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Disabled riding returns after horse flu

February 21, 2008

A young horsewoman enjoys a ride at Pegasus.

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled in Canberra has restarted its riding programmess following a five month closure due to equine influenza.

"Our doors essentially closed on 28 August last year when the flu hit, but ... we will finally have our programmes back in full swing," Executive Officer Rebecca Layton said.

Pegasus is a not-for-profit community organisation that offers therapeutic, sporting and recreational equestrian programmes for people with a disability.

"Even though Canberra has not had an outbreak of the flu, we have chosen to maintain strict bio-security precautions throughout the period. Our horses are so valuable to our programme that we have not been willing to take any risk of infection and we are only just now allowing our volunteers back onto the property. Even then, we are still asking them to take some simple steps to ensure that our horses remain flu free."

About 100 riders with a disability participate in lessons on the specially trained horses at Pegasus each week. They rely on about 100 volunteers each week to assist them in their classes.

Pegasus Volunteer Manager, Deborah Perry, reported that after the five-month shut down, Pegasus is now busy recruiting new volunteers for this year's programmes.

"Because of the lengthy break in our program we are in need of 15 to 20 new volunteers this year," Perry said.

"Volunteers who assist riders during their lessons do not need any special skills as we provide them with all the training they need for their role. They just need to be over 14 years old, able to make a regular commitment of a couple of hours each week and have an interest in children or horses," Perry said.

"We also use volunteers in a range of other roles, such as property management, horse care, fundraising, promotion and admin tasks."

Many people think that volunteering is just about giving, but at Pegasus it's also about receiving. Volunteers benefit in a range of ways through opportunities to use existing skills and develop new ones; experience a sense of fulfilment by assisting others to achieve goals that they never thought themselves capable of; and to interact and make connections in their local community whilst doing something that they enjoy in a safe and stimulating environment.



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