Annette Wilson: North Shore Group Riding for the Disabled
Annette dedicates her horse passion to a human cause
Not everyone gets to combine what they love doing with the chance to make a difference in people’s lives, but Annette Wilson is definitely one of those people.
Annette has been volunteering at the North Shore Group Riding for the Disabled for 17 years, working with riders, their families and schools.
“I have had a passion for horses all of my life which is why I was drawn to the group,” Annette says.
The association welcomes disabled children and adults of the North Shore, from Devonport through Takapuna, Glenfield, Albany and Whangaparoa.
As a direct result of the sessions, the riders show improved social interactions with their peers and family and their learning at school often becomes more focused.
They often form a strong emotional connection with the horse that is difficult for them to make with people.
In the past, the organisation has focused on the physical advantages horse riding provides. However, there is a new focus on enhancing the riders’ educational, social and emotional wellbeing.
“Watching the riders come through the group is the icing on the cake for me,” Annette says.
One of her roles is to organise programs for the riders. This includes stimulating activities individualised to each rider’s needs and abilities and allocating volunteers to each rider. She is also a long-serving member of the governance committee.
On top of all that, as acting horse manager, Annette prepares the horses for their special roles. This involves finding the best horse for each rider and selecting new horses as the older ones retire.
Annette is respected for her compassion and willingness to work with all riders, regardless of their physical or behavioural problems. If a volunteer finds a child particularly challenging Annette will step in and take over the care while encouraging the volunteer to observe and help once they feel able.
She says she has lived in the area all her life and she is truly humbled that people has recognised her as a Westfield Local Hero.
The organisation will use its $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to buy a horse for the group, which Annette says is significant. “We will be able to source a horse with the perfect size, age, health and temperament to join our current herd.”