woman from Blenheim teaches disabled toddlers how to ride horses | 1 NEWS

Tonight’s Good Sort is a woman from Blenheim whose life was forever changed when, lonely and depressed, her family suggested she go to her local riding school for the disabled.

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Roslein Wilkes invented the program 27 years ago. Source: 1 NEWS

Six years ago, Roslein Wilkes launched Early Intervention, a program that teaches disabled toddlers how to get around and balance themselves through horseback riding, the only one in the country.

One of Wilkes’ young students is three-year-old Sam with Down syndrome. He is an experienced rider, who has been learning for about two years despite his young age.

Horses help children with “their development, muscle tone, core strength, internal organs” because their movements are similar to humans, she said.

“He walks exactly the same as a human.”

Young students sit on large horses because “the bigger the horse, the smoother their walk, the longer their stride,” she explained.

Wilkes has worked at Riding for the Disabled for 27 years and is now part of the second generation of these children.

Wilkes came to the group after her husband Rod died from melanoma.

“My husband died and I was a bit lost,” she said.

She found comfort in horses.

“I could grab one from the paddock and cry.”

So she started volunteering at Riding for the Disabled one day a week, and “within a year I was sort of leading it.”

Wilkes says the payoff is the improvement she sees in young children.

One of his students is Archie, who was unable to sit, stand or walk before starting the program with Wilkes.

He suffers from Pallister-Killian mosaic syndrome, a multisystem disorder characterized by extremely low muscle tone. Only two other children in the country have it.

“If a child has to stand or crawl, it is often right after a horse ride,” said her mother Alana.

Wilkes says the horse and the kids saved his life.

“I can’t even imagine what life would be like without it now… It’s just the most amazing feeling.”

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