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Smiles reward enough for RDA Volunteer of Year

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Riding for the Disabled
ON CLOUD NINE: St Patrick’s School pupil, Samantha Mulgrew, who has vision impairment, enjoys her ride on Reindeer at Te Awamutu RDA on Tuesday at Kihikihi Domain, led by Carol Penman (front) with help from Ann Johnston (left) and Beth Best. 200071AD

By Grant Johnston

Carol Penman’s 25-year involvement with Riding for the Disabled began as a client. She was recently named Volunteer of the Year for New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association - receiving the Tom Atchison Trophy.

“I had a disability that affected my balance and I found attending Riding for the Disabled at Tokanui really helped,” Mrs Penman recalls After her rehabilitation was completed, she decided to stay on as a helper.

“I realised how much it had done for me and I knew first hand about the benefits of riding,” Mrs Penman says. “I’ve always loved horses and seeing the improvement it made for people with disabilities and the enjoyment they got out of it ... I was addicted.”

By 1990 Mrs Penman was the secretary-treasurer for Te Awamutu Group RDA and she began coach training sessions. In 1991 the group moved from Waipa Racecourse to Kihikihi Domain - Carol is still secretary and attends every Tuesday to assist with coaching (she holds a Level II coaching qualification).

“It helps give the riders a feeling of achievement and builds up their self esteem. There is often an affinity between rider and horse. Horses are great - you can say anything to them, they never answer back,” Mrs Penman quips.

For the past three years she has been helping out with Ride Hi - RDA’s Hamilton Group who meet every Monday and Wednesday. Riders are often set individual goals and matching the right horse and rider is an important task. Mrs Penman also helps with the equestrian section at Special Olympics.

Guy Ockenden of NZRDA says Carol’s eagerness and willingness to help never fails to amaze all those who come into contact with her.

“If there is a job to be done that’s where you’ll find Carol, just wanting to make a difference in the lives of her riders.”