The insight shown by thc Connemara Pony Breeders Society in backing the efforts of concerned local individuals and breeders to provide Therapeutic Riding in the Connemara area has been warmly welcomed by all. The demonstration in the Show-grounds during the recent Connemara Pony Festival Week was a fine example of social responsibility.
The group ‘Paving the Way’ which supports people with disabilities and their families is centred in Clifden and Jean Mullan of this Association was delighted to see the graduation of ten newly qualified Coaches from the Connemara area presented with their Certificates, having completed the series of 10 trainings and associated academic work over the past 2 years under Festina Lente Trainer Jill Carey. (Their names are recorded below) Leaders and side-walkers also receive training, as three people are needed to ensure the comfort, safety and well-being of each rider.
The coaches, all volunteers, are trained to design, develop and deliver appropriate ride sessions for each of their charges. The tack used is simple, consisting of a bitless bridle and a roller with hand grips keeping in place a saddle pad.
Forum Connemara and Leader support has enabled training and equipment to be provided to the Connemara Therapeutic Riding Association for this valuable work. Festina Lente, whose work maxim is “ therapy disguised as fun”, is based in Bray and introduced therapeutic riding at its Co. Wicklow base, a programme which is not really about learning to ride but aims to make riding an enjoyable and physically beneficial activity while promoting social inclusion.
Part of the scheme’s therapy comes from experiencing the movement of the horse, which has been shown to have emotional and physical benefits, giving greater awareness and self-confidence to people with special needs. The riders learn they can love, groom and pet the pony as well as direct it and control its movements as was seen in the Clifden demonstration. It has been shown that Therapeutic riding benefits individuals with all types of disablement and their brochure lists 17 different conditions including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, emotional disabilities, Autism, mental health challenges, accidents and stroke being just a few.
Clifden is now the only other centre in Ireland outside Wicklow which runs coaching trainings and there are now 50 coaches working countrywide. The group of people involved in Paving the Way secured the support of Forum Connemara and obtained Leader support, by submitting a Business Plan. They secured the support of the Connemara Pony Society as the up-and-running business to give them backing. The few years it took to negotiate all of this has now come to fruition. Sean Boulger, a nephew of the late Bobby, and his wifeTany, pictured here with their cousin June Boulger and her son Liam, have first- hand experience of the benefits of this horse therapy back home in Boston and were very impressed by the committed display of all concerned. Organisations like this are a beacon of light in our world today where horrendous crimes of cruelty and murder against fellow human beings – sometimes said to be done in the name of religion – monopolises our news media on a daily basis. At the other end of the spectrum the volunteers of CPTRA are working to add to the quality of life of their fellow human beings; long may their work continue.
CTRA coaches now in the Connemara Area: Michelle Acton, Jacqueline Bolger, Jessica Conneely, Deirdre Holmes, Mary Ward, Eileen Bennett, Mairéad McDonagh, Mary Mitchell, Margaret Walsh, Roger Joyce. See them
On Facebook www.facebook.com/connemaratherapeuticridingassociation
Connemara Green Hunter
Earlier on that same Wednesday the Connemara Green Working Hunter Final, limited to 4yr. old qualified Connemara ponies, had taken place. A total of nine of the 10 finalists rode and jumped their ponies and showed them in – hand in numerical order before Celine Essame and the ride Judge- the highly experienced Tony Ennis – rode each pony. His verdict on performance and temperament was added to the list of points already noted for each young pony. Susan Gageby Denham’s dun gelding, Bertraboy Beau Geste (Gwennic de Goariva X Maoilisa) with his rider Alicia Devlin Byrne came out with top marks. Denise Norton, one of the originators of this very successful event, had quickly totted up the marks and the immediately delivered final result made for a really fast-paced competition, efficiently well organised. Congratulations to all you owners and riders who worked so hard to bring these young 4yr olds up to such an advanced stage of training so soon in their careers.
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