Sometimes a chance encounter can change lives. Without knowing it, the direction we take can change, and we find ourselves on a path we might not be expecting. A meeting like this changed ‘Muirfield Riding for the Disabled’ (RDA) and took the charity in a wonderful, life-changing direction. Our Services Coordinator, and former longstanding Chair, Susan Law, tells the story.
“About 18 years ago I was at the Drum RDA group in Edinburgh and saw a young physiotherapist riding a pony with a child in front of her. I had never seen this before and was intrigued by this thing called back riding. To find out more about it, I sought out this physio, called Heather.
As luck would have it, Heather was working on a Hippotherapy (a specialist, very effective, form of physiotherapy on horseback) qualification, and needed a centre where she could work up her case work. She brought to us a little girl called Anna and we created a space for Heather to work with her on a Tuesday afternoon. We gave her a pony and a small team of volunteers.
This team quickly learned what was required of them and so our introduction to equine therapy in its true sense began. It was evident from the start that, working with Heather, we could properly evidence the impact we could make.
So, in return for use of our facilities, volunteers and our little therapy pony Smartie once a week, Heather had unwittingly signed herself up for 18 years of devotion to MRT! I know who came out of this deal best!!
The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service
Most of Muirfield Riding Therapy (MRT) Volunteers and Coaches will have met Heather, but even if they have not they should be aware of the impact that she has had on how MRT has developed over its life. Heather was responsible for setting up the NHS Partnership session – The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service – which runs on a Tuesday afternoon, the first such in Scotland.
(Heather and her NHS team, STV news feature November 2020)
Working with these sessions has resulted in Volunteers and Coaches raising their game to a more professional level. Certainly, the Tuesday afternoon team would say that the proof of the value of what they do makes them feel very proud.
(Photo of the MRT volunteers from the Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service, celebrating the 10th anniversary, virtually, during the pandemic 2020)
Coming from the NHS, Heather was used to measuring the difference that different types of therapy can make; from assessing an individual’s needs, coming up with a plan and recording the outcome. This was her world. But when equines are used as a therapy tool it adds many other dimensions and things can be achieved that can’t be replicated with traditional gym equipment.
Mentor and motivator
Of course, Heather has changed the lives of her patients and their families professionally but her 17 year connection with MRT has not been purely professional. She has also volunteered with our Friday afternoon session. Her support in this session has allowed us to offer riding therapy to children with more complex needs. Many of the children coming into the Friday session have progressed from the NHS sessions.
Working with Heather has motivated some of our young volunteers to go on to pursue careers in physiotherapy and medicine. She has willingly given time to support these young proteges. She has designed and delivered volunteer training materials and encouraged so many Volunteers over her time with us.
She has set up external courses to encourage more physio to take up an interest in Equine therapy and hippotherapy, using MRTs wonderful facilities. She has given Coaches and Volunteers the confidence to work with children whose conditions affect not only their lives but the lives of whole families, and she has given MRT the means to prove that the work we do is very valuable – appealing to funders, and providing us with statistics and scientific measurements.
A change of name
By 2010, we had become more confident that our activities could really make a difference and believed that the change of name to Muirfield Riding Therapy underlined the idea that, with expert input, we truly could affect changes in lives.
(Photos of a fun and simple, yet effective, visual measurement of walking gait improvement following a term of therapeutic riding; the left sets of footprints in each image are from the start of a term, and the right sets of footprints in each image is at the end of a term)
Using Physiotherapy and latterly Occupational Therapy principles, MRT has developed a therapy-led approach to the service it offers. This principle has resulted in a highly trained volunteer base, prepared to go out and about and tell others how proud they are to be a part of MRT.
A new life
Now Heather is spreading her work to a wider audience, travelling to South America, a part of the world she has long loved to run a hippotherapy centre. She has spoken of her wish to do this for several years but we hoped, selfishly, that the day would not come when she achieved this ambition. As a result of Covid we had her for 18 months longer than otherwise and we must be grateful for this.
(Photo of Heather on previous travels, providing therapeutic riding on a donkey).
It will not be the same without this little powerhouse who has guided – and driven maybe! – us in a way that has earned us the respect of the community, the NHS and the wider RDA world.
So now we must put aside our personal sadness at her leaving and share her enthusiasm and excitement for the next steps in her life…continuing to carry out very important work in a part of the world which has drawn her for many years.
Heather will leave a lasting imprint on MRT and the whole organisation should be aware of the impact she has had. When it became clear that she really was going on this grand life adventure, we set to to plan for her departure to put together her succession plan which will protect our precious service and enable us to continue to develop.
(Heather with two NHS physios she has mentored through their hippo therapy training here at MRT – Annika and Lizzie)
To do this we need as a group to continue to inspire and encourage volunteers and coaches that MRT can be a centre of excellence and stay at the forefront of equine facilitated therapy.”
Thank you Heather, good luck and haste ye back!
(Photo of Heather and Susan Law celebrating 10 years of our partnership with the NHS, The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service)
We hope you are all well and making the most of the sunshine. We enjoy the change of seasons to autumn at West Fenton, the colours, the harvest, and of course the stubble fields! Read on to find out about life at MRT, our participants, ponies, fundraisers and a story about our name.
It is great to see us very slowly returning to a new sense of normal at MRT, and we’ve welcomed many more participants back riding with us. There are still those waiting to come back – we are trying hard to get as many participants as we can back onto or visiting their ponies.
To help with this, we added a whole new Summer Term, we have also launched a new session using our mechanical horse, Oreo, and we have a new equine therapy session called Quiet Corner.
Thanks to a very generous donation from Baillie Gifford & Co, we have been able to purchase two new ponies. Cinders is doing really well with her initial training. She’s very affectionate and loves being around people. She will gradually be introduced to sessions and am sure she will become a firm favourite of our riders.
Our indoor market will take place on 10th October. Plenty room to browse our 50 stalls in our spacious, ventilated Arena. A great mix of local, independent talent. It looks set to be our best market yet so bring your family and friends along!
Our Winter Series Showjumping Championships is back, with for a 14th year, with 4 events over the next few months. This fundraiser invites equestrians, of all ages, especially novice riders or horses/ponies. The first one is on 3rd October. Come along to watch our local riders take on the jumps (and for some lovely home baking or bacon rolls! ). Enter here.
Order your Christmas Cards
We are delighted to present our new Christmas Cards. Two beautiful bespoke designs, created exclusively for us by award-winning Edinburgh illustrator Amy Nash with all proceeds to MRT. Email Debs with your pre-order – let us know by 30th September.
Packs of 8 cards (4 of each design), size A6, for £5.95. Message inside reads, ‘Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year’.
Christmas Coffee Morning & Craft Sale
Save the date – Saturday 27th November, 09.30 – 11.30am. We’re back in Gullane Village Hall! Our wonderful volunteers are hard at work in the coming months creating now legendary, beautifully decorated Christmas Cakes to order, and for sale at our Christmas Coffee Morning. Beautiful Christmas crafts & gifts, Christmas Hamper Raffle, Live music – guitar and mandolin.
Charity Golf Day – Renaissance 2022
We are delighted to announce the new date for our Charity Golf Day, at the prestigious Renaissance Golf Club, host of the Scottish Open, as 19th May 2022.
We invite you to join us on the fabulous 18-hole links course at The Renaissance Club, Cowden Hill Drive, North Berwick, EH39 5HS: Invitation and Booking Form
And finally, what’s in a name?
When volunteer Rosemary started at MRT we were still called Muirfield Riding For the Disabled Group.
Click here to find out about Rosemary’s volunteer story and our name change.
Quiet Corner will give Participants the opportunity to spend time just being with the pony in a relaxed way, interacting on a one-to-one basis. Developed by Jenny and Sharron, two of our experienced Coaches, our Quiet Corner is a new initiative currently being piloted as an alternative option, part of our equine therapy service.
We’re delighted to be back hosting our 3rd Indoor Market here in our Arena at West Fenton, EH39 5AL, and invite you to come and browse our 50 stalls of crafters, producers, upcycle & car boot-ers! A great mix of local, independent talent.
Looking for something to do during October and the mid term break? Our Autumn Rally Trail is back! Jump in your car and take part, anytime between 1st – 31st October 2021! A fun drive, at your own leisure, through beautiful East Lothian countryside, with lots of clues to spot on the way and picnic viewpoints. All correct entries will be added into our prize draw.
This is our 3rd Rally Trail, with 97 teams taking on the challenge last time. For this event, our route starts and ends in the historic village of Ormiston, and you take part at your own leisure anytime up to Sunday 31st October.
Allow around 2.5 hours to complete the 26 mile route, depending on your picnic stop and clue spotting skills! Take part at your own leisure, it’s not a race so take your time to enjoy the route as it winds its way around the beautiful East Lothian, in all its autumnal colours.
This event is part of our alternative and COVID safe ways to fundraise and raise awareness of our work during the continuing pandemic. But perhaps most importantly, it’s about having a bit of fun together during this tough time.
When volunteer Rosemary joined the charity, we were still named the Muirfield Riding for the Disabled Group (Muirfield RDA). Read on to find out about Rosemary’s volunteer story and our name change.
Our long running Winter Series is back for its 14th year, open to ALL AGES. Benefit from an all-round professional Show Jumping experience, but in a relaxed, friendly, encouraging atmosphere. There are 4 events this time, you can join in all 4 events in the Series or just on dates which suit you!
3 October, 7 November, 5 December 2021, and the Final on 6 March 2022
Welcome to our Winter Series Show Jumping Championships 2021/22! NEW Online entry via HorseMonkey (with entries on the day depending on availability). Pre-entry of competitors will allow us to provide more accurate class timings throughout the day. All proceeds support Muirfield Riding Therapy, a member group of RDA UK, providing pioneering, life-changing equine therapy.
CLICK TO ENTER HERE via horsemoneky.com then log in or create an account
Note, We will open online entry for the next event in the Series after each previous event.
Each event is part of the points system for the overall Winter Series and all points earned will count towards your final total. Our 4-event Show Jumping Championships is aimed at riders, horses and ponies of ALL AGES and experience.
New to riding?
Getting back into riding?
Want to introduce your equine, or yourself, to Show jumping?
Nervous rider, or equine?
Looking to build up experience over the winter months?
Don’t have full Showing rider kit to wear?
Advice from our Judge and Team on the day
A supportive approach to you and your equine’s performance
40 m x 20m Indoor Arena
Arena surface particularly suitable for jumping
10 Classes to choose from lead rein to Open
Adult Rider-Only Class (21 years+) always included
Entry via Horse Monkey or On-the-day (subject to availability)
Low cost entry fees
Beautiful rosettes for all Classes
Outdoor Arena/Clear Round practice
Spectators’ Viewing Gallery o All day cafe – bacon rolls, soup, our legendary home baking!
Three Trophies are awarded at the Series Final in March:
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from selected classes
The Fiona Mossan Trophy
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from selected classes
The Niven Family Trophy
Presented to the most improved rider of the Series.
Queries? Please get in touch
We have a new date. We are delighted to announce the new date for our Charity Golf Day, at The Renaissance Golf Club, host of the Abrdn Scottish Open, as 19th May 2022.
The pandemic has impacted individuals and organisations in different ways, not least the charity sector. With many charities having to rollover their events from 2020, we have decided to move ours from our original September 2021 date. This will ensure our charity friends and their supporters hosting similar events, will have the opportunity to enjoy maximum success, as well as ourselves.
We invite you to join us on 19th May 2022, for a wonderful afternoon of golf on the fabulous 18-hole links course at The Renaissance Club, Cowden Hill Drive, North Berwick, EH39 5HS. We welcome 4-ball teams to play at Renaissance. The day begins with a light lunch and team photos, followed by a great afternoon of golf including our fabulous prize-winning holes. With complimentary drinks throughout the day, evening dinner and superb auction we are sure you and your team will have a memorable experience.
We’ve had fun this summer with our summer fundraising campaign, Ride Around 4 MRT We hope you all enjoyed celebrating your horses and ponies, loyal companions throughout the pandemic, in support of our therapy ponies. The campaign officially ended at our Summer Show for Horses and Ponies on Sunday 1st August.
What a day we had on Sunday at our ‘not our usual’ Summer Show! We were so happy to see all our competitors with their gorgeous ponies and horses. Thanks to everyone for joining us for our first live, in-person fundraising event since the pandemic, and huge congratulations to all our worthy winners!