This is an historic photo for Muirfield Riding Therapy and tells our origin story. We recently welcomed back Elspeth O’Donnell (on the far right) one of the very first people involved in setting up what is now MRT! In the photo, left to right, are Gill Morrison (Founder of MRT), Susan Law (former long-standing MRT Chair, and our current Services Coordinator), therapy pony Charity, Ishbel Benzie (current MRT Volunteer Equine Assisted Physiotherapist) and Elspeth O’Donnell (Retired physiotherapist with many years of working with equines in her practice.) Read on to find out more.

Elspeth was here to meet Ishbel, our newly qualified Equine Assisted Physiotherapist (See our recent blog post about Ishbel’s qualification ). Elspeth was a long standing member of what was known as the Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy (CPTRH) and sat on their Executive Committee as Secretary. The organisation is now called Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Equine Activities (ACPEA) and Ishbel is an active member.


Back in the mid 1980s, Elspeth lived in East Lothian and was working as a physio at what was then East Fortune Hospital. She had a regular routine with a group of adults with learning disabilities, taking them swimming to improve their physical well-being.
As someone who has always been involved with horses one way or another, she’d heard about the work of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and with a group of equestrian friends, they negotiated an arrangement with local OverHailes Horse Riding Stables to take the adults in her care for regular riding, borrowing their ponies.


Gill was part of this inaugural group of volunteers when they moved to Appin Equestrian Centre, Drem. At that time Gill and her husband Garth Morrison had left the Royal Navy to help run the family farm at West Fenton and, in 1990, the RDA Group moved to West Fenton and was named RDA Muirfield Group.


As a little aside, Elspeth’s younger daughter Ruth, is our Fundraising Manager Debs McLaughlin’s oldest friend, having met at nursery school over 40 years ago! It’s a very small world!