As the first chills of autumn crept in, the bales stretching across the vista and skeins of geese high above, teams of four riders from each of the Muirfield Riding Therapy sessions took part in a Fun Day beginning early on Sunday morning, at the centre, West Fenton, North Berwick.
Those taking part arrived promptly, were hatted and booted before mounting. Tack was checked and riders made comfy before the teams proceeded to their stations.
In the Handy Pony field, riders tackled tasks such as fishing ducks out of a pond, steering through farmyard animals and creeping up on woodland creatures. It was a magical setting for the riders to show off their rein skills, halting, stretching for all manner of objects to put in baskets, then asking their ponies to proceed to the next task. There was much hilarity as the Coaches (yes, the responsible adults!) were swept up in the fun and were seen cavorting around the course.
(Please note that at no point throughout this activity were any farmyard or woodland creatures abused!)
So, Handy Pony Course completed, riders then raised the competitive nature of the day by taking part in Gymkhana Games. Have you ever tried hanging the washing out on horse back?
As the riders raced down the arena weaving through cones, it was hard to tell who was more competitive, the riders or the volunteers!
The races required the riders to be able to ask their ponies to vary their speed, to stop, to walk on and to stand still close to a scary washing line festooned with socks. It requires good fine motor skills to pluck a sock from the line, let me tell you.
The mornings activities created healthy appetites and riders, families and friends enjoyed bacon rolls and MRT home-baking in the recently refurbished café…………..much appreciated by all on this chilly autumnal morning.
This hilarity of the morning was followed by a more sedate part of the event with a ridden Quadrille (4 ponies and riders) performed a lovely ride with lots of changes of rein and pace, circles and other school movements to music. In the Quadrille, some of our more advanced riders were able to showcase their skills, including riding independently.
They were turned out immaculately and their months of practise paid off. The Spanish Riding School better watch out, they have rivals.
And the finale to the day’s activities…….all 14 of our ponies performed an amazing Pony Parade, with complex moves around the arena. It is not often we see all our ponies in the arena at once and many of us were very moved to tears to see these lovely ponies, bathed, scrubbed and plaited to perfection. They range in size from 11.2 to 15.2 and it was lovely to see the variety of fabulous ponies we have.
Their usual jobs are a bit more sedate but they all looked amazing and behaved beautifully. MRT ponies are well cared for and their work is varied. They each have a sharer who helps MRT to look after them and give them fun outside of their workdays. Those who share the ponies have a strong bond with the ponies and were as proud as the rest of us to see the whole MRT herd performing.
The event was about celebrating MRT, its life and work. Day to day providing riding therapy for over 100 individuals each week but also, when the occasion arises, stepping up a gear and making a day of wonderful fun, games and memories.
This engendered feelings of such pride in what we do and who we are.
MRT has flourished and gone from strength to strength over the last 30 years and will continue to do so because of the commitment of our volunteers, coaches and supporters who are inspired by our wonderful riders, their families and carers.
Happy Birthday to us!