Note: This blog post is the result of an email received.

What do most people associate horses with? They are representative of adjectives like majestic, strong, steady and other words that imply the same.

But tucked somewhere in the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club, are not only horses that grace the grounds with their gallops; but also horses that are gentle, and the source of inspiration for a group of disabled children.

The Riding for Disabled Association (RDA) holds their weekly ‘therapy’ session for the children every Thursday at 10:00am – 11:00am at the Indoor Arena of the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club. AirAsians regularly volunteer for these sessions on their off-days.

Well, in my case, I read the email sent by the Corporate Culture team, and immediately got swept off my feet by the thought of helping disabled children (I heart kids) at horse riding classes (horses are sooo handsome!). There was no further convincing needed, and asked permission from my boss (thanks boss!) to attend it.

They were lacking of volunteers the day I was there, so pardon my lack of pictures. There wasn’t much time to snap & click, as everyone’s hands were needed and was full for the entire session.

To avoid you from growing bored listening about horses (which I am no expert in as well) and children, here’s a concise version of my prancing around last Thursday morning:

The day began at about 9.30am with 6 kids seated obediently with their parents, smiling at me as I walked in. The other volunteers welcomed me and introduced me to the gang. Much to my delight (more like surprise, actually) Kak Zuraidah, the coordinator announced, “Kids, today, Daphne’s going to do the warm up with all of you!¨ So my procrastinated exercise regime finally kicked off! But hey, I got to cheer a group of kids up, so it’s all good!

Once we finished, the leaders lined the horses up – all four of them: Palomina, Freckles, Kenyalang & a little white pony (which doesn’t seem to have a name attached to it). Each child is assigned a horse, together with a ‘leader’ and a ‘walker’. A few rules when working with the horses & children:

1. Always walk behind the horses. Unless you want them to give you a nice kick and land yourself in the hospital.
2. Keep your eyes on three things while being the ‘walker’: the horse (to avoid bumping into them), the child (just in case they get too excited and risk sliding down the saddle – which is rare), and the ‘leader’ (you need to encourage the child to follow the light exercises instructed)
3. Say Walk On (while squeezing the horse’s body with your feet) to make it go forward, and ‘Whoaaaa’ (while pulling the reigns) to make it stop! Nice!
4. The more goofy you are, the more the kids love you 🙂 So don’t hold back and give it your all!

Initially, I thought it was all just a physiotherapy session, but after this first round of volunteer work, my eyes are opened to see how else this beneficial session can contribute to the children’s overall wellbeing. Throughout the session, the children are encouraged to sit up straight, look straight and ride their horse proud! Some of the exercise involved stretches for the body, leg exercise, balancing to improve coordination, muscle tone, concentration, cooperation and behaviour.

I had the opportunity to guide two children – Xiang Wei & Yee Cheng. It was a great learning experience for me, as well as for them. From what I see, it does not just boost their physical abilities; it also does something deep inside them. With every completed task, you see a smile grow wider, a face glows brighter. Wow, that feeling ¡V money can’t buy.

At about 11.30am, all children had a satisfied smirk on their face, having completed their tasks for the day, and the ‘leaders’ directed the horses back to their stables. As for me, I just had the time of my life, albeit it being a simple gesture of helping out and clearly, look forward to the next opportunity to be a part of the next session.

And hopefully, with this blog post, many more will discover the simple joy of adding value into the children’s lives while having fun (plus a great workout too) Everyone can volunteer – pick a Thursday, make it there by 9.30am and have a blast, y’all!! (Coz I surely did) Say yes to taking horsie rides with children, AirAsia loves to make kids smile! 🙂

Daphne Cheah

Daphne Cheah, is the Regional Head of Green & Environmental Affairs for the AirAsia Group and hails from the land of Char Koay Teow – Penang, Malaysia.

Scuba diving tops her list of favourite activities, apart from travelling & writing. She’s still searching for the elusive whale shark and hopes to meet it some day while diving. Check this profile regularly to see if she has!

Follow her on Twitter & Instagram via @daphne_uijen

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