Latest News

This is Muirfield Riding Therapy – a new short film about our charity

We’re delighted to start the year with a lovely little film, This is Muirfield Riding Therapy. Introducing Eilidh, who comes along to take part in a therapy ride.

 

Eilidh loves horses, and is excited to come along to take part in a Riding Therapy session at Muirfield Riding Therapy’s (MRT) Centre at West Fenton, East Lothian.

 

Click the image of Eilidh below to play our short film via our YouTube channel,

 

 

The short film aims to showcase what we do here at MRT.  Our Centre is volunteer-led, and self-funded, providing pioneering, life-changing equine therapy, free of charge. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, not only has our usual fundraising been decimated, but we have been unable to invite people to the Centre to see riding therapy in action, and meet our community face to face.

 

   

 

The project was a collaboration with advertising agency, Whitespace, and their mentoring partnership with students from Napier University’s School of Arts and Creative Industries.  Everyone involved in the short film, from our own amazing participants and their families, our specially trained volunteers and therapy ponies, and the incredible filming and editing crew, generously gave their time, skills and enthusiasm to help create it.

 

Our Chair, Michelle Sutton, said,

 

At MRT we have two statements which sum up our way of working, “It’s what you can do that counts” and “together we make a difference.”  What I loved about this project is that everyone involved lived up to these too.  Each person played their part and worked together to really make a difference for MRT, thank you

 

Until we are able to properly open up our doors once again, we hope this film will help you see what we can achieve, together.

   

Click open our Festive Countdown Calendar 2021

Join us as we countdown to Christmas with our advent calendar. Click on a door each day and unlock new photos of life at MRT, with a festive twist!

 

Click on a door-a-day.Doors turn green once a day has passed, but can still be clicked open if you’ve missed a day – and you won’t want to miss all the cute new photos!

Thank you very much to Jim Hunter for gifting us these gorgeous photos.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy new Year, from everyone at MRT!

Oreo the extraordinary therapy pony

Oreo is no ordinary therapy pony. With a flowing black mane and tail, and majestic stature, he’s been likened to fictional stallion Black Beauty! Oreo is a rather extraordinary therapy pony, in fact he’s a mechanical pony!  Read on to discover more about Oreo thanks to one of our participants, Adam, and Coach, Nicky.

 

Frank, Adam’s Dad

“I just thought I’d take a little moment to express my feelings for Oreo the mechanical therapy horse. Initially when my son Adam was paired with Oreo, I was a little sceptical. However, therapeutically, Adam has come on leaps and bounds with far quicker progress than previously on flesh and blood horses. A Mechanical horse has far more benefits than negatives. Mucking out is so much easier, the feed bill is far less and in my opinion the therapeutic value is far greater than its equine cousin. It’s far easier to pinpoint a child with mobility issues such as my son, and localise that movement in a required area. It’s easier to repeat that action and so to tick objectives and track progression, ultimately enhancing mobility and confidence.  The staff certainly enjoy seeing results.

In these days of total inclusion Oreo fits this brief perfectly. No child, no matter how challenging their disability, will ever hear, “Sorry this isn’t for you” something they’re unfortunately told on a daily basis. With a tighter structure to the room, hoist aids and supervising hands literally millimetres away, it’s really obvious to me.”

Oreo Coach Nicky

“Muirfield Riding Therapy is fortunate enough to have Oreo the mechanical horse, to be able to use for therapy riding, alongside our four-legged herd.  We think Oreo looks at bit like [fictional character] Black Beauty!”  

Oreo was added to our herd in 2017, thanks to an incredible donation. He is a horse-shaped, high tech piece of physiotherapy equipment responds to leg and hand movements like a real horse.  He is an important part of our Service, offering benefits to Participants and Therapists.  Oreo helps our Physiotherapists with Riders’ biomechanics assessments, offering top of the range postural analysis to improve muscle tone, strength and symmetry.

In November 2020, Oreo was moved into his new larger ‘stable’ thanks to long-awaited renovations.  Our NHS partnership, The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service Team were able to restart their sessions again, paused due to COVID-19, by using Oreo for now to simulate the equine experience!

New Oreo sessions

And now, Oreo is used in various sessions, and in a brand new Oreo-only therapeutic riding session on Wednesday evenings, with our Oreo Coach Nicky. Nicky explains why Oreo really is an extraordinary therapy pony,

“Our aim is always to make any riding or equine therapy experience at MRT fun, no matter which type of horse is being ridden.  Often, I hear participants, parents and carers exclaim in delight that this week that they are going to “play” on Oreo.  Oreo is linked to a screen in front of him which allows his riders to choose from a range of scenic rides which they can enjoy, virtually!  There is no doubt that there is something wonderful that happens when participants can ride via the simulations to either splash in the sea, go around a lake and castle, or ride through a zoo with elephants trumpeting!  

However, Oreo is sometimes perceived as a second best option to riding a real horse.  But both are of equal value in terms of offering therapy riding.  A horse has an intuitive relationship with its rider, when using aids to change pace, if the rider doesn’t get the ask quite right the horse can second guess the intention and make transitions between paces and movements.  Oreo is a machine and isn’t intuitive.  If the rider doesn’t select the correct aid, then the transitions simply doesn’t happen. This at times can be frustrating, but the look of joy and satisfaction when the rider achieves what they are asked to do is fantastic.  The rider knows without a doubt that they achieved that task by themselves.  

Oreo doesn’t slow for corners, or stop whilst further instruction is given, for the full session the rider is constantly moving, and their muscles being given a through workout.  Hand and eye co-ordination is improved, along with a greater understanding of how to use their bodies as a riding aid. All of which helps them to become better riders if they transition back onto a real horse. 

Oreo also has a dressage element, which can be challenging to master. It’s often the only opportunity some of our riders will get to experience canter and learn how to do more technical dressage riding such as flying changes and piaffes.

I often tell my riders when I coach them, if you can do it on Oreo then you will be able to do it on a real horse.  Oreo is fun, it can be difficult, but it certainly isn’t the second-best option to riding, both have equal merit and a place in providing riding therapy.”   

Why not give it a try!

My Volunteer Story – Dorothy

Dorothy is a volunteer in our Teen and Young Adult riding therapy sessions on Wednesday evenings. Read on to find out her volunteering story, and how she has incorporated her support of Muirfield Riding Therapy into her working life too.

 

“When my riding stables closed down I was sporadically offered the odd hack but was seriously suffering pony withdrawal.  Muirfield Riding Therapy had been mentioned previously, and I checked out which sessions were possible.  I’m not sure if I was meant to go through some more formal process but I simply turned up one Wednesday evening, offered my services and have been here ever since.   

 My day job, as a solicitor, is pretty full on sometimes and takes up a lot of head space. I love knowing that on a Wednesday evening, for a few hours, that will be replaced by all things horse.

Although I have been in and around riding stables since childhood this is a very different experience. The participants have taught me so much and it is amazing to see their progress. The ponies are remarkable in every sense and I will never stop being in awe of their patience and good nature.  And I have to give a shout out to my colleagues in the Wednesday evening session – we have good fun and they make even the coldest, darkest, wettest of nights go by quickly. And often there is cake.

As a partner at law firm Gilson Gray, I have encouraged support of Muirfield Riding Therapy by the organisation. We are proud sponsors of the up and coming Muirfield Riding Therapy Charity Golf Day at Renaissance on 19th May 2022.   We are also now supporting the charity through our Will Writing service.

 

Anyone who has a few hours a week to spare should seriously think about joining as a volunteer at Muirfield Riding Therapy. You won’t regret it.”

 

Will Writing service

Muirfield Riding Therapy’s charity partner Gilson Gray has offered to provide a fixed fee will writing service at a cost of £250 (inclusive of VAT at 20%), for the preparation of a simple will. You can start the will writing process by clicking the button below and completing their will questionnaire. Please use the referral number ‘MRT2122′.

Once you have completed the questionnaire, a member of Gilson Gray’s private client team shall contact you in person or arrange a video call with you to confirm your instructions and costs before proceeding.

Making Will Writing Easier for You

From chance encounter to fond farewell

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.

 

Thank you

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life at MRT – autumn update

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.

 

New Ponies

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.

 
Baillie, a 15.2hh Irish Cob has arrived and has just completed his period of quarantine. He’s been described as ‘a bit of a dude’.  At just 6 years old, he is young and will take a bit of work to get him ready for sessions.  He has an experienced team who will work with him over the next 6-9 months or so.
And finally, we have Skye joining us soon. A 16 y.o. Connemara mare, she is being loaned to us by her owner, who will help us with settling her into work at MRT.  We hope she will be able to join sessions relatively quickly.

 

Events

 

Indoor Market

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!

New Autumn Rally Trail
Looking for something to do during October? Our popular Rally Trail is back, jump in your car anytime between 1st – 31st October, and take part at your leisure!   Find out more and enter here. 
With a new route, starting and ending in the historic village of Ormiston, this is a fun drive through beautiful East Lothian’s autumnal countryside, with lots of clues to spot on the way and picnic viewpoints. Allow around 2.5 hours to complete the 26 mile route, depending on your picnic stop and clue spotting skills!

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.

 

Coming up…

 

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.

Introducing our new Quiet Corner

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.

Watching the pony breathing. Listening to him chomping.  Touching him and feeling his coat and muzzle, feeling the nuzzle of his breath. Smelling that special smell. And just being with the pony in a tranquil environment. There is a saying that the outside of a horse does good for the inside of a human.

 

As part of her training, new therapy pony, Cinders, has been joining in our new Quiet Corner sessions. We think all the ponies will enjoy time in the quiet corner with our participants.

50 stalls await you at our Indoor Market 2021!

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.

Our Indoor Arena is a unique venue, with lots of space for browsing. Keep an eye on our Indoor Market Facebook event page where we’re adding details of all our fantastic stallholders who are attending, to the discussion tab.

 

All welcome
Everyone is welcome, including well behaved dogs on leads, and entry is just £2 entry, free for children and free parking. Come and have lunch at The Barn Cafe, and why not take home some of our legendary baking treats too?

 

To help our visitors who are wheelchair users to access our soft Arena floor, we are delighted to have our friends from North Berwick charity Beach Wheelchairs in attendance, with their adapted chairs for your use.

 

Covid-19 safe
We ask that all visitors wear facemarks when at our Indoor Market, unless when sitting at our Barn Cafe tables. We will have hand sanitizer available throughout the venue. Please do not attend our event if you have symptoms of COVID-19 (see the Scottish Government website for details).  All proceeds support the work of Muirfield Riding Therapy, a volunteer-led Centre providing pioneering life-changing equine therapy, free. We are a member group of RDA UK.

Our Autumn Rally Trail is back!

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.

Prize Draw

All correct entries will be added into our prize draw! The first 10 completed entries returned with all answers correct will receive an extra 4 tickets added to the draw, giving them 5 chances to win!

 

How to enter
Entry is £15 (+ £1.76 eventbrite fee) per car, click here to enter via Eventbrite.com and for minimum entry requirements.

 

By signing up to our Rally Trail fundraiser, you are helping secure the future of our life-changing service.
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.

What’s in a name – Muirfield Riding Therapy

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.

 

ROSEMARY

When I retired to North Berwick in February 2003 the first place I looked to volunteer was the then-named Muirfield Riding for the Disabled (RDA) at West Fenton. The new Indoor Arena had opened for use six months prior, so I didn’t have the outside experience the group had at that point! Over many years I have been involved in many charities but none as rewarding as this one. We are so privileged to actually be close to our participants and to see the difference we can make.

 

About a year after I joined, new rules came into effect around Child Protection (now called Safeguarding) and I became the Child Protection Officer for the charity. I was very pleased to take on this role, as part of the charity’s management Committee. I was a member of the Committee during a very exciting time as the group started to grow. We soon realized that we needed even more space so the process of planning, fundraising and building our new facility began. As a group we all pulled together to fundraise and of course have fun, we are good at that here! We added our physio room, viewing gallery, meeting room and kitchen and toilet facilities, offices and a much improved reception.

 

During this time, NHS Lothian physio, Heather Falconer, had been volunteering with us. Her work, together with our then-Chair Susan Law, developed into the pioneering Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service, our partnership with NHS Lothian. Heather’s input was a huge part of our new expertise and it was then that we changed our name to reflect our work, so Muirfield Riding Therapy was born. (We are still a member of RDA, which has over 500 groups across the UK). Having recognition from the NHS was a huge accolade, thanks to Heather. She has taught us so much, and we now have a small team of physios including hippotherapists (hippotherapy is a form of specialist physio on horseback), working with us.

 

After 17 years in my Safeguarding role, I am stepping down, but it is great to see new people being enthusiastic and so keen to help with everything that needs doing, especially with our lovely, very special ponies and horses. Carry on working with this special charity, you will never regret it.

 

Would you like to volunteer with us?

Read our information and registration process here

 

Photo by Jim Hunter Images , Rosemary is on the left in the light blue fleece, with friend and fellow volunteer Frances.