The philosophy of using horses for the therapy of people with a disability is not new. The Greeks used horses for rehabilitating wounded soldiers in the fifth century BC and indeed throughout history, riding has been prescribed as a means of improving the mental and physical well-being of people with disabilities. In this century therapeutic riding was recognized by Dame Agnes Hunt, who established the first orthopedic hospital in the United Kingdom. Dame Agnes Hunt understood the real need for laughter and companionship in the recovery of health, and the importance of horses and riding for her patients. Her work was followed up with soldiers who had been disabled during both world wars and many hospitals deliberately encouraged riding as a means of therapy.
At the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, Madame Liz Hartel, a Danish polio victim, who was normally confined to a wheelchair, left her chair for her horse’s back and then proceeded to win a silver medal in the dressage event. This achievement naturally received worldwide attention, focusing on the fact that “It is ability that counts, not disability”. Her courage and achievement gave encouragement to many people.
Following the Games, Riding for the Disabled groups began springing up in countries throughout the western world. The first Australian group was started in 1964 by Mr and Mrs Peter McIntyre who, with the help of a few friends, started to give riding therapy to people with disabilities by inviting them to their property just outside Brisbane. South Australia commenced operation in 1970 and was followed by Victoria in 1971. In 1972 Mrs Pearl Batchelor, a riding school instructor, and Mrs Nan Everingham, a physiotherapist, founded the New South Wales branch. Western Australia, Canberra and Tasmania all started in the following years.
RDA (NSW) History
Riding for the Disabled Association (NSW) was formed after Pearl Batchelor AOM visited Riding for the Disabled Association in England in the early 1970s. With the combined interest and commitment of Pearl Batchelor and Nan Everingham the inaugural meeting was held on 23 October 1972. Lessons were held at Pearl Batchelor’s property Tall Timbers at West Pennant Hills. Riders from Northcott School Parramatta and Crowle Home were the first to participate.
In 1975 at Expo 75 the Australian Council for RDA was formed and RDA (NSW) hosted the first ACRDA conference with Michael Field the coordinator and administrator. Following this Daphne Pagnamenta from RDA UK accredited centres Tall Timbers, Throsby Park, Samurai Park and Hunters Riding Lodge.
RDA (NSW) now comprises of 35 RDA Centre’s. RDA (NSW) is a registered charity run predominantly by volunteers. RDA (NSW) became an incorporated company in 1981. Centre’s are the members of this body. Each centre pays an annual affiliation fee to RDA (NSW).