We came across Riding for the Disabled in Kenya through close friends of my father. It’s an amazing local charity where a team of volunteers helps assist disabled children – many of whom have no access to any form of therapy – to ride and play games on horseback in a safe and happy environment. The children have seen a great number of physical benefits, but in addition they also get a real sense of achievement which helps boost their self esteem. Most importantly – they have an hour of real happiness from this form of therapy.
We are big believers – of course! – in the relationship between horse and man. When we ride, we feel somehow at one with the animal, and are able to enjoy focussing on that process rather than thinking about all the things rushing in on our emails and other daily pressures. The children who come to RDA seem to benefit not only from the therapeutic affects, but also from better balance and coordination, and an increase in muscular strength. The ability to listen and follow instructions, to concentrate and communicate and for some, even the ability to sleep at night, comes from spending time with RDA.
Felicia and I are therefore very proud to be supporting two young girls, who attend RDA on a weekly basis. Kezia Wangechi came to Fairmile at the age of four, in 2009. She was non ambulant, could not feed herself and we had to force feed her to get anything in her body. She had very low muscle tone, could not sit in a chair for five minutes, and spent her life on her tummy.
Today Kezia walks, runs around, and has a lot of purpose for her life. Given the fact that her hands could not touch or handle anything, today she feeds herself, uses the toilet, dresses, brushes her teeth and does more things that we all take for granted. She can only say “Mama” and “Baba”, but is a happy child who explores her surroundings, plays music from computers and phones, loves to terrorize people with their iPhones and smiles a lot. She really loves her riding each week.
Kezia takes instructions and follows them to the letter. She is a miracle child in her own way. Her parents say she has a huge appetite, and a great love of ugali (a Kenyan staple made from cornmeal). She also loves playing hide and seek, which her Mum says gives them all great joy.
Joanne arrived at Fairmile with her mother unable to walk, at the age of four. She spent the first week at Fairmile on the floor, but after much encouragement from the team, her mother started to massage her and take her for short walks. Within one week, she was walking whilst holding her mother’s hand. And within one month she was walking alone. She’s very strong willed, and has learnt a lot from her riding with RDA. Aside from the benefits of socialising and spending time with loving animals, she has also developed core strength which in turn has helped her to walk better. Having the opportunity to sit on a horse and hold the reins has also meant she has developed both the physical skills and the strength to hold objects. So now in lessons she is holding crayons and pens, and at mealtimes she holds a spoon and tries to feed herself.
Another fun development with Joanne has been her singing. She sings all the time and wants everyone to join in dancing with her when she has a tune. This indicates that she has developed a strong sense of self-awareness as well as of social awareness.
More info on Riding for the Disabled is available here.