Archive for December, 2020

Season’s Greetings and goodbye to ‘Not Our Usual Year’!

Well, we are getting towards the end of 2020 and it’s one year we won’t be sad to see the back of!  It’s been a tough year for everyone and life at MRT hasn’t been the same without all of our usual riders, families, volunteers and visitors.  The arena is eerily quiet at times and we miss everyone.  2020 has had some ups and downs for MRT.  We’re taking a look back at some of these, and showing that despite the restrictions, and with some creativity and a positive approach, together we’ve made it through, thank you.

Not our Usual Year

Riders return

It’s been lovely to see some of our riders who have been able to come back to therapeutic riding sessions.  After lots of hard work planning and adapting what we do, some of our riders have been able to return, and benefit from therapeutic riding once again.  We will continue, where possible, to offer therapy riding in line with Scottish Government and RDA National Office guidelines. 

Extending MRT

A long-awaited extension was completed during lockdown, allowing us to stable our Mechanical Horse, Oreo in a new much more spacious Physio Room.

Celebrating 10 years of our Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service

2020 was also the year we started celebrating the 10th Birthday of our Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service !  These NHS Lothian partnership sessions were able to restart in the autumn using our Mechanical Horse, Oreo, in his new stable!  Our celebrations attracted STV News, and the local news!

Our Volunteers stepped up 

Our volunteers stepped up to help during these difficult times – making face masks as a fundraiser for us, keeping our ponies fit and happy, planting daffodil bulbs to make a cheery display for 2021. You name, it they’ve done it – all socially-distanced of course!

Our events went Virtual!

We had to cancel all our usual fundraisers, due to the pandemic.  But we didn’t let that stop us, and we went virtual!   It was wonderful to see so many of our friends – riders and their families, volunteers and supporters – taking part in our ‘Not Our Usual’ fundraising.  You have helped secure our future, thank you.

Not Our Usual Summer Teas & Plants Sale

In June, one of the first events in our local village of Gullane since lockdown started, our take-away stall outside the Mallard Hotel, Gullane, was bursting with delicious bakes and gorgeous plants!  The socially-distanced queue was a sight to behold back then, and we sold out of everything thanks to you all.

Virtual Kiltwalking to success

Our MRT Team of Virtual Kiltwalkers gave us all something positive to support over the summer on social media, and their fundraising was matched by the Kiltwalk’s funding partner, The Hunter Foundation! WOW.


In September our bakers came out in force once again, and created our take-away picnic boxes fundraiser, picked up from the garden of the Mallard Hotel in Gullane. Yum.

Lifting-off with our 10th Birthday Virtual Balloon Race!

At Halloween, this eco-friendly online simulated balloon race launched our 10th birthday celebrations of our pioneering partnership with NHS Lothian, The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service. With 167 MRT balloons taking off, we smashed our target and, although no MRT balloons won, we had fun!

Following the Rally Trail

With lockdown continuing, we offered people something to do in the October Holiday, and our car Rally Trail around beautiful East Lothian did just that. A fantastic 81 teams signed up and took part at their own leisure.

Launch of our wee online Shop

We launched our new online shop!  With just 3 carefully curated items to choose from for now, and more to come next year.

Saying Goodbye

We sadly had to say goodbye to two of our wonderful therapy ponies this year, Bibi and MacGregor.  Both ponies were a fantastic age, Bibi was 26 and Mac, 27.  Both passed away with their carers by their sides and both have left behind many. many friends and memories from over the years.

Bringing some Christmas Cheer

We hope we have brought our community a bit of festive cheer with all our ‘Not Our Usual’ Christmas fun.  We had amazing online Christmas Hamper Raffles , thanks to all involved!  A phenomenal 108 handmade Christmas Cakes were sold  at our Not Our Usual Christmas Coffee Morning!  We launched our Christmas Appeal – Sponsor a Pony – with videos of each of our special ponies so people meet could meet them, virtually.

Looking towards 2021

As we look forward to 2021, we hope we can get all our riders back to visit their ponies, our volunteers back to more sessions and to once again welcome our friends and supporters back to the Arena to see what we do.  We also have lots of fun planned for the coming year, including a Virtual Pet Show, another Rally Trail and a new Virtual Kiltwalk Challenge for the New Year to keep you fit – we’d love you to be part of it, get in touch!  

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and here’s to a better 2021

So, as this year draws to a close, we want to wish you all a Merry, if different, Christmas, a Happy New Year.  Here’s a wee bit of festive fun from our fab team of Coaches!  




MRT and NHS Lothian Pioneering Partnership rides on

We are celebrating 10 years of partnership working alongside NHS Lothian, delivering the Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service; providing life-changing therapeutic riding, free of charge, to children and young people with various disabilities in East and Mid Lothian.  The service is the largest of it’s kind in Scotland, and recently was able to restart after sessions were paused due to COVID-19.  STV News came to film the sessions in action for their news programme on 24th November!

The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service was the first, and is still the largest service of its kind in Scotland.  The team provide Hippotherapy, a specialist and highly effective form of physiotherapy, on horseback. We are so proud of all our Riders and families, and the volunteer team who help provide this service. They have shown their pioneering spirit again by starting up the sessions, but using our mechanical horse Oreo for now, to simulate the equine experience! He’s now in his new larger ‘stable’ thanks to long-awaited renovations here at the Arena.

NHS Lothian children’s physiotherapist Heather Falconer, who pioneered the service with our Service Coordinator Susan Law, has described what Hippotherapy is.  She said,

“Children are referred when their  NHS Lothian physiotherapist  believes hippotherapy to be the most effective form of physiotherapy for them. The children present with a huge array of challenges, including difficulties with mobility, balance, muscle tone, strength, coordination, body awareness and symmetry. Hippotherapy provides a means to address all of these issues and more!

Hippotherapy uses the movement, warmth and rhythm of the horse as a therapy tool. As a horse walks, every step challenges its rider’s balance. This activates and strengthens the muscles of the trunk and pelvis. A 3-dimensional movement is transferred to the rider’s pelvis which mirrors the movement of a normal rhythmic human walking pattern, and gives experience of a normal walking pattern. The warmth of the horse and a gentle rolling gait can relax tight muscles, while a more choppy movement can increase low muscle tone.”

Alongside our herd of specially trained therapy ponies, riders now also have the opportunity to ride on Oreo, a specialist mechanical horse. This horse-shaped, high tech piece of physiotherapy equipment responds to leg and hand movements just like a real horse. Oreo is linked to a screen in front of him which allows his riders to choose from an array of scenic rides such as the beach or fields which they can virtually follow.

(Image copyright Sally Anderson Photography)

Heather added,

“It is great fun, both for me and for the children I work with, for them it doesn’t feel like therapy, but delivers consistently amazing results. It is also much easier to connect with a child and for them to trust me using the ponies or Oreo as an intermediary. It is a 3-way therapeutic relationship, 4-way if you count the volunteer key workers too.”

Charlie Kay, 13 has been using the service for 10 years. Charlie’s mum Melanie explains how much it has helped her son. She said,

“The best part about the riding service is that Charlie sees it as more of a hobby than a therapy session. He has seen a real knock-on effect in mobility and his walking is so much better. As the riding engages his core he is sitting up better and straighter. Not only is it great for his physical health, but Charlie also enjoys the social aspect of speaking to all the volunteers and staff.”

Due to COVID-19, access to our therapy ponies has been restricted, but Charlie has sessions booked with the mechanical horse Oreo which he also really enjoys. Melanie added,

“As Charlie is quite competitive he enjoys beating his score on Oreo. You get more points the more you are centred on the horse, so this has really helped to focus Charlie and improve his position and posture. “

During ‘more normal’ times when group sessions are running Melanie enjoys meeting other parents, She said,

“Not only are the sessions helpful to Charlie, I find I get great advice joining with other parents in the viewing gallery. I am very grateful to have the opportunity for us both to use this incredible service.”

You can watch Charlie and Oreo in action on the STV News report and also read the East Lothian Courier article about our partnership.