Riding group now open to all

Riding for the community . . . Instructors Anton van Schalkwyk, with Maverick, and Tiana van Schalkwyk, with Snoopy, will be standing by to teach riding and horse-craft at Clutha Community Riding. PHOTO: NICK BROOK


Horse riding and therapy has become all-inclusive with the transformation of Balclutha Riding for the Disabled into Clutha Community Riding (CCR).

‘‘We are absolutely still here for those with special needs but after 28 years we’re pleased to be able to share the wonderful benefits of the equine skill set with anyone who wants to learn,’’ CCR vice-president Anton van Schalkwyk said.

The group resigned from the Riding for the Disabled network in October and will be fully rebranded and restructured by January, but was ‘‘pretty much already up and running’’, still at 144 Johnston Rd, Balclutha, where six active horses work around purpose-built yards and an indoor arena.

CCR has about 15 volunteers including Mr van Schalkwyk, who is senior tutor in rural animal technology and equine studies at Telford College, his daughter Tiana, who is a professional riding instructor, and Telford students, whose help supplements their studies.

Humans and horses began working together about 6000 years ago, and the van Schalkwyks said this ancient relationship might play a part in the deep and often surprising affinity people felt for horses that was key to the benefits of equine training. ‘‘Riding promotes physical fitness, balance and motor skills but the combination of person and horse is really powerful, and that motivates patience, discipline, care and teamwork,’’ Ms van Schalkwyk said.

The CCR team specialises in cognitive games and activities for individualised goals.

‘‘On the therapeutic side of things, some people don’t really look forward to their medical therapy appointments but really enjoy coming for their riding lessons,’’ Mr van Schalkwyk said.

‘‘We have a lot of people to thank for their support, especially Cleverleys, Clutha Vets, Sport Otago, Clutha Foundation and Clutha District Council for arranging the property very generously,’’ Mr van Schalkwyk said.

Much of the funding has been used for new horse tack, and operation as a non-profit means user fees will be set at at rates to cover costs and maintenance.

CCR has a new Facebook page and continues to operate from 9am-2pm on Saturdays. A family orientated open day is planned.