with disabilities or additional support needs to experience enjoyment, challenge and a sense of achievement through equestrian activities to improve their quality of life, attain personal goals and develop life skills.

It develops the abilities of and enriches the lives of people with disabilities through sporting, therapeutic, educational and recreational equestrian activities. Their values align with excellence, inclusivity, respect, innovation and community.

They cater for all levels of disability, from young children through to adults, meeting the needs of a community that is diverse. From the riders themselves to the volunteers who work with them, it is a group of people who want to get out, get involved and who all love horses.

Each centre across Australia provides suitable horses, trained volunteer helpers, accredited RDA coaches, and riding and safety equipment to run a range of equestrian activities. These include structured riding classes, recreational horse riding, games/competitive riding, vaulting, carriage driving, dressage and equestrian camps.

Those who participate experience feelings of freedom, enjoyment, independence and inclusion.

Through a partnership with Racing Victoria, Off The Track thoroughbreds are among the horses used at RDA. This pathway for non-competitive thoroughbreds is a win-win situation for both organisations: the horses find a new career, purpose and home, and the riders are able to ride the kind, gentle and extremely adaptable thoroughbred. The intelligence and versatility of the thoroughbred, especially one that has been a working racehorse, makes them great candidates for this role.

 “We want it to be a centre where everyone is welcome. It’s just awesome what the Victoria Racing Club has done for us.” - Paul Beck, RDA Pakenham Vice President

The VRC is also proud to be involved with Riding for the Disabled, recently bringing Pakenham’s vision for a new all-weather arena to life via a donation worth almost $60,000 from the VRC Equine Wellbeing Fund.

The financial contribution is on top of the VRC’s donation of a special all-weather material that has been re-purposed from the Flemington training track to form the surface of the new arena.

The arena has been an important part of the program at RDA Pakenham for two months, with VRC staff also lending their time and equipment to help decorate the area. 

Two years ago the VRC created the VRC Equine Wellbeing Fund, kick-started with $1 million from ticket sales and topped up annually with five per cent of all VRC membership fees, meaning every racegoer is helping ensure the long-term wellbeing of our amazing equine athletes.

The fund and wider equine welfare strategy supports thoroughbreds and the people who love them in a variety of ways, from investing in research and state of the art technology to ensure optimum fitness while racing to supporting their pathways into post-racing careers.

RDA Pakenham Vice President Paul Beck said the organisation was grateful for the VRC’s donation.

“We are so appreciative of this significant donation from the Victoria Racing Club,” Mr Beck said.

 “We envisage having an undercover facility and we want it to be a centre where everyone is welcome. It’s just awesome what the Victoria Racing Club has done for us.”

The Riding for the Disabled centre in Officer closed down three years ago and Mr Beck and the team are excited to see the new Pakenham centre thrive.

The 25-acre block of land has undergone a transformation after the dedicated team of volunteers poured their heart and souls into making this vision a reality early in 2022.