11 August 2021

Endurance pays off for special group of Goulburn riders

| Sally Hopman
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Horse next to young rider

There’s a special bond between rider and horse at Goulburn Riding for the Disabled. Photo: Crescent School, Goulburn.

Endurance rider Jo Grove couldn’t be more excited if she’d won gold in an Olympics equestrian event.

The coach-secretary at Goulburn Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is celebrating confirmation that her group now has a permanent home in the regional city.

For about 40 years, Goulburn RDA has been operating from other people’s properties throughout the district, never quite sure if the land will be available in the future for them to use.

But thanks to a decision by Goulburn Mulwaree Council, 55 hectares of land on Taralga Road will become their home for at least 20 years.

The RDA will share the site with Goulburn Campdraft Association, with both organisations paying an annual peppercorn rent of only $496 for the council-owned land. Council agreed to a 15-year lease with a five-year extension option – allowing for the extra security.

“I can’t tell you how excited we are,” says Jo. “It’s now full steam ahead thanks to the support of council.”

The two organisations will operate independently on separate sides of the land, but with clear equestrian goals.

For the 30-plus riders who are registered with Goulburn RDA, ranging in age from five years old to high schoolers, it’s been a long journey to secure their own home ground.

Jo says to say she and the Goulburn team are ecstatic would be an understatement.

“We have been waiting such a long time for this,” she says.

“I just came to RDA one day and fell in love with it. What these children get here is something they don’t get anywhere else. They learn life skills and riding in a safe environment.

Jo Grove with pony on rural property

Jo Grove at her family’s Fullerton property with pony, Robbie Sox. Jo was recognised as Goulburn’s Woman of the Year in 2020 for her work with Goulburn Riding for the Disabled. Photo: Supplied.

“Knowing that we now have this place – this perfect place – means so much to all of us.”

For Jo, teaching people with special needs to ride a horse works on a variety of levels for rider, instructor and even the horse. Last year, her many years of dedicated volunteer work with Goulburn RDA were recognised when she was named as Goulburn’s 2020 Local Woman of the Year.

Jo believes as a unique form of exercise and rehabilitation, the complex movement of a horse can help the rider improve coordination, balance, muscular development and fitness.

She says it also assists greatly in the development and restoration of a rider’s self-confidence, self-esteem, communication skills, leadership and trust. For people with challenging behaviour, these skills can help the rider restore a sense of personal control, and subsequently, their behaviour to others.

The next step for both groups is to develop a masterplan with staged development for the site. Plans so far include a campdraft arena, undercover sand arena, livestock yards, carpark, campground, canteen and offices.

Roadworks, water reticulation and fence construction will also be necessary for the area.

READ ALSO ‘You should give back to the community’: Goulburn Riding for the Disabled volunteer honoured

Jo says the land is perfect for the group – across the road from the police driver training area and only a couple of kilometres out of town – making it convenient for both youngsters, their families and the many volunteers who make RDA in Goulburn possible.

“I would really like to thank Goulburn Mayor Bob Kirk and Deputy Mayor Peter Walker for making this dream come true for us,” she says. “It will make a difference to so many lives.”

Mayor Kirk said the future is bright for both Goulburn RDA and Goulburn Campdraft Association after the lease was endorsed by council.

“This lease by council will allow these two strong community organisations to plan for the future,” he said. “With a 20-year lease in place, they will be able to invest in the facilities, and also lobby for grant funding towards their masterplan proposal.

“Riding for the Disabled does a wonderful job with many of our younger community members living with a disability, and I’m sure they will be grateful to be settled at the new home on Taralga Road.

“Goulburn Campdraft Association has been an organisation growing stronger, and they, too, will now be able to plan for larger events, long-term.”

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