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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shirley steps down

A Benalla Riding for the Disabled volunteer has achieved wonders in her three years with the organisation.

December 5, 2012 4:55am

Nick Martin with his riding mentor Shirley Roberts at RDA last week.


When it comes to Riding for Disabled, Shirley Roberts has plenty to give.

But last week she pulled up stumps on her involvement with the organisation — not by choice but due to health concerns that are preventing her from fulfilling the duties she has undertaken for more than three years.

Mrs Roberts isn’t just any ordinary volunteer. During the past few months she has been working with Benalla 31 Grade 1 student Nick Martin.

Seven-year-old Nick has severe autism, and when he joined RDA last year it wasn’t clear whether he would be able to participate in a class, or even ride a horse.

But this determined lad has proved his strength and perseverance with the help of Mrs Roberts.

‘‘Nick walks in now, puts a helmet on and mounts the horse on his own,’’ head coach Carolyn Walters said.

‘‘Shirley has just worked with him week in week out,’’ Carolyn said.

It’s not only Mrs Roberts’s contribution to RDA with Nick that makes her so special; she also has a wealth of horse knowledge and is a very experienced teacher.

‘‘She used to give lessons in dressage, she certainly has vast horse knowledge and also got us a couple of horses,’’ Carolyn said.

She said Mrs Roberts was one of a kind.

‘‘She is just incredible, she has a special bond with Nick and a soft spot to match, she has been involved for a few years and only missed a couple of meetings,’’ Carolyn said.

‘‘Even after her husband died last year she missed one week and was back.’’

She said it was these special volunteers that RDA needed.

‘‘They are all great but we do need a few more people.’’

It’s not only those helping on a Wednesday morning at the Four Mile Rd sheds who deserve a mention; there’s also the farmers who donate hay, which is a vital contribution.

‘‘That’s our biggest cost during winter, so we are very grateful for those who help us,’’ Carolyn said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer their time at RDA, or help out in some way, can do so by contacting Carolyn on 0415123938.

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