A DISABLED riding centre welcomed a special volunteer as High Sheriff of Northumberland Fiona Sample took the reins.
Mrs Sample was invited to the Pegasus Riding for the Disabled Centre in Tranwell to gets hands-on experience of its work and find out more about its valued services.
The keen horsewoman first joined volunteers in helping five teenagers from the Northumberland Church of England Academy in Ashington as a ‘side walker’, encouraging them to guide their ponies around bending cones and over poles to complete various exercises, before a ride out over the fields along a specially designed track.
She then watched four adults ride in the indoor school, spoke to volunteers, including several teenage girls who regularly care for the ponies and a young apprentice working in the office, and watched a video of four of the centre’s riders competing at the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships, where they were placed from third to seventh.
RDA National Chairman and Morpeth Group Trustee Sam Orde said: “We were delighted to have the High Sheriff visit the Pegasus Centre to see the work that we do and join a Morpeth Riding for the Disabled session.
“As Fiona has experience with horses we suggested that she may enjoy and get the most out of this experience by joining us as a hands-on volunteer.”
She added: “It was a pleasure to show the High Sheriff how we help disabled children and adults to have therapy and a lot of pleasure as they achieve so much on the back of a horse.”
Mrs Sample was pleased to attend the centre and impressed to see its work in action.
“I have never been there before and I was humbled and inspired. They are doing fantastic work,” she said.
“What I hadn’t appreciated before was that they not only provide fun and a different experience for people, but riding also improves conditions and helps with movement and confidence.
“The adult class was remarkable. There was a woman who had a severe stroke and only took up riding in her 60s, after the stroke, and she is more or less recovered now.
“She puts a lot of that down to the riding.
“I thought they would cater for people with slight disabilities and take them for a little ride, but there are people with huge problems who with encouragement and kindness are given new experiences, enjoyment and confidence.
“It is a superbly run facility by a dedicated team of volunteers.”
The centre currently has about 80 volunteers, doing a range of jobs from helping disabled riders six days a week to looking after ponies and writing newsletters.
However, with more than 3,000 rides provided for about 400 disabled adults and children every year there is always a need for more help.
Previous experience with horses is not essential as training will be given. Anyone wishing to help can go along to the centre in Tranwell.
The Pegasus Centre has recently been awarded a Skills for Health Young Apprenticeship award for Outstanding Commitment to Developing the Future Workforce.