SARDA: riding for the disabled

Logo SARDA - 2013-2SARDA is non-profit and public-benefit organisation that has riding centres all over South Africa. They offer therapeutic horse riding to physically and mentally disabled children and adults. Many of the people who come to ride at SARDA have conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome, autism, foetal alcohol syndrome, mental retardation, visual or hearing impairment, and genetic disorders.

Starting out at SARDA

SARDA has 11 ponies and 2 miniature donkeys. When a rider joins SARDA, a qualified instructor will assess the rider and then decide which pony will be most suitable for them to ride on. All the ponies are safe to ride and experienced with disabled children and adults. The pony becomes the ‘legs’ of a child who is unable to walk. The 3-way movement of a pony’s walk is similar to the motion of a human walk; when a disabled rider rides a pony, their unused or poorly functioning muscles are stimulated. Riding ponies also improves the rider’s posture and balance. Each therapy ride seeks to improve a child’s confidence and self-esteem, and to overcome physical or mental barriers.

A rider bonding with his horse after a ride

A rider bonding with his horse after a ride

Big difference

After the initial assessment, each child will ride for a period of 3 months. Disabled riders always see a tremendous change over this time. Riders can choose to continue with the therapy after the 3 months are up, and they usually progress to further activities.

The volunteers at SARDA are committed to making a difference in the lives of the disabled children and adults who come to ride with them. Most of the riders require at least 2 helpers: one to lead the pony and at least one other person to side-walk, assist and encourage the rider.

Do your bit

SARDA relies on public donations to keep going. If you would like to donate or get involved, contact sarda@earthcentre.org.za or visit sarda.co.za to find out which branch number to call.