Riding for the Disabled – an Oasis in the Bush

Published November 21, 2014

One wet day (not unusual was it!) this week I visited the Riding for the Disabled Group for the first time and was very surprised by how beautiful the location was.

They are located just off Poplar Grove on Alba St amidst native forest and well established trees, gardens and arena. The horses graze along Barrett Domain for which the group has a grazing licence from NPDC. It is a very tranquil and inspiring place.


Riding for the Disabled is a national charity whose core purpose is to provide interaction with horses for children and adults with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges and to develop increased ability, independence and self esteem.

The New Plymouth Riding for the Disabled branch has a long history and is one of the biggest branches in New Zealand. The group traces its history back to Omata and the property of a Zym Machnacki (property just outside the New Plymouth boundary above the Herekawe Stream). He ran the Carpathian Riding School more than 40 years ago from this property and following his death left a bequest that has helped establish the Riding for the Disabled – an endeavour Zym was passionate about and many others like him who understood the therapeutic benefits of horse riding.


In 1981 land was acquired from the Council at Barrett’s Domain and fundraising was carried out to fence, build an arena, stables and develop the pastures. The RDA was officially opened on 30 October 1982 by the Deputy Mayor Mr Ron Barclay. The group has continued to grow since that day.

An independent committee is responsible for running the charity and it complies with the NZRDA operating standards and values. Volunteers provide much needed assistance with the horses, the children, the grounds and administration. Local businesses and families have also provided much needed funding through sponsorship and community grants. Each of the nine horses has an individual sponsor and the contributions from sponsors help meet the regular costs of looking after these horses. Many of the business sponsors have been involved for a very long time – 25 years and currently there are 11 business sponsors.

Let’s meet the horses.

Each of the horses has an ‘interesting’ past and unique personality to which the riders are matched. The oldest horse is Maiden (23 years), there’s also Smudge, Deanna, Cricket, Buddy, Toby, Muddy, Pippin and Peggy. None of them appreciated the wet weather the day I visited!