Tracy’s adventures at Wollondilly Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) started with a cautious approach. Initially shy and hesitant, it took several months before she even felt comfortable touching a horse.

Fast forward to the present, and Tracy has developed a deep connection to horseback riding. Recently crowned with the NSW RDA Rider of the Year Award, she has not only become more outgoing but has also expanded her community involvement through participation in Afford community services.

So, how did she embark on this journey to confidence? As verbal communication for Tracy is minimal, we share her story with insights drawn from the circle of supports who work beside Tracy in achieving her goals.

Finding strength in the saddle

Tracy’s breakthrough in horse riding was initiated by her one-on-one support worker, Shirley, from Interchange Australia. Already familiar with RDA, Shirley suggested horse riding as a therapeutic activity for Tracy. Reflecting on Tracy’s progress, Shirley said, “It took months of visits before she would even touch a horse, then we got to the point where she cuddled a horse. When she did get up on the pony, it was a magical moment because we all tried so hard.”

Jill, Wollondilly RDA Secretary, fondly remembers Tracy’s first ride. “The day she actually got on and rode, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Luckily, her mum and dad were there to witness the wonderful moment as well. Since then, we have watched her confidence improve, along with her coordination, balance, and speech.”

Tracy’s riding coach, Rosie, expressed joy at Tracy winning the RDA NSW Rider of the Year Award. She said that Tracy’s achievements underscore the core purpose of Riding for the Disabled. “There’s something that happens when our riders get up on a horse and see the world from above. They get a different perspective. We’re not trying to get our riders to the Olympics. This is grassroots, where it’s enough just to be happy. That’s what we see with Tracy. And she makes everyone around her feel happy too.”

Building community connections

Tracy’s mother, Ann, noticed a significant increase in Tracy’s confidence through her interactions with horses at RDA. Ann observed improvements in Tracy’s communication skills, saying, “I can see it in her communication where she has come along in leaps and bounds. Like, when she is out in the community now, she will try to initiate conversation and say hi.”

Ann also highlighted the positive impact of Tracy’s participation at an Afford Community Services Hub, where she attends a group program with one-on-one support. Ann said that Tracy enjoys the friends she has made, appreciates learning life skills, and loves the arts and crafts activities.

Chloe, the hub’s Service Manager, also noted Tracy’s delight in entertaining her friends with the dance moves she learns in her weekly Zumba class. Tracy’s involvement in the weekly sports activities offered by Afford partner Heroes with Ability has further contributed to her growth. Chloe said, “Since she’s been going to Heroes, we’ve seen her come out of her shell. Tracy has really excelled in that sports and athletic program, and she loves going. When she comes back, she is over the moon.”

From cautious beginnings to confidence in the saddle and in her community, Tracy’s journey is one of important personal growth. There’s no doubt Tracy will continue to flourish through her own determination, encouragement from family and supports, and engaging in activities that promote life skills, friendships, and enjoyment.

Community Services

Afford provides access for people with disability to a range of social and recreational activities in our hubs and in the community. We provide one-to-one support and group-based programs tailored to meet your needs and goals. Tap to find out more about Community Services at Afford.


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