Back to top anchor

Brought to you by Southern DHB and WellSouth primary health network

Open main menu Close main menu

New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association (NZRDA)

On this page

    About NZRDA

    NZRDA is a membership association of over 50 RDA Groups located in communities throughout New Zealand. Our vision is to Reach More Riders and Change More Lives.  We value safety, teamwork, respect, quality, enjoyment, and empathy.

    We increase ability through participation in goal-based horse-riding and horse-related activities. We provide life-changing opportunities for over 3,000 riders each year. These opportunities increase the ability, strength and confidence of children and adults with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges.

    Most of our riders are children or teenagers but we welcome people of all ages. Just over a third of our riders have a physical or intellectual disability. 27% are on the autistic spectrum. 24% face educational challenges (including learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Many of our riders live with more than one disability.

    Our programmes

    We have three core (inter-connected) riding programmes: Education; Therapy; and Sport and Recreation. We also provide a crucial pathway and the complete infrastructure for riders who aspire to participate in Special Olympics and Para Equestrian. 

    While a rider's primary purpose or goal initially may be therapy (for example), we incorporate education and recreation elements into our sessions. Each rider has their own goal-based programme. This is individualised to meet their specific needs.

    In delivering our programmes, we use a team approach. This involves a trained coach and assistants, medical, educational or other professionals, the rider and their support people and, of course, the horse.

    Our support

    Ensuring safe equestrian participation is a highly specialised field at the best of times – and even more so, given the particular challenges our riders face. Every rider is provided with his or her own RDA support team. Every support team receives training to be more effective and to be able to deliver high-quality, safe, goal-based positive outcomes for our riders.

    NZRDA directly supports every RDA Group. We provide professional development and advice as well as regular on-site training and resources for volunteers and coaches (for example, on health and safety, equine therapy, and medical conditions). We provide training at all levels, starting with an initial focus on safety, leading, side-walking, assisting with mounting, dismounting and horse preparation. 

    We liaise with Primary ITO and we encourage our volunteers and coaches to achieve advanced qualifications that enable them to deliver consistently positive outcomes for our riders.

    NZRDA undertakes annual Operational Certificate Reviews of every RDA Group – these reviews are like a ‘Warrant of Fitness’ and ensure health and safety and other legislative and industry ‘best practice’ standards are met. The Operational Certificate Review is both an audit and a development tool. It identifies potential improvements, ensures safety and quality outcomes, provides credibility, and reinforces the partnership between NZRDA and RDA groups.

    Programme benefits

    Our programmes aim to develop, increase and improve physical abilities, psychological abilities, social abilities, and recreational/sport/vocational abilities. They are designed to complement conventional therapies and education. The warmth and three-dimensional movement of the horse is transmitted through the rider’s body, gradually making the rider more relaxed and supple, reducing spasms and improving their balance, posture and co-ordination. 

    Riding benefits children and adults with a wide range of special needs, including but not limited to: Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, CVA (stroke), Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, Learning Disability, Hearing and Visual Impairments, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and Spinal Cord Injury (Para/Quadriplegia).

    People with mobility problems often discover a new freedom in movement and those with progressive diseases can retain mobility and activity longer. 

    RDA referrals

    A person may be referred to RDA in a number of ways. This includes word of mouth or referral from a health, recreational, teaching or care-giving professional. 

    There are some instances where riding is not recommended. Advice is sought from medical professionals if this may be the case.

    Injury, illness or disability

    Age groups

    • Child / Tamariki
    • Youth / Rangatahi
    • Adult / Pakeke