VoiceOver users please use the tab key when navigating expanded menus

In the Saddle - Improving health and wellbeing through horse riding

Richmond Riding for the Disabled provides interaction with horses to improve health and wellbeing for people experiencing disability, or who have specific challenges or needs. It recently received a grant from the ANZ Staff Foundation.


For thirteen-year-old Maddy Pronk and her eleven-year-old-sister Keni their Wednesday horse ride is a highlight of the week.


“It’s been wonderful to see them come out of their shells,” says their mother Ali McKee. “Riding gives them a sense of purpose.”


The sisters, both on the autism spectrum, ride with Richmond Riding for the Disabled.


Established in 1978, the charity is one of over 50 independently financed and managed groups that are affiliated to the New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association.


“We use horse riding as a form of therapy, rehabilitation and recreation for people with disabilities,” says Tina Angus, the Head Coach at Richmond RDA.


“We aim to help our riders develop confidence, independence and wellbeing through our therapeutic horse related programmes.”


Ali McKee says that riding with Richmond RDA has helped with Keni’s anxiety.


“She has to work hard at remaining calm, as the horse will pick up on whatever the rider is feeling.”


“Keni can feel overwhelmed, but the riding has helped to relax her.”


For Maddy the coaches have become “great mentors. Talking to them and to the horses has been a great way to help the girls develop social skills.”


"Every horse has a unique personality and temperament. They can cater to a range of different jobs, needs and riders."

Tina Angus - Richmond Riding for the Disabled Head Coach



Therapeutic horse riding helps develop, improve and promote many skills, including balance, co-ordination, muscle tone, concentration, self-discipline and self-esteem.


It also helps riders with their perception and spatial awareness; communication and social skills; independence and decision-making.


Richmond RDA has ten horses, and care is taken to match the horses with the riders.


“Every horse has a unique personality and temperament,” says Tina. “They’re all different.”


“We have a combination of different horses, who can cater to a range of different jobs, needs and riders.”


Richmond RDA offers sessions five days a week, for riders ranging in age from 5 years old to 80.


“We provide effective, individually designed programmes for our riders.”


Richmond RDA does not receive government funding, so donations and volunteers are vital to keep it running.


The donations and grants help pay for two full time staff and two part time staff, as well as the care of the horses and the maintenance of facilities.“

Maddy and Opal


“Like every charitable organisation, funding is an ongoing challenge,” says Tina. “Especially over the last couple of years.”


Last year the ANZ Staff Foundation gave the charity a grant for $1470 to help pay for health checks for the horses.


“We pride ourselves on looking after the horses’ wellbeing,” says Tina.


“The health checks help ensure that they are kept at optimal health to withstand all the rigours that some of our riders can place upon them. If any of our horses are suffering stress or disease we can identify the problem as soon as possible.”


The chair of the ANZ Staff Foundation, David Bricklebank, says “it’s inspiring to hear about riders like Maddy and Keni, and how they have benefitted from riding with Richmond RDA.”


“So we were pleased to be able to help with the heath checks for the horses. It’s crucial for the work they do.”


People can be referred to the organisation in several ways, including word of mouth or referral from a health, recreational or teaching professional. Riders can also apply directly.


Ali McKee is keen to encourage people to consider the benefits of riding.


“It’s been a fantastic experience for our girls. They’ve found somewhere they fit in, and it’s become their whole world.”


You can read more about Riding for the Disabled Richmond here, including information about volunteering or becoming a donor.


Since its inception in 2000, the ANZ New Zealand Staff Foundaton has distributed over $8 million in community grants to more than 920 charities and community projects nationwide.



Wild Whiskers - the charity giving wild kittens and stray cats a second chance

Wild Whiskers rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes wild kittens. It received a grant from the ANZ NZ Staff Foundation.

Woven Earth - the charity helping survivors of domestic abuse

The charity Woven Earth helps people who've escaped domestic violence. It's received an ANZ Staff Foundation grant to help transport the furnishings it donates to families setting up new homes.

Arts for health and friendship

Arts For Health which runs creative workshops and wellness sessions has received a grant from the ANZ Staff Foundation.