How horses are helping people living with dementia

A wonderful video shared by BBC Breakfast, shows how horses at Cotswold RDA group are helping bring back precious memories for people living with dementia, through their Tea with a Pony initiative

Recently, Muirfield Riding Therapy has been working with Dementia Friendly East Lothian with a view to setting up a dementia-friendly ‘cafe’ at our Arena.

MRT Chair Michelle Sutton explains;

We are working with Dementia Friendly East Lothian to explore setting up a space that local people living with dementia and their carers can use to meet together and share experiences.  This may develop in future to include contact with our ponies but we are in the really early stages at the moment. It’s started with us looking at, for example, how the space is decorated to make it easier and more comfortable for our new visitors.

This year we are celebrating 30 years of providing therapeutic riding to people with disabilities in East and Mid Lothian.  If you would like to get involved with Muirfield Riding Therapy, we’d love to hear from you.

These horses are supporting people who live in nursing homes

💕 People with dementia are being helped by these amazing horses 🐴

Posted by BBC Breakfast on Friday, 15 March 2019

North Berwick Rotary’s Classic Car Tour 2019

We are absolutely delighted to be one of the beneficiary charities chosen by Rotary Club of North Berwick for their annual, Classic Car Tour 2019, and this year’s event has already sold out!

On Sunday 28th April 2019, the Rotary Club of North Berwick will be running its third Classic Car Tour, following a scenic route through East Lothian, Northumberland, and the Borders, with stops in Berwick upon Tweed for coffee and lunch and finishing at The Walled Garden in Archerfield Estate. The event is already sold out, but a waiting list is in operation if you still want to register your interest.

MRT Chair, Michelle Sutton says,

We are celebrating 30 years of providing riding therapy this year, and are thrilled to have been chosen by the Rotary Club of North Berwick to be one of their beneficiary charities for this fantastic event, during our anniversary year.

Waiting List and information for this year’s Tour 2019

Info and photos from last year’s Tour 2018

Strictly Dance Fever 2019 and 2020!

We have been chosen as the official charity for 2019 and 2020 of East Lothian’s Strictly Dance Fever, a long-running fun evening of entertainment which pairs local ‘celebrities’ with professional dancers in an exciting dance-off.

Held at the Corn Exchange, Haddington on Saturday 23rd November 2019, the event originally started over ten years ago as a fundraiser for Yester Church Restoration. By popular demand, it has gone on to raise funds for lots of other worthy causes thanks to the tireless efforts of Director Bett Morrison of Kidlaw, Gifford. The winning couple on the night receive the Niall Fairgrieve trophy, which was given in memory of the local rugby player who tragically lost his life too early.

MRT Chair Michelle Sutton says,

Twelve couples will be putting their best sparkly dance shoe-clad feet forward in a bid to win the trophy and raise vital funds for Muirfield Riding Therapy at the same time.  We are over the moon to have been chosen as the official charity for this fantastic fundraiser, in our 30th anniversary year, and next year.

The event officially launches in June, once the couples have been paired up at a special Dance Workshop held in Haddington.  More to follow…

(Photo of 2018 winners Jackie Gentil and Jane Libberton, who’s Irish Dancing routine won them the trophy. Courtesy of Leuchie House – official Strictly Dance Fever charity 2018).

Annual MRT Bridge Lunch success!

Another fantastic fundraising Bridge Lunch was held on Wednesday 20th February 2019, raising £1,200!

MRT has been running its Bridge Lunch for a number of years now, and we would like to offer our very grateful thanks to all our Bridge guests, for coming along and supporting our event so well once again, in this our 30th anniversary year.

Thank you to our organisers Elayne and Brenda and all their volunteers who helped out with food, waitressing and raffle donations.

And thanks to Di and the team at the Mallard Hotel, Gullane for hosting us superbly this year!

Do you play Bridge?  If you would like to join our events mailing list, please get in touch –

Contact: [email protected]

Become a valued volunteer in 2019

Be part of our Team in 2019 as we celebrate 30 years of providing therapeutic riding sessions, free of charge, for children and adults with disabilities in East and Midlothian.  

2 – 3 hours per week of your time can make a big difference to the lives of others.  

There are lots of ways you can help: in riding sessions, with horse care, with admin or offering fundraising support.

MRT is run almost exclusively by volunteers and team work is essential in all areas of the operation.  We can offer you a worthwhile, rewarding volunteering opportunity.  Some volunteers come to us with equine experience while other might come to us with experience of disability but neither is essential.  Full training is given in all aspects of the running of our sessions. Volunteering can include, working in sessions; handling ponies or working with our riders. Administrative; assisting in the office, data handling.  Fundraising; assisting the Fundraising Team with a range of events of all sizes.

MRT will take whatever time you can spare, but most sessions last for 2-3 hours each week.

Apply now. Download and complete our Volunteer Application Forms, bring your forms along to the Centre at any of our 7 weekly sessions when you will meet the Session Teams and your Training Mentor. You will be sure of a warm welcome.

Queries? Call 01620 842502 or email our Service Coordinator

Come and have a go at Show Jumping this Sunday!

Riders, horses and ponies of all ages, join us on Sunday 20th January for the fourth event in our Annual Winter Series Show Jumping 2018/19!

07 October | 18 November | 09 December | 20 January | 24 February | 17 March – The Final

We’re now on our fourth event of this season’s Winter Series already.  You don’t need to have attended previous events in the Series to take part, just come along and join in!  This Sunday 20th January 2019 – we welcome everyone, and especially less experienced riders and ponies & horses, of ALL ages.

Our Class Schedule offers something for everyone to try, and we always include an adult-only class (age 21 years +). Our Winter Series events are fundraisers, with all proceeds to Muirfield Riding Therapy.  Please share our event.


Entry is on the day only and Classes are £6 per rider, per Class (Indoor Arena) and £4 per rider for our Clear Round in the Outdoor Arena.  Buy one Clear Round and get one free – two attempts to win a rosette!


Spectator entry is FREE, so come along and support your rider from our cozy Spectator Viewing Gallery.  Our Cafe will be open all day with very reasonably priced bacon rolls, soup, home baking, hot & cold drinks

You can ring the Show Secretary throughout event day to check Class Start Times and weather on 01620 842502.  Each Class has a guide start time, to help you plan your day. As our event is entries-on-the-day only, registration numbers will dictate our Class timings.

Our Winter Series Finale culminates in the presentation of trophies;

Wobblies Trophey
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from classes 1-5.

The Fiona Mossan Trophy
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from classes 4-9.

The Niven Family Trophy
Presented to the most improved rider of the Series.


Lizzie officially becomes a Hippotherapist!

One of our wonderful volunteer physiotherapists, Lizzie Barke, has successfully passed her postgraduate training to become a Hippotherapist!


Lizzie, an NHS physiotherapist specialising in paediatrics and currently working in the Community, has been volunteering at MRT since 2014.  After shadowing our lead physiotherapist Heather Falconer at a number of hippotherapy sessions and witnessing the fantastic results they produced, Lizzie was keen to join the team. She has intermittently been working as a Trainee hippotherapist within our Tuesday sessions since 2014.

Lizzie says,

“l’m delighted to have completed my training. The children who are referred to our Service present with a huge array of challenges, including issues with mobility, balance, muscle tone, strength, coordination, body awareness and symmetry. Hippotherapy has provided a means to address all of these issues and more in sessions.”

Our Service Coordinator Susan Law added,

“The Tuesday afternoon team are thrilled to hear of Lizzie’s wonderful achievement. It has been a real pleasure to watch Lizzie develop under Heather’s tutelage.  As Service Coordinator I am particularly pleased; having Lizzie as a fully qualified hippotherapist will help to ensure the continuation and further development of the service we can offer in this our 30th year. Exciting times ahead!”

Our Group physiotherapist Heather Falconer pioneered what has become the Therapeutic Riding Service, part of NHS Lothian’s Children’s Physiotherapy Service, in 2009

MRT is on CBeebies Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales!

Back in the summer we had a team from the BBC with us filming for Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales.  Our episode, MacGregor The Pony, will be transmitted on Friday 30th November 2018!

The team from CBeebies programme Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales were with us for several days in July, filming in and around our Arena at West Fenton.  We are delighted to announce that our episode, MacGregor The Pony, will broadcast on Friday 30th November at 4.35pm on CBeebies, and it looks fantastic (please check listings for up to date information as schedules can change).  We hope you, your friends and family can tune in for what is sure to be a great show and please remember to set your recorders.

Find out more about our Therapy Pony MacGregor featured in this episode.


Winter Series Show Jumping 2018/19

Our Annual Winter Series Show Jumping 2018/19
Indoor Arena, West Fenton

07 October | 18 November | 09 December | 20 January | 24 February | 17 March – The Final

Our Winter Series is run to encourage less experienced riders and ponies & horses, of all ages. We always include an adult-only class.  Our six friendly events culminate in the Series Final and presentation of trophies, in March. All Class entry fee proceeds go to Muirfield Riding Therapy.

Entry is on-the-day only and costs £6 per rider per class. Clear Round is £4 per rider – buy a Clear Round entry, get one free, two attempts to win a rosette. All entry proceeds to Muirfield Riding Therapy, thank you.

Bring your friends and family – spectators are welcome and can watch the action from our cozy Viewing Gallery.  Our Cafe will be selling hot and cold food & drinks all day.

EVENT ONE is on Sunday OCTOBER 7th, 2018 – click for the Competition Schedule
Starts 09.30am Clear Round starts 10.00am

We have three trophies presented at the end of the Series in March 2019:

Wobblies Trophey
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from classes 1-5.

The Fiona Mossan Trophy
Presented to the rider/pony/horse combination which has accrued the most points from classes 4-9.

The Niven Family Trophy
Presented to the most improved rider of the Series.



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