The people and the ‘moments’ behind the incredible work of Pegasus Riding for the Disabled

Posted in Community November 19th 2019

When John Riley started volunteering at Pegasus Riding for the Disabled in 2013, it felt “like coming home.”

Despite virtually growing up on horseback in Sydney’s Hills District – back when the area was still semi-rural – and competing in equestrian events well into his twenties, John hadn’t had horses in his life “for decades.” His role on the volunteer team at Pegasus changed that.

“I did have to unlearn some of my habits though,” John admits.

“There’s a highly specialised way of working at Pegasus, so even if you’re experienced with horses, there are things you have to unlearn to work in a specific way.”

john riley

Pegasus volunteer John Riley with Mighty Max.

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled was established in Canberra in the early 1970s to deliver the therapeutic benefits of horse riding to people living with a disability. As well as being fun, horse riding improves coordination, balance, muscle development and fitness.

For John and the small, passionate, hard-working team at Pegasus, seeing improved personal confidence, self esteem and communication skills in the program participants is “phenomenal”.

John says riding a horse evokes a sense of control and influence Pegasus’s participants have rarely, if ever, experienced. 

“They love it. It’s everything from the extraordinary satisfaction of being able to take charge of a very large animal, to applying an instruction they’ve been taught and having the horse actually respond to it,” he says.

lochie at pegasus riding

Lochie relaxing before a class at Pegasus.

“For others who might be a bit more socially withdrawn, it’s just seeing them make a connection to the world around them through their horse.”

Pegasus General Manager Stephanie Williams started at Pegasus as a volunteer six years ago, and found the volunteering experience so fulfilling she decided to focus her career on working with children living with disabilities. 

“The main reason I initially started volunteering was to work with the horses, but very soon it was the participants who kept me coming back,” Stephanie says.

“Their joy was infectious, and I realised just how important and significant the Pegasus programs are for these children.” 

stephanie williams

General Manager Stephanie Williams says it takes a very special horse – like Lochie – to join the Pegasus herd.

Stephanie became a disability education teacher and a Pegasus coach. In January this year, she came on board as a General Manager and is grateful to have the chance to contribute to building a stronger future for an organisation that changed her career and her life.

Given the proven therapeutic benefits of horse riding, it’s little wonder Pegasus has a waiting list. The organisation is focusing its efforts in the short-term on growing its herd of truly special horses, as well as looking more and more to Canberra businesses to assist with general running costs. 

Hayman Partners signed on as a Pegasus partner on 1 July 2019, and will contribute $20,000 over the next 12 months in cash and in-kind services.

riding for disabled

Rosie is definitely a favourite with Pegasus participants.

“Many of the kids at Pegasus have very little opportunity to engage with anything nearly as physical as what we offer here,” John explains.

“So for many of them, it’s a truly unique experience. And seeing them being able to get that input in their lives is a very special thing.”

Hayman Partners is proud to partner with Pegasus Riding for the Disabled. We’re super proud to have raised $10,701 last quarter to allow the incredible team at Pegasus to continue delivering activities that change lives.