Ausnew Home Care | Horseriding empowering people with disabilities

Horseriding empowering people with disabilities to find confidence, independence

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For Tiffany Lipfert, riding horses on a Thursday after school is more than just a fun activity. It gives her a place where she feels included.

The teenager was diagnosed as Asperger's in 2017, the same year she started riding horses at HorsePower Midwest — formerly known as Riding for the Disabled.

"At school I had a hard time fitting in," she said.

HorsePower is a statewide program in Western Australia that uses specially trained horses to empower people with disabilities.

Physiotherapist Natascha Gray introduced the program to Geraldton 20 years ago after she went on a trail ride in England.

"There was a young man riding with us who had autism," she said.

"I suddenly thought 'wouldn't it be amazing to start up something like that in Geraldton?'"

Aleisha sits on top of Ned the horse in a green paddock. She wears a helmet and red shirt. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Many of the horses are lent to the group by volunteers who also stick around to help Aleisha and her friends.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim


Physical and mental benefits connected to program

The program provides a range of benefits to children and adults living with various disabilities, including improving cognitive and physical skills.

Ms Gray said the calming nature of the horses used in Geraldton also provides emotional benefits to participants.

"There are so many benefits to horse riding," she said.

"It has a lot of physical benefits [especially for] people with tight muscles. It strengthens those muscles, because they are constantly having to adjust and readjust to the movement of the horse.

Pippa, centre, wears white helmet and school uniform. Two women help her and she is sat on a cream coloured pony.
Pippa has cerebral palsy and her mother Rochelle says they have seen many benefits from regular horse riding.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim


It is hard not to smile when watching children like seven-year-old Pippa Funneman enjoy riding the horses.

Pippa has cerebral palsy and spends a lot of her time in a wheelchair.

Her mother Rochelle said horseriding is a highlight of their week.

"Pippa loves the horse, Pocket, the little white pony," she said.

"She knows it's her horse that she jumps on and she gets excited every time we turn up."

Pippa started riding horses at the age of two, now seven Mrs Funneman said it is an important part of her weekly therapy.

"At the beginning she was quite floppy on the horse, leaning over, scrunched up," she said.

Horses providing opportunities

HorsePower Midwest secretary Tracy Newnham said her own daughter Aleisha, who has intellectual and hearing difficulties, had become so much more confident from horse riding.

Aleisha now trots and even canters without any assistance on her favourite horse, Ned.

"When she first started coming when she was six she had lots of problems with fine motor skills and balance," Mrs Newnham said.

Two volunteers wearing red assist a young boy in a green and yellow shirt who sits on top a beige horse.
Tiffany Lipfert and Veronica Lewis both volunteer their time at HorsePower.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim


Veronica Lewis has a visual impairment and wanted to become a rider herself but found the horses were too small.

Instead she decided to volunteer and said it was one of the best things she did.

"I get happiness, I get to do what I love — which is horses," she said.

"Horses have always been my passion, they have been a big part of my life.

"But because of my disability I have not been able to get into it for a very long time and now I get to do it in a controlled environment."


Source: ABC

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