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Come Along for the Ride – Pegasus Riding for the Disabled Q&A

One of Canberra’s oldest local charities, Pegasus Riding for the Disabled ACT, is currently in full swing for their much-loved school holiday programs. Including an upgraded un-mounted program, with a newly refurbished arena, ramp and some adorable miniature horses, this charity ensures those in wheelchairs can participate in all the fun.

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled’s Executive General Manager, Matthew Watson talked to me about the beloved not-for-profit organisation and why people should get involved.

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled’s Executive General Manager, Matthew Watson

Q: What is Pegasus Riding for the Disabled?

A: Pegasus is a charity, not-for-profit organisation. It started back in the mid-’70s, with a focus around providing therapy services to children and adults living with a disability through horse facilitated programs.

We run several programs, where our most popular are our riding programs which teach kids to ride their horse. These programs are really good for their muscle strength, core strength, coordination, as well as verbal communication.

Pegasus’ school holiday program arena

For those who can’t ride, we have programs with horses where the participant will learn horse grooming, horse care, they’ll take the horse for exercise, learn about farm work, and stable work.

We have upgraded the arena with a hard-surface ground and a new ramp, suitable for people in wheelchairs, and we have new miniature horses for those programs.

Pegasus’ miniature horse: Blondie

Q: How do horses help those living with disabilities?

 A: Something about that connection with all animals, we’re all very familiar with therapy pets, and other animals. A horse is very unique. It’s a very large animal, but a very caring animal and can connect with humans quite well.

A horse’s walk is very similar to how humans walk when you’re riding it, so this helps our participants with their muscle strength and their core strength, in engaging similar muscles to what they would be using if they were walking. And of course, the connection between the participant and such a caring animal. So, they provide an all-around therapy.

Pegasus’ mounted program for riders

Q: What’s the best thing about working with Pegasus?

A: My most favourite thing is seeing the children develop throughout their time. Especially a lot of the kids I see coming through from the special needs schools who don’t have many opportunities in life. Some of them have behaviours which you know, you wouldn’t normally expect and when they come here they’re calm, they’re respectful of the animal, they have huge smiles on their faces and you get to watch the change and development throughout the year.

Q: How can you get involved?

A: We currently have about 150 volunteers who are active in one form or another within the organisation.

I encourage people to go to our website and learn more about who we are; the best way to get involved is to click through to the volunteering tab. You don’t need to be a horse person to volunteer at Pegasus, we’ve got many different roles including, program work, administration work, and stable work, and we provide all the training on-site. Volunteering is really the best way to help.

The other way, of course, is through donations and fund-raising support. We rely very heavily on the community for financial support.

I encourage people to come out and get to know us. We’ve been here since the mid-’70s, we truly are a local organisation, we’re all local people, local volunteers, our participants, our fundraising, all stays 100% here in Canberra. We’ve got so much more to offer than just supporting our participants, it’s the community as well.

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