Two unlikely charity buddies will use the race that stops the nation to saddle up for the future in a post-COVID world.
The synergy between Riding for the Disabled and Bravehearts helps empower children and those less able to deal with personal challenges and everyday life and Tuesday's Melbourne Cup will see both charities gallop off with a major fundraiser for Bravehearts and the recommencement of Riding for the Disabled at Wauchope Showground.
The Wauchope-Port Macquarie RDA meets at the Wauchope Showground each Tuesday and is part of a nationwide program that develops the abilities and enriches the lives of people with disabilities through sporting, therapeutic, educational and recreational equestrian activities.
Bravehearts which first started in 1997 has evolved into an industry-leading provider of child protection training and education programs.
Secretary of the RDA Catherine Wagstaffe said the mix of horses and their clients provided a learning environment like no other.
"The physical, emotional and social development that we witness on any given day, or for some over more than a decade still brings a smile to my face," she said.
Ms Wagstaffe points to a young girl, horse in tow.
"She was a very quiet girl and we have watched her grow into a lovely young adult, able to socialise, comfortable with people and the environment," she said.
"Another woman was blind, had never been on a horse until she was 65 and she has bloomed through her experience here."
Jayden started with RDA when he was in kindergarten.
"It helped him socialise - he knew everyone's name and just being greeted by all the volunteers was a highlight of his week," his mother Gaylene Stainforth said.
"With his condition he needed the core strength and so from that point of view it has been incredible - he has gone from strength to strength and continues to enjoy it to this day."
Bravehearts Mid North Coast President Jenny Watts recently took the charity's mascot Ditto to a Tuesday session.
Research suggests those with a learning disability are 2.5 times more likely to be the subject of a sexual abuse allegation than children without a learning disability.
"When you have volunteers and a program like Riding for Disabled that makes this incredibly diverse mix of people seemingly gel together you have the perfect environment for learning," Mrs Watts said.
"We have the same aim really - empowering young people to deal with issues they hopefully will never have to face, to be aware, to help them understand.
"I looked around at all the smiling faces, the kids, the volunteers and couldn't help but want to be involved, marvel at just the whole operation."
"I would love to have the opportunity to have Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure show performed for this group."
Hastings Secondary College, Westport Campus has a long relationship with the program bringing young students to the program with a mix of severe to moderate physical and mental disabilities.
"The majority of this group started this year, and what we see from the students when we go back to the campus is a level of communication and bonding that helps their learning and social skills," said Special Ed teacher Lucas Tierney.
Riding for the Disabled President John Smith said COVID lockdowns had been a new challenge.
"At first glance we thought we would have problems getting enough helpers but a quick call to the media for volunteers and as always, the local community came to help with 10/12 new volunteers," he said.
"Our priority is safety to all the riders and any person involved but it has to be fun too."
"We know we have achieved this by the smiles and actions during and after their rides."
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