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Community project - Tall in the saddle

10 July 2019
plumbing community riding disabled project

Many more people with special needs in the Wellington region can now enjoy Riding for the Disabled services, thanks to the generosity of volunteer subcontractors, including members of the Wellington Master Plumbers.

The act of getting on a horse and riding in a safe, supportive environment has an incredibly therapeutic effect on people with disabilities, as Ngaire and Jeremy Mansfield know first-hand. For the past three years the couple, who are joint directors of Straight Flush Plumbing in Wellington, have taken their autistic son Baxter, now nine, to Wellington Riding for the Disabled (RDA).

“Communication is really difficult for Baxter,” says Ngaire. “For him to be able to get a horse to trot without needing speech gives him a sense of control in a world that’s really hard to understand. When he’s on a horse, he’s happy and calm. Apart from the benefits of helping with physical movement and balance, it’s also developed his skills in taking simple instructions.”

Wellington Riding for the Disabled (RDA) has been around for 45 years, 32 of them at Kenepuru Hospital grounds. The facilities had slowly become dilapidated and an upgrade wasn’t an option, as the lease wasn’t going to be renewed long term, due to planned housing development for the site.

Arena on the move

So, in late 2016, this RDA branch made the move to a bigger site in the rural surrounds of Battle Hill Farm Forest Park, just under 40km outside Wellington. Managed by Greater Wellington Regional Council, Battle Hill is a working farm that also offers camping, tramping, pony club and bridle/cycle trails for the community.

They started on a temporary site with an outdoor arena, portaloo and a borrowed office and tack space. But they had ambitious plans for their nearby permanent base, which they hoped would increase their ability to cater to riders’ needs and enable more people to enjoy the facility. The dream was to include an admin office, storage room, horse yards, toilets, grazing and an Olympic-sized covered arena that could operate in all weathers.


Plumbing help on hand

The necessary funding was more than this not-for-profit organisation had at its disposal, so it turned to the community for support.

“It seemed absurd that we live in the capital city of New Zealand and had no permanent, fit-for-use site for such an established, nationwide service,” recalls Ngaire of the couple’s decision to get involved. “The proposed development was going to serve a gaping need for generations to come.

“We decided that between the membership we could make a difference, so we invited Donna Kennedy, Wellington RDA President, to present at a branch meeting in June 2018, after which we had unanimous support in the room to get the job done. Initially, Jeremy and I had wanted to offer free installation of the bathrooms, but the support grew to offer time and equipment—not only among the Wellington branch members but from Marley, Plumbing World and Buteline for supplying product to the project.”

The full scope of the branch and supplier involvement comprised the installation of unisex toilets, an accessible bathroom/sickbay, kitchen facilities, tack room sink bench and stable hose taps. Outside, there was plenty of work to be done on creating a stormwater system connecting to water tanks, a soil drain, septic tank and drainage field, and potable water supply to the building and horse wash down area.

Septic tank and sump work carried out by Mana Plumbing Drainage work got underway in mid-January

Thanks to the generosity of the plumbers and other subcontractors, the build started ahead of schedule. By August, the plumbing team were prepping the slab for the toilet facilities, and Wellington RDA’s blog perfect summed out how much this meant to them. “…we need a huge shout out to this team who are doing all our plumbing for FREE – Yip, FREE, NADA, ZIP!! How incredibly generous is that' Jeremy Mansfield from Straight Flush Plumbing has organised all this and is assisted by Plimmer Plumbing (Derek Plimmer), Justin Harris Plumbing (Justin Harriss) and Mana Plumbing (James Taylor).”

Meanwhile, Plumbing World Wellington donated all front-of-wall products, Buteline the internal water piping, Marley the drainage materials and Rheem a hot water cylinder.

Volunteer plumbers at work on the pre-slab. For Jud Harriss of Justin Harriss Plumbing, this project had particular significance, as his family were involved in the fit-out of the original Kenepuru RDA facility 45 years ago.

A new long-term facility

By April 2019, the project was complete—a little behind schedule but ready for use before the arrival of winter. The official opening was attended by Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne along with over 200 other guests. Donna Kennedy took the opportunity to thank all who had worked with the Wellington RDA to get them to this point.

“As a group, we are satisfied to have contributed to an amazing, long-term facility that will serve more people, for longer,” says Ngaire. “The Wellington region deserves this, and we are proud to have helped make it happen and pay it forward.”

Just as the finishing touches were being made on the arena, Baxter was fortunate enough to secure a place at a small residential home school in Hawke’s Bay. “He’s happy, adjusted and flourishing,” says Ngaire. “Within a few weeks, they’d even got him riding a bike, which is something we never managed to do. It’s a shame he didn’t get to use the new arena, but Donna has promised him his own personal ride in the holidays.”

About Riding for the Disabled

New Zealand Riding for the Disabled (NZRDA) is a registered charity of 54 affiliated RDA groups throughout NZ. Formally established in 1972, RDA provides riding activities that increase the ability, strength and confidence of children and adults with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges.

RDANZ has nearly 500 horses, the majority of which it owns. The rest are leased or borrowed from supporters. A trained team of RDA coaches and volunteers assist and care for each rider.

 To donate or register your interest in becoming a volunteer, visit www.rda.org.nz

 This blog has been adapted from an article in NZ Plumber magazine, Jun/Jul 2019 issue.


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