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Kishmul and other Heroes

Muirfield Riding Therapy works with a small charity called Friends of Retired MRT Ponies (FoR) to support its ponies at the end of their working lives.  Susan Law MBE, our Services Coordinator and former longstanding Chair of MRT, tells the story of a very special MRT therapy pony called Kishmul.

Kishmul and other Heroes

Kishmul came to West Fenton aged 5 from a breeder in Perthshire. And what a handsome Oatmeal Dun Highland he was when he came barging off the lorry!  I started at MRT not long after Kishmul arrived and it was love at first sight…….well, for me at least.

I was already a committed Highland enthusiast, but Kish reminded me on a regular basis that Highlands, like many native breeds, can be stubborn and strong willed.  Yet the temperament he had proved ideal for our work; generally unfazed by wriggling, vocal children and accepting of the odd positions our therapists and riders can adopt. These solid beasts, with leg at each corner, are very stoical.

In addition, his short coupling, typical to the breed, gave him a strong back and he had the ideal conformation for back-riding.
For those not familiar with back-riding, this is carried out only by physiotherapists with support from fully trained MRT volunteers and involves the therapist sitting on the pony with the child in front of her. This is used for children who have little or no head control.
It is a fairly pressurised situation for the pony. The children who benefit from it are very vulnerable, so the equine used and the team around him develop a bond. It is very important that the physiotherapist can trust the pony so that she can focus all of her attention on the little person she is working with.
Over the years I worked with Kishmul in many situations: from the “over hill and down dale treks” that Gill would take our Riders on, where danger lay in every tempting blade of grass we came across; to outings to the Jack Kane Centre, giving pony rides on KIDS OUT days, with fire engines screaming around us; to Musselburgh Racecourse where he was NOT last in his one furlong race.

We were a team, he and I. I think he recognised that I could be just as stubborn and strong-willed as him!
But it was in his role as MRT’s first back-riding pony that our best hours were spent together. His innate sense that he was carrying fragile cargo seemed to bring out the very best in this pony. In the calm atmosphere of a one to one rider situation we could simply work quietly together, anticipating and responding to the slightest movement that the physio made or instruction she gave.
Admittedly, I don’t think there are many of our long-term volunteers that Kishmul has not carted to grass, or avoided when catching, or showed his displeasure to when saddling!
He was no pushover and taught many of us that equines deserve respect, especially equines who work as therapy ponies. They have a rider, of course, and a leader giving them conflicting signals. Their body space is crowded, which can be stressful for a flight animal.

Many have come and gone, breaking our hearts as they go, but those who stay have a tough job. They are handled by many different people with different views on handling horses.
What other way can they tell us when they are being girthed too tightly or bitted too harshly than with swishing tail or flattened ears? Thankfully, MRT Volunteers now a days are all trained in a mindful way of horse handling, but older ponies have long memories of past unpleasant experiences.
And so, in his later years, Kishmul did not suffer fools (as he saw us!) gladly. He trusted few and scared many. But if he trusted you, the effort to gain his trust was repaid a hundred-fold.

Thanks to those who saw through his grumpiness and appreciated the amazing pony who worked for MRT for 20 odd years, giving hundreds of children and adults the chance to benefit from riding therapy – an achievement recognized by Princess Anne, who awarded him with a long service medal during her second visit to MRT.

Thanks to those who cared for and supported Kishmul in retirement, through Friends of Retired MRT Ponies.

And thanks to everyone at MRT who has handled Kishmul over all the years. We have learnt from him, a more mindful way of handling all of our wonderful therapy ponies. Hopefully we will continue to pass down to these valuable lessons about how we work with our ponies, treating them with respect and working in partnership to help them to do a difficult job.

This old warrior has now left us aged 29, after a great 18 months living naturally, just being a horse. He lived in a massive field with three other 16.2 retirees who dwarfed him. But he was, predictably, the boss of his herd till the end and was his own man to the end.  I will miss him in my life but know that he led a good useful life, enjoyed a wonderful retirement and died a peaceful death.

Susan Law MBE, September ‘18


Keep in touch with FoR on Facebook, Friends of Retired MRT Ponies 

Launching our 30th Anniversary at a gallop!

Muirfield Riding Therapy will be 30 years old in 2019 and we are looking for support to help us mark the occasion throughout the coming year.  We launched our celebrations at the Musselburgh Race Course Caledonian Cup Meeting on 15th September.  The special raceday was in support of MRT with six of the races at the meeting named after MRT to heighten awareness of the work we do – spot our new anniversary logo at the racecourse finish line!  Thanks to a wonderfully generous donation, and our fabulous volunteer collectors, the raceday raised a magnificent £11,000.


As a fully self-funded charity, we started life back in 1989 in a muddy field with borrowed ponies.  We’ve come a long way since then, thanks to wonderful support from the East Lothian community.  We now provide our pioneering therapy, free of charge, to around 120 children and adults each week, are supported by 250 volunteers, and need to raise around £100,000 a year to maintain our therapy services.


Our riders have a wide range of disabilities and life affecting conditions both physical and mental, and our volunteer-led organisation is supported by specialist physiotherapists and its 12 trained therapy ponies.


Muirfield Riding Therapy chair, Michelle Sutton, said:

“We are indebted for this wonderful gesture which has meant we started our 30thyear at a gallop. It costs an average of £3000 a year to maintain one of our ponies and we rely on corporate sponsorship and the efforts of many generous individuals to continue our work in East Lothian and beyond.


“The donation was most welcome and the high-profile awareness it afforded us at the Caledonian Cup Raceday is invaluable and helps greatly in explaining what we do and highlighting how people benefit from therapeutic riding.”


Musselburgh Racecourse senior operations and commercial manager, Sarah Montgomery, said:

“We have a long-standing relationship with Muirfield Riding Therapy which was one of our nominated charities some years ago. The work they do is of great value to many people and their families and we are delighted to be able to support this well-loved local equestrian related charity.”


We’d like to mark our special year in some way.  If you have been involved with MRT at anytime in our 30 year history and would like to share a story or two, or if you are interested in helping us come up with ideas and making them happen, then please get in touch.




Over £5k raised for Team MRT at Kiltwalk 2018!


The MRT Kiltwalk Team 2018, from left to right: Shirley, Susan, Michelle, Debs, Morven, Cameron, Sarah and Mandy, would like to thank everyone who supported them.  With online and offline donations counted, plus the 40% boost from the Kiltwalk’s partner, The Hunter Foundation, the fundraising total now stands £5,311.61.

The Team took on the Edinburgh Kiltwalk Big Stroll (15.5 miles) on Sunday 16 September and despite some soggy weather half way, the atmosphere was fantastic and they completed the walk in just short of 5 hours.

If anyone would like to take part in The Edinburgh Kiltwalk 2019 for MRT, we’d love to hear from you!

Volunteer Recruitment Week 2018

Starts 11th September

Just two hours a week can make a huge difference!


Please come along and find out about joining our team of volunteers.  Just two hours a week of your time can make a huge difference.  Muirfield Riding Therapy is an entirely volunteer-led organisation.  We need all sorts of people to help us.  We have volunteers from age 12 to 86!  Everyone’s skills and talents are used.

We are open during the times below, please pop in:


TUE 11th  Sept  10-12noon & 1.30-3.30pm

WED 12th Sept  10-12noon & 6.30-8pm

THU 13th Sept   10-12noon

FRI 14th Sept      1.30-3.30pm

SAT 15th Sept     10-12noon


We look forward to seeing you at our Indoor Arena in September.

Team Kiltwalk 2018 – join us!

We’re taking part in Edinburgh Kiltwalk’s ‘The Big Stroll’ this September – come and join us!  Be a Walker, a Donor or a Volunteer.

The MRT Team will be part of the Edinburgh Kiltwalk 2018, taking place on Sunday 16th September.  We are tackling The Big Stroll, a 15.5 mile route, starting at Pinkie Playing Fields and ending at Murrayfield Stadium where the Kiltwalk Party will begin…

And here’s the amazing bit, not only will Kiltwalk ensure 100% of any sponsorship donation money comes to us, their partnership with Sir Tom Hunter’s The Hunter Foundation means we will also receive an additional 40%!

For every £10 donated, we receive £14, thanks to Kiltwalk partner The Hunter Foundation!

There are lots of ways to be part of our MRT Team;


Walk with us

Use this link to register, which will ensure your fundraising page links to our MRT Team page – Register for the Big Stroll


Donate to us

Every penny of your sponsorship comes to MRT, plus an additional 40% thanks to The Hunter Foundation – Donate to the MRT Team


Be a ‘Kiltie’ for us

Did you know, you can volunteer as a Kiltwalk marshal, known as a Kiltie (the ‘heart, soul and smile of the Kiltwalk’) and your chosen charity will be ‘paid’ for every hour you volunteer – Register to be a Kiltie


THANK YOU for your support




We’re ready Haddington!

Our Summer Fayre opens at 9.30am, till 2.30pm, Saturday 23 June, Corn Exchange, Haddington

Come along and say hello.  We have absolutely loads of quality bargains for you and prizes to be won!  Stalls include, Plants, Books, Toys, Bric-a-Brac, Adults and Kids Clothing & Accessories, Horse riding Clothing, Produce on our Larder stall including lots of delicious Monaghan mushrooms, and lots more.

GIANT hamper raffle with a huge amount of foodie treats and over £65 worth of Haddington Farmers’ Market vouchers.

Buy a Bale and win cute Butterscotch the Pony



Cafe – tea/coffee & cakes, bacon rolls, soup, filled rolls

See you there!

All proceeds from our Fayre will help us provide Riding Therapy, free, to more children and adults with disabilities in East Lothian.




Video: 3-dimensional movement of a horse at walk

WHY RIDING? How therapeutic riding works: the 3-dimensional movement of a horse at walk

Our summer 2018 campaign is focussed on explaining why riding is a great therapeutic activity. This video, created thanks to a few of our volunteers (human and equine!), shows why our core activities use the 3-dimensional movement of a horse to achieve specific therapeutic outcomes.

Our specially trained physiotherapists use selected horses as mobile therapeutic treatment tools. Did you know….Horses have a 3-dimensional movement and some studies have concluded that sitting on a walking horse replicates the movement of a normal walking pattern in the Rider’s pelvis by 97%. The movement of the horse also generates responses in the Rider that are similar to, and essential for, walking.

Special thanks to volunteer Scott McNeish for putting the video together.

* Please share and help raise awareness of the benefits of riding therapy *

Annual MRT Summer Fayre – 23 June 2018

Corn Exchange, Haddington, 09.30am – 2.30pm

Our Summer Fayre is back after a successful first event last year.  Lots of stalls and lots of bargains at our family-friendly event.


Bring your friends and family along and enjoy our tasty Cafe, legendary bacon rolls and home-baking, and enter our GIANT HAMPER raffle!

NEW! The Larder – local produce, homemade jams and chutneys – if you are a local producer, and willing to donate some of your produce to our Larder stall, please get in touch, thank you.


Contributions to all our stalls below gratefully received: to donate items please either;
* PHONE 01620 842502
* EMAIL [email protected]
* DROP OFF donations at our Indoor Arena, West Fenton, North Berwick, EH39 5AL
* DELIVER to the Corn Exchange, 13 Court St, Haddington EH41 3DS on Fri 22 June, 9am – 5pm











ENTRIES OPEN – our Summer Show for Horses & Ponies, 22 July 2018

Our annual Summer Show for Horse and Ponies is now open for online entries via Horse Monkey!

Our 2018 Event Sponsor is MacGregor Healthcare Ltd

Our Summer Show is one of the biggest Horse Shows in East Lothian –

290 Rosettes
47 Classes
40 Volunteer staff
39 Sponsors
9 Judges
1 Supreme in Show Trophy !

* Spectators welcome * Cafe * BBQ *


Summer Awareness Campaign 2018 – Why Riding?

Our Summer Campaign, which runs from May to July, is focussing on raising awareness of Riding Therapy.  Find out what makes riding such a great therapeutic activity.


Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy (specialist physiotherapy on horseback) provide multiple life-changing physical, learning, behavioural and social benefits to riders thanks to the movement, warmth and rhythm of the horse.  Our Riders are people with a wide range of disabilities and life-affecting conditions, both physical and mental.  Our core activities use the three-dimensional movements of a horse to achieve specific therapeutic outcomes. Specially trained physiotherapists use selected horses as mobile therapeutic treatment tools.


Did you know?

Horses have a 3-dimensional movement and some studies have concluded that sitting on a walking horse replicates the movement of a normal walking pattern in the Rider’s pelvis by 97%.   The movement of the horse also generates responses in the Rider that are similar to, and essential for, walking.


A world-wide community

There are over 500-member groups of Riding for the Disabled Association in the UK alone.  Wider afield, groups operate under the umbrella organisation of Federation of Riding for the Disabled International, and there are many groups offering riding therapy through different organisations in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.  All these groups of people share a common belief that equine assisted therapy can improve lives in lots of ways.


What makes MRT special?

We are at the forefront of riding therapy in the UK.  MRT’s ethos is based on team work; by working together, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education professionals and our specially trained Volunteers and Ponies we are able to offer Riders the best therapeutic benefit.


Meet our Physios

Our physiotherapists provide specialist child and adult services, and support the training of our volunteer Coaching Team.  In 2009, MRT Group physiotherapist Heather Falconer, piloted a successful service between NHS Lothian and MRT.  This pioneering partnership became the Therapeutic Riding Service, part of NHS Lothian’s Children’s Physiotherapy Service.