Volunteers

Meet Our

Volunteers

We need all sorts of people to run Muirfield Riding Therapy; meet some of them below. We have volunteers from age 10 to age 86! Some of our volunteers come with horse knowledge and others are people people; everyone’s skills and talents are used.

If you have a few hours to spare a week, please come along to one of volunteer training sessions and see what we get up to; have a chat with the friendly session Training Mentors; meet the Riders and of course the Ponies! Training is taken at your pace. Experience is far less important than enthusiasm. Meet some of our team members below.

meet our Board of Directors

Susan Law

Susan Law

Well, when I felt my kids no longer needed me at home full time, I thought I would go to check out this RDA thing I heard about. I had always loved horses but had not been around them much since I was about 12 years old. My plan was to go down and just help with the ponies. I had never had any contact with people with a disability and didn’t think I would be much use helping with the Riders.

However I soon realised that new helpers quickly become involved with all aspects of the operation! I was soon to learn that, as well as being around horses again (don’t you just love the smell?), I would also be privileged to work with some amazing people who happen to have a disability. I have made so many friends working with the group, Riders, Parents and fellow Volunteers, and find the work so rewarding.

I became an RDAGI about 8 years ago and qualified as an RDAI 2 years ago. I have also started on a UKCC although I am still not sure the difference between a coach and an Instructor!

Susan Bennett

Susan Bennett

Susan joined MRT as a volunteer in 2011.  She sidewalks and leads in Tuesday morning sessions and is involved with various fundraising activities throughout the year.  Susan’s background is in business, including owning and running a small livery yard.  Latterly she organised arts related tours for patrons and supporters of cultural associations.  She has been a director/trustee of MRT since December 2014.
Gill Morrison

Gill Morrison

In 1986 I offered to help with a small RDA Group operating in East Lothian. It was moved to a local riding school and then the organiser moved south and I was left “holding the reins”.  In 1990, with a handful of friends, 4 ponies and 8 riders we moved here to West Fenton and the Muirfield Group was formed. From the sapling we now have a huge tree!

I am happy to be an instructor working with the adult riders on Thursdays and we have an enthusiastic, loyal, energetic team of volunteers working with some equally enthusiastic riders. Thursdays are challenging, but always rewarding and fun!

Lorna MacEwan

Lorna MacEwan

Lorna has been a volunteer with MRT since 2009. She has been a sidewalker with Tuesday sessions and has been involved in a number of administration and fundraising projects, including art exhibitions. Lorna’s background is in policy development and legal issues. Since 2014 she has been a director/trustee of MRT with responsibility for governance matters, e.g. the Articles of Association.

Meet our Operating Group

Susan Law

Susan Law

Chairperson
Well, when I felt my kids no longer needed me at home full time, I thought I would go to check out this RDA thing I heard about. I had always loved horses but had not been around them much since I was about 12 years old. My plan was to go down and just help with the ponies. I had never had any contact with people with a disability and didn’t think I would be much use helping with the Riders.

However I soon realised that new helpers quickly become involved with all aspects of the operation! I was soon to learn that, as well as being around horses again (don’t you just love the smell?), I would also be privileged to work with some amazing people who happen to have a disability. I have made so many friends working with the group, Riders, Parents and fellow Volunteers, and find the work so rewarding.

I became an RDAGI about 8 years ago and qualified as an RDAI 2 years ago. I have also started on a UKCC although I am still not sure the difference between a coach and an Instructor!

Deborah McLaughlin

Deborah McLaughlin

Web and fundraising
I’ve been volunteering with MRT for around three years. My friend Tracey recruited me to the newly-formed Wednesday morning session and I haven’t looked back since! My background is in fundraising events and operations management so I was invited to sit on the Operating Group too. Our Wednesday morning riders come from schools in the local area. I’ve always loved horses. It’s fantastic working with the kids and the ponies, leading and side walking, we have lots of fun.
Sharron Colvin

Sharron Colvin

Pony welfare
I was brought up in the market town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders and have been around ponies and horses all my life. I’ve been riding since the age of 10, starting with lessons, then owning my own pony and a lifelong passion followed. After a career on stage, from touring variety, to pantomime in the Kings Theatre Edinburgh and overseas with the White Heather Group, a chat with my daughter who had picked up a Muirfield Riding Therapy flyer led to my involvement with the group. Now I’m a newly qualified instructor and look forward to meeting old and new riders and volunteers. I hope they get as much enjoyment out of being part of this hugely rewarding activity as I do.
Carolyn Gemmell

Carolyn Gemmell

Wednesday AM
I have been volunteering on Saturday mornings since 2008 but have recently transferred to Wednesday mornings, and I’m also the session communicator. Getting up sometimes on a cold & wet mornings in the middle of winter can be a challenge, but just the look on our riders faces when they are riding makes it all worthwhile. Part of the role of being a communicator is to encourage & motivate the other volunteers into organising & participating in the fund raising activities, which are such an important part of what we do at Muirfield Riding Therapy.

Audrey Arthur

Parents and Carers
I first became involved with Muirfield Riding for the Disabled when David, my son, was 7 years old and started riding on Friday afternoons.  That was 23 years ago!

I took over as the Rider, Parent and Carer representative on the committee when Sheena retired from office and still love being involved in MRT.  I enjoy walking, baking, Pilates and holidays in Orkney.  I recently retired from Ross High School where I was a Learning Support Teacher.

Helen Boyd

Helen Boyd

Volunteer Training
I first started volunteering at MRT when my youngest daughter went off to university. I had known about MRT for several years but mistakenly thought I couldn’t devote enough time to make myself of any use. How wrong was I! If you have spare time, MRT can use you! I had virtually no horse experience before I started but quickly learned how to bring in the ponies, groom and tack them up. I have now been a volunteer for 6 years and basically love what I do. I work mostly with children and the enjoyment and progress you see them achieving is extremely rewarding. It is also very sociable and I have made a lot of new friends, not to mention become very fond of our lovely ponies.

Two/three years ago I was asked to join the Organising Group and my main role now is Training Coordinator. I work with the session Mentors and try to visit each of the sessions when I can.

meet our coaches

Our Coaches do a huge amount of work.  As well as physically instructing our Riding Therapy sessions, every session has to be planned in advance often incorporating themes such as colours, holidays or seasons. The Coaches also have to tailor their activities to the individual riders’ ability, so there are usually lots of things going on at once!

Coaches take responsibility for the whole session and work very hard to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Shirley Duff

Shirley Duff

Tuesday
I came to Muirfield Riding Therapy back in 1994 when I was studying for my BHS exams.  I started teaching the children on Fridays in the outdoor arena while training for my Group Coach’s badge.  I had no experience with people with special needs and although I was nervous at first, the riders soon gave me the confidence to see past their disabilities and get to know the rider and their abilities and they never cease to amaze me.

Since 1994 I have taken some time off to have my two beautiful girls and moved over to Ireland for a few years.  Even over there I was still involved in Riding Therapy.  There is something about seeing the results, along with smiles on riders faces, that is worth all the tea in China! (and I love my tea!) It is a huge team effort and I am proud to be part of this fabulous team of poo pickers, tea makers, groomers, lungers, leaders and everything else that is involved in making these sessions possible. I eventually achieved my Coach’s badge in 2006 – must be the longest training session ever!  I have also trained as a Centered Riding Level 1 Instructor and will no doubt continue to be trained by MRT.

Hayley Kirkpatrick

Hayley Kirkpatrick

Wednesday AM
I joined MRT Muirfield in 2001 with limited experience with horses and even less with Disability! You learn fast with MRT and I soon found my feet.  The combination of working with horses and assisting children and adults less able than ourselves, is an addictive mix.  You soon stop seeing the “disability” and just focus on the “ability”.  After a couple of years being a Helper, I became a Mentor, helping train others.  I then went on to be a Logbook holder (Trainee Instructor) and after two years passed my final assessment and became an Instructor (now referred to as Coach) in 2006.  Since then I have Coached a variety of ages and disability.  I presently Coach the Wednesday Morning Session which is young school children.

It is hard to measure what MRT has given me over the years.  I have life skills that I would never have had the opportunity to learn without the continuous commitment to training and progression.  It also happens to be great fun too!

Joyce Kent

Joyce Kent

Wednesday PM
I have been an RDA volunteer for over 40 years starting at a Group at the Wirral Riding Centre in the early 1970’s. I have been riding since 1968. I have owned my own ponies for 37 years riding regularly at Riding Club level (nothing too high in the jumping stakes!!) but enjoyed dressage and long distance riding. At Grove Farm RDA and the Drum RDA I helped riders compete at the Dressage Championships in England, winning the pairs back in about 1997. I was also fortunate to attend the first World RDA Championships in Gothenberg in 1987 when a Grove Farm rider was selected to ride for GB and I ended up helping a Columbian rider present without an instructor. I became a full instructor in 2003 at Thornton Rose RDA and now at Muirfield Riding Therapy. I have enjoyed organising the Regional and Scottish RDA Dressage championships in the past. I was fortunate to be awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2002 to study animal welfare and visit RDA groups in both America and New Zealand. I currently have my own 7yo piebald gypsy cob which I compete in show and dressage classes. Jumping classes to follow in the future, hopefully!!
Gill Morrison

Gill Morrison

Thursday
In 1986 I offered to help with a small RDA Group operating in East Lothian. It was moved to a local riding school and then the organiser moved south and I was left “holding the reins”.  In 1990, with a handful of friends, 4 ponies and 8 riders we moved here to West Fenton and the Muirfield Group was formed. From the sapling we now have a huge tree!

I am happy to be an instructor working with the adult riders on Thursdays and we have an enthusiastic, loyal, energetic team of volunteers working with some equally enthusiastic riders. Thursdays are challenging, but always rewarding and fun!

Susan Law

Susan Law

Friday
Well, when I felt my kids no longer needed me at home full time, I thought I would go to check out this RDA thing I heard about. I had always loved horses but had not been around them much since I was about 12 years old. My plan was to go down and just help with the ponies. I had never had any contact with people with a disability and didn’t think I would be much use helping with the Riders.

However I soon realised that new helpers quickly become involved with all aspects of the operation! I was soon to learn that, as well as being around horses again (don’t you just love the smell?), I would also be privileged to work with some amazing people who happen to have a disability. I have made so many friends working with the group, Riders, Parents and fellow Volunteers, and find the work so rewarding.

I became an RDAGI about 8 years ago and qualified as an RDAI 2 years ago. I have also started on a UKCC although I am still not sure the difference between a coach and an Instructor!

Nicola Robson

Nicola Robson

Friday and Saturday AM
I moved to Gullane in 2001, my neighbour knew I was looking to do whilst my son was at school and as she kept her horse at West Fenton she  suggested I go down and have a look as they were always looking for helpers.  So off I went in 2001 and there I stayed for quite a few years in various capacities;- as a helper, a training mentor, a sharer and becoming a RDGI (now called a Group Coach) in 2005.  I was lucky enough to be the sharer of the gorgeous Otis (don’t you just love his moustache) until 2010, we have had quite a few adventures together, including racing at Musselburgh Race Course.  You would never know watching him walk around the arena how mischievous he can be.  Did you know he loves ice cream cornets!

MRT is great on so many levels, you make friends with other helpers, the riders and their families.  You watch the riders develop and improve week on week, we laugh, sometimes we cry! There’s no doubt at times it can be challenging and even hectic, but it is so rewarding and I feel I am always learning and developing new skills. There is a fantastic giant team, of Coaches, Physios, OT’s and helpers at MRT all pulling together.

Some of the children that I started to teach are now young adults leaving school and moving into the next stages of their lives, which is wonderful to see.   But my favourite gorgeous Otis is still there, someone younger is riding him now, but like me he is a bit greyer round the edges since we started.

Penny Venters

Penny Venters

Tuesday
I started volunteering at MRT in 2012 after a friend had been telling me for months that I’d really enjoy the experience. Finally I went along and she was of course right – it’s a really special place.

I’ve been around horses and been riding all my life. As a child I spent many hours at the local stables helping out whenever I could. During time at university and in my early working life there were inevitably less riding opportunities,but since then I’ve used my spare time to ride as much as I can, for the last few years concentrating my efforts at dressage.

I’m currently training to be a group instructor. Other than my own four, I’ve not worked with children before coming to MRT. What’s been fascinating is to witness how riding therapy can effect change physically, mentally and emotionally. To see the kids achieve and improve is wonderful. I love the fact that it’s a real team effort, with key workers, side walkers, leaders, mentors, physios and instructors, all working together to make the riding experience here really work for the people who come along. And that’s not to mention the fabulous ponies who are at the heart of all we do and integral to any success.

Fiona Thomson

Fiona Thomson

Wednesday PM
I am a coach on a Wednesday evening and I absolutely love being part of MRT. We have a wonderful bunch of riders who are so much fun and keen to learn as much about our beloved ponies and riding as they can.  They never cease to amaze me! Our volunteers are absolutely brilliant too and they have to do a lot of running to keep up with our riders!

Although I grew up quite literally on and around my horse, constantly riding, grooming and just mucking out around the stable, I didn’t have any experience working with children, anybody with special needs or any non able bodied riders but that didn’t seem to matter at all and I was made to feel so welcome from my very first night which was about 7 years ago now! I was teamed up with a little brown pony called Arlo and a rider called Andrew and, as they say, the rest is history! I definitely caught the bug!  Since then I have learned so much from our riders, our amazing hippo-therapists and fabulous volunteers who come from all walks of life with fantastic experiences! I have also made some really great, genuine friends!

The ponies are great to work with too. They are wonderful with our riders and have so much character – they certainly keep you on your toes!!

I love our Wednesday evenings at MRT. They are like a little piece of hilarious sanctuary right slap bang in the middle of a busy week!

Jill Towers

Jill Towers

Thursday
I have been a Group Coach at Muirfield Riding Therapy on a Thursday morning for a couple of years now, but volunteered with the Group for about nine years in total. Those years have just flown by in such a happy, and dedicated environment!

I have always loved horses and grew up on a farm in Ayrshire where I learnt to ride as a youngster. I had been aware that horses and ponies seem to have an affinity with young children and marveled when I came to MRT, at how this this is used to provide therapeutic riding, for both children and adults alike, of varying abilities. It is such a wide range of benefits that therapeutic riding can provide, especially with the close involvement in our training from our dedicated physiotherapy team.

You may not see my face around every week because I share my time as a Coach with another RDA Group in Kent where we live some of the time for work reasons. But I love spending as much time as I possibly can each term, with our super band of riders and volunteers at Muirfield Riding Therapy!

Sharron Colvin

Sharron Colvin

Thursday
I was brought up in the market town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders and have been around ponies and horses all my life. I’ve been riding since the age of 10, starting with lessons, then owning my own pony and a lifelong passion followed. After a career on stage, from touring variety, to pantomime in the Kings Theatre Edinburgh and overseas with the White Heather Group, a chat with my daughter who had picked up a Muirfield Riding Therapy flyer led to my involvement with the group. Now I’m a newly qualified instructor and look forward to meeting old and new riders and volunteers. I hope they get as much enjoyment out of being part of this hugely rewarding activity as I do.
Yvonne Wilkinson

Yvonne Wilkinson

Friday
Carole Wood

Carole Wood

Saturday AM
I “popped” along to MRT to have a wee look one day back in 2003 and after seeing the wonderful work that was being done there it has to be said I was hooked and have been a volunteer ever since. I started volunteering on Wednesday evenings but transferred to the Saturday morning sessions when they were introduced and found myself doing various rolls from session communicator to mentoring! Over the years, I’ve made many friends through MRT from volunteers to riders and parents alike. I am now a qualified Coach for the Saturday sessions. I am also lucky enough to have a share in one of the MRT horses, Bibi, who you will find a picture of her in the Pony section. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering with MRT to anyone, whether horsey or not, as there are lots of varied roles waiting to be filled!

Meet our Training Mentors

Our Training Mentors guide new volunteers through their training from the initial form filling to the gaining of the nationally accredited Green Card, at a pace which suits the trainee. Training Mentors also encourage volunteers who have their Green Cards to build on their experience, to attend Training Sessions within the group and at Riding for the Disabled Association County level, and to ensure volunteers attend mandatory extra training courses such as Child Protection and First Aid.
Fiona Miechie

Fiona Miechie

Tuesday
I decided to volunteer with MRT as two of my children were already helping and I thought it looked very worthwhile. I have now been a volunteer for about seven years and really enjoy meeting the children who come to ride and seeing them improve each time they return. Despite being very keen on animals I did not have much experience around horses and have gained confidence over time. I have also met many other volunteers and now thoroughly look forward to my Tuesday mornings. Volunteering can be a bit daunting so I feel it is the Training Mentor’s role to put people at their ease and assure them that they will be of use – even if they were not previously ‘horsey’!
Alison MacKinnnon

Alison MacKinnnon

Wednesday AM
Denise Gray

Denise Gray

Thursday AM
I began helping with sessions when the group operated at Appin and West Fenton when my daughter started school. A few years after that I became involved with East Lothian Pony Club and eventually became district Commissioner for the county. I returned to Muirfield Riding Therapy a few years ago. I am now enjoying my role as Thursday morning session Training Mentor, guiding new volunteers through their training. It is great fun and I really enjoy seeing people gradually become more confident in all the tasks required to run the sessions.
Valerie Nimmo

Valerie Nimmo

Friday
Tracey Thompson

Tracey Thompson

Wednesday AM
I instantly knew that I wanted to be involved with the MRT after learning about the brilliant work they do and chatting to some of the amazing volunteers at an MRT open day. Soon after my youngest child started morning nursery and I realised I had a couple of spare hours in the day I started helping out at the newly formed Wednesday morning sessions early 2013.
I have always been keen on horses and ponies since I was little, but had no regular contact with them over the previous 15 years or so, and was delighted to be around these wonderful animals again. I have found Wednesday morning sessions to be I incredibly rewarding from looking after the ponies, helping the new volunteers settle in, to seeing the smiles on the riders’ faces. I am also very happy and lucky to share the lovely Tess!
Sarah Houliston

Sarah Houliston

Wednesday PM
I have always been interested in horses from a young age, but since my parents refused to buy me one as a child ( my Mum only likes them if they are behind a fence and my Dad understands how much they can cost to keep) I had a very limited knowledge. By February 2014 I took the plung and ventured along to Muirfield Riding Therapy, as I thought I would try looking after horses that help others.Little did i know how much I was going to enjoy it, how much I would learn and how many friends I would make from other volunteers, riders and their families to all our lovely horses.

Now I have become the 100 club co-ordinator ( yes its me that sends all those emails ) and mentor to the wednesday night session. Because of all the other brilliant volunteers, all our amazing riders and of course all ourlovely horses Wednesday nights have become one of the highlights of the highlights of my week.

Laura MacKay

Laura MacKay

Friday AM
I was involved with MRT many years ago before I had my children. Now that my youngest is 6, I’ve come back to this wonderful group. It is such a rewarding way to give your time. To see the benefits of riding for the rider and to see them progress.  It’s also lovely to see volunteers grow and gain confidence. This is one of the reasons I was very happy to become a mentor. To pass on my experience and to help others develop their own skills and knowledge. 
Irene Carter

Irene Carter

Saturday AM
Hello, I am Irene and I mentor new volunteers on the Saturday morning sessions. Over the years I have had three horses of my own and my love of Dressage keeps me busy in the horse world.

I was introduced to MRT 16 years ago following a riding accident. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and feel privileged to still ride with the group, but, be able to train new volunteers to care for our ponies and our riders using the RDA Green Card training scheme.

Saturday brings more volunteers from the under 14 age group. Although not able at that age to work in the Arena directly with our riders, they provide a backbone of horse care and stable management. I enjoy training our volunteers and it is great to see them gradually gain confidence working with our ponies.

We have a regular intake of helpers undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh awards and many continue to help after they have completed their course to achieve their awards. With our instructors, all our volunteers make a great Saturday team.

Meet our Communicators

The Session Communicator is the link pin in communication which passes throughout the group, Speaking to Riders, Parents, Carers, Schools, Helpers, Instructors and Mentors about issues which affect the running of the organisation.

The Communicators job is to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard! Communicators also help to raise the profile of events whether they are training, fundraising or social.

Sarah Lang

Sarah Lang

Tuesday AM
Emma Nicholson

Emma Nicholson

Wednesday PM
I’ve been helping with the Wed PM session since it started back in 2002 , so had the pleasure of working  with a lot of our riders as the have grown up , and also as Muirfield has grown over the years! I have been a horse lover from a young age (to my parents dismay ), have a degree in Equine Science, worked as a polo groom and eventually got my own horse. I compete in affiliated eventing and try our hand at show jumping, dressage..  you name it! 
Lynne Paterson

Lynne Paterson

Friday AM
Lynne’s daughter, Robyn, started volunteering about 8 months ago. Lynne would bring her along on a Friday afternoon and wait for her while she did her stuff! “I could see how much Robyn got from volunteering so decided to offer my services too! I soon was given the role of Communicator and am really enjoying it!”
Carolyn Gemmell

Carolyn Gemmell

Wednesday AM
I have been volunteering on Saturday mornings since 2008 but have recently transferred to Wednesday mornings, and I’m also the session communicator. Getting up sometimes on a cold & wet mornings in the middle of winter can be a challenge, but just the look on our riders faces when they are riding makes it all worthwhile. Part of the role of being a communicator is to encourage & motivate the other volunteers into organising & participating in the fund raising activities, which are such an important part of what we do at Muirfield Riding Therapy.
Elspeth Thorburn

Elspeth Thorburn

Thursday AM
Hi. My name is Elspeth and I live in North Berwick.  I started as a volunteer at Muirfield over 12 years ago whilst we were still operating in the outdoor school and an adjacent field.  In a previous life I was a teacher, and it was my choice to work with adults rather than children with special needs. I also have owned and ridden Icelandic horses since the 1970’s, so I thought my background might help when I first volunteered.

Over the years I have watched the Group at Muirfield develop into the professional organisation it has become today and can appreciate how this benefits the riders.  Even although some have difficulty with communication, their enjoyment and development is obvious to our volunteers and we can appreciate how this influences their day to day lives, helping with their mobility and confidence.  The bond that they form with the horses and ponies is also quite special.
Although it can be very challenging work, the rewards are very satisfying when we see the pleasure on the riders’ faces every week and watch the development of their riding skills.  I know we are making a difference when I see a rider, who can barely manage on the ground, mounted on one of our amazing horses and enjoying an experience that the rest of us can take for granted.
The other upside of being a member of Muirfield Riding Therapy is the comradeship amongst the volunteers which helps to make this Group such an outstanding  success.

Carole Wood

Carole Wood

Saturday AM
I “popped” along to MRT to have a wee look one day back in 2003 and after seeing the wonderful work that was being done there it has to be said I was hooked and have been a volunteer ever since. I started volunteering on Wednesday evenings but transferred to the Saturday morning sessions when they were introduced and found myself doing various rolls from session communicator to mentoring! Over the years, I’ve made many friends through MRT from volunteers to riders and parents alike. I am now a qualified Coach for the Saturday sessions. I am also lucky enough to have a share in one of the MRT horses, Bibi, who you will find a picture of her in the Pony section. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering with MRT to anyone, whether horsey or not, as there are lots of varied roles waiting to be filled!

Meet our Physiotherapists

Muirfield Riding Therapy is at the forefront of therapeutic riding. Working together, our physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education professionals and our specially trained volunteers and ponies are able to offer our riders the best therapeutic benefit.
Heather Falconer

Heather Falconer

Heather is a Community Paediatric Physiotherapist for NHS Lothian based in East Lothian and has been volunteering as our lead physiotherapist since 2005. Heather piloted a successful riding therapy service between NHS Lothian and Muirfield Riding Therapy in 2009. This pioneering partnership became the Therapeutic Riding Service, part of NHS Lothian’s Children’s Physiotherapy Service. Heather qualified as a Hippotherapist in 2013.  She has always been pony mad and started riding age 7!
Felicity Hutton

Felicity Hutton