We welcome Barrow Farm Riding for the Disabled to WHCS.
Karen Lehner from the charity tells us: "We provide riding for 120 disabled children and adults every week.
Barrow Farm RDA is a registered charity and the only full time specialist centre in the RDA Essex region and U's midfielder Alex Gilbey went to visit the centre last week.
At Tuesday night's game against Bradford City, we welcome Barrow Farm Riding for the Disabled (RDA). "Our riders are children and adults, aged 5 to 78 years, with a range of disabilities, often multiple and of a severe nature – learning and physical difficulties and many on the autistic spectrum. Four special schools bring children to ride with us. Riders come to us from all over Essex.
"We are the only group in Essex to also offer carriage driving as an alternative to riding.
"Life for our riders and their families can be challenging. It is difficult for them to find regular weekly physical activities due to the nature of their disabilities."
They come to Barrow Farm to:-
• to enjoy therapeutic riding in a safe and happy environment
• to access our unique facilities including a hoist for mounting for our most severely disabled riders
• to increase their all-round fitness and improve their coordination, joint mobility, balance and muscle tone
• to make friends
• to have fun
The charity was started 40 years ago by Anne Mitchell MBE and her parents.
Karen added: "We have five paid members of staff and four volunteer coaches, all trained to coach individuals with disabilities. We have over 100 volunteers all from the local community.
"For a ride of 4 ponies we may need up to 12 volunteers to help the riders. There are 11 unpaid Trustees and 11 wonderful (specially selected for their temperament) highly trained ponies."
• "Her life is full of restrictions and frustrations, when she rides she delights in the activity and it gives us much pleasure to see that"
• "At Barrow Farm no-one takes any notice of unusual behaviour, you don’t have to justify yourself or apologise for your child’s behaviour, you don’t have to explain their difficulties"
• "Horse riding has helped her with both her balance and posture. Her confidence has grown over the years, throughout the week she constantly asks if it's horse riding that day"
• "Barrow Farm has given them a few hours of pure happiness each week where they truly relax and engage with the world around them – as a parent of autistic twins you couldn’t ask for a greater gift than that"
Karen continues: "Keeping the ponies and providing specialist facilities and equipment for our children are expensive.
"We have an indoor school, a pony hoist, wheelchair ramps and disabled toilets with changing facilities. Many of our children are still in nappies.
"Some of our facilities are 30 years old and in need of modernisation. It costs £120,000 a year to run the centre and whilst we charge a small fee for the riding sessions, over 60% of our money comes from donations, fund raising events and grants.
"Thank you for reading about Barrow Farm. Please help us to help these families with their very special children and adults."
Barrow Farm Riding for the Disabled, Metsons Lane, High Wood, Essex CM1 3QR
Registered Charity Number 1139280 Registered Company Number 7413930
The U's take on Bradford in their next home game - buy your tickets now at the Advance rate!