My Pets and I: Deborah Hall
PUBLISHED: 17:16 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:16 06 February 2017
This month Deborah Hall of The Chigwell Riding Trust, the first riding centre in the world for people with special needs, talks Labradors and horses
Tell us about your pets
I have two chocolate Labradors, a mother called Breeze and her daughter, Bracken. Breeze will be five in March and Bracken is 15 months old.
Breeze is delightful and is really good with our special needs children – in fact they both are.
Do your Labradors have any quirky personality traits?
I have to say their greatest asset is the fact that they are both so laid back. For chocolate Labradors who are known for being fairly hyper, my two pooches are extremely good and absolutely brilliant with the autistic children, which is a real bonus for me. The puppy in particular loves to welcome them. Breeze unfortunately got unintentionally kicked by an autistic rider when she was a puppy and she has never forgotten it.
It’s quite bizarre really, she can sense when an autistic rider is coming up the yard and she pops herself in my office, whereas Bracken runs out and greets them.
What do your dogs’ enjoy doing?
Eating and walking. I walk them twice a day, every morning and every evening. Bracken really loves playing in the river; she has become a real water-dog. She’ll just jump in whereas Breeze is a little more sensible and stays on the land.
Why did you join Chigwell Riding Trust?
I’ve been here around 35 years. I was training for an exam in 1979 at a commercial yard and I was asked if I would like to take a group of special needs adults and children out for a ride. After the lesson I was completely blown away and I knew that was what I wanted to do.
How do you think Chigwell Riding Trust benefits others?
From a riding point of view it can give people life-changing skill, from helping children to walk and some to talk. Imagine sitting in a wheelchair all day long, looking up at people, and then for once you’re on a horse seeing things from a different perspective. It helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
We also benefit the local community. We have a group of lovely volunteers who are worth their weight in gold, and we wouldn’t be able to run without them. We also partake in The Duke Of Edinburgh Award, we have work experience opportunities and we also have many people with mental health issues come here to talk some time out.
What would you say has been Chigwell Riding Trust’s biggest achievement or highlight to date?
We had a fire back in 1995 and for two years all our riding had to be outdoors because the barn burnt down. The National Lottery Fund granted us 65 percent of the money to rebuild the barn, and we had to raise the remaining 35 percent. We did it and were able to rebuild our stables and we now have a lovely indoor school.
How can our readers support Chigwell Riding Trust?
I would love some more volunteers. The maximum number of children I have in any lesson is six. Each rider has three adults; a leader looking after the pony and two others either side of the rider to give them moral support and sometimes a little bit of physical support, too. So in just one lesson, I could need 18 adults which proves particularly difficult in the afternoon as many of my volunteers have to pick up their children from school.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering at the Chigwell Riding Trust, call Deborah on 020 8500 6051