Vicki Bonham-Hoskin, with daughter Rebekah (7), has her
hands full keeping the Spirit of Equus Riding for the
Disabled programme going. Photo by Henrietta Kjaer.
Despite a waiting list, a Riding for the Disabled
programme might be closed in the Wakatipu area, as funding is
The Spirit of Equus organisation, which is providing riding
for the disabled as a method of rehabilitation, has been
applying to charitable trusts and organisations for funding,
with little recent success.
"Only two children are currently riding on a weekly basis. I
have a dozen children and adults on the waiting list to join
the programme, but without financial support they are unable
to attend," Spirit of Equus founder Vicki Bonham-Hoskin said.
She said the cost for the programme was $50 per half-hour,
and most people would ride at least once a week. The price
covered the instruction and a helper for each horse and rider
along with the upkeep of the horse.
"People with special needs, or with children with special
needs, are usually already hard hit financially, and find it
difficult to pay for this therapy. That is why I have been
applying for funds to cover their costs."
Mrs Bonham-Hoskin said Riding for Disabled was suitable as
rehabilitation for both physical disabilities and for
intellectual, emotional or multiple disabilities.
"It is a great physical training, but it is also very
beneficial for creating confidence and self-esteem. It trains
communication skills and gives a sense of independence and
accomplishment through interaction with the horses," she
The Lake Hayes-based facility used to offer the Riding for
the Disabled programme through the national organisation New
Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association, but this
organisation dropped the Wakatipu programme about four years
Today, the nearest NZRDA option is in Alexandra, which a lot
of the people on the waiting list are unable to attend.
When the official programme was cancelled, Spirit of Equus
continued to offer the service on a private basis. Yet, the
organisation is already struggling to finance its regular
operation to rehabilitate horses, which have suffered neglect
or abuse, or need to be re-trained for other purposes after a
career in racing or eventing.
Some of the horses and ponies are only at the Spirit of Equus
for a short period while being nursed back to health or
re-trained, while others stay and are used for pony rides,
riding classes or riding for the disabled.
With room for a maximum of 20 horses, Mrs Bonham-Hoskin has
15 horses in her care, with six of them ready for a new home.
The cost of keeping the horses is substantial for the
organisation, which does not get subsidies, but relies on
income from services such as horse-riding lessons, pony rides
for birthday parties, horse training, educational talks and
Hay alone will cost about $8000 for the winter season, and
the total cost of keeping the horses during winter, including
all food and vet bills, sits around $20,000-$25,000.
"I understand that during tight economic times, all funding
has to be prioritised. Unfortunately, animal welfare is often
low on the pecking order," she said.