Horses need to eat 1.5% to 3% of their body weight every day, depending on their workload and metabolism. If they aren’t foraging much grass, that can mean five or six kilograms of hay a day for an adult horse.
It’s not hard to work out that NZ Riding for the Disabled, which has more than 50 affiliated local groups and more than 440 horses, needs a lot of hay!
That’s why Riding for the Disabled and Federated Farmers of NZ have got together to launch the Haystack Challenge. We’re asking farmers to consider donating bales of hay to this fantastic organisation, and for anyone who doesn’t have hay to think about giving money to enable volunteer workshops to be provided – so volunteers can help riders.
Riding for the Disabled provides interaction with horses for children and adults with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges so that they can develop increased ability, independence and self-esteem.
NZRDA was formally established in 1972 but some local groups had been around for a decade beforehand, starting in the Hawke’s Bay. They’re now in pretty much every part of New Zealand and thanks to the efforts of more than 1,800 volunteers they cater for around 3,200 children and adults with disabilities each year.
NZRDA’s vision is to ‘Reach More Riders and Change More Lives’. Donating some bales of hay is a practical way of helping their mission.
Neville and Susan Disher, from Ōtorohanga, know what a difference Riding for the Disabled can make.
The couple, who are agricultural contractors and also run a small lease block, have two children who have benefited from the programme.
Febe, now 14, started with Ōtorohanga Riding for the Disabled, four years ago. Through underlying anxiety, she was a selective mute when she started school, and wouldn’t even speak to teachers.
“When Febe came back from Riding for the Disabled days once a fortnight, she’d be on top of the world. She’d always had a love of horses, and the riding just boosted her confidence,” Susan said.
“They’re lovely people running the group and Febe just became happier in herself, and willing to go off and do things on her own.”
Febe’s brother Jack, 8, is now in his second year with RDA. Susan says counsellors aren’t entirely sure what’s behind his speech problems “but we’ve seen that Riding for the Disabled, together with what they’re doing with him at school, has really helped. He’s now stringing together sentences.”
Jack and Susan take their turn carpooling children with various disabilities to the riding arena and have seen for themselves the looks of joy, freedom and boosted confidence on the faces of participants.
“It really does make a huge difference,” Susan said.
- To get behind the Haystack Challenge, go to rda.org.nz and scroll down the page. You can keep an eye on the donated bale tally on the Federated Farmers Facebook.