Riding for the Disabled – Milly & Ariane Mazzei

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Milly and Ariane Mazzei are a very special mother and daughter team who share a love for horse riding. Read why FOCUS would like to award ‘Local Mother Of The Year’ to this fabulous mum. 




How old is Milly and what are her disabilities?

Milly is 9 years old and in Year 4 at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Armidale. In 2007, while in preschool, she was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder and moderate to severe intellectual delay. This basically means she finds everyday tasks such as communicating with others, reading and writing difficult. We have found no known cause for her disability and no effective treatment.

When did Milly first become interested in horse riding?

Milly first became interested in riding in 2010 after a friend sent us a flyer for the Riding for the Disabled (RDA), thinking we may be interested. After Milly’s first visit, she fell in love with horses and riding. She has attended the RDA every third Sunday of the month ever since.

In 2011, we went a step further and bought Beau, an 18 year old pony. Milly adores Beau, and he adores her back! The connection she has with him is beautiful.

Describe the special relationship you and Milly share with horses?

I was fortunate to learn to ride at a very young age growing up in Central Western NSW. However, my family moved to Sydney when I was in primary school, and my riding stopped. It wasn’t until we moved to Armidale in 2008 and became involved with the RDA that my love for horses re-emerged.

Before we became involved with the RDA, Milly’s and my time together was largely spent visiting doctors, doing treatment therapies and following a strict diet, all of which put a strain on our relationship. Now riding provides an enjoyment we share together. For the first year after getting Beau, I would take Milly out on long trail rides, with me running beside her! This kept me fit; however, late last year I was able to purchase my own horse, and now we are able to ride alongside each other.           Describe a typical visit for Milly at Riding for the Disabled.

RDA New England meet at 10am every third Sunday of the month at the Kennedy St Equestrian Centre. The coaches go through every process relating to looking after a horse and learning to ride. Once the horse is saddled up, Milly is taught how to ride through co-ordination and balance.

For Milly, directions as simple as turning left and right, halting and collecting the ‘yellow’ flag are all techniques that help her concentrate, learn and improve her motor skills.

Fondest memories of Milly on a horse?

We have many memories of Milly on the horses, but two of the fondest that come to mind are the first day she mounted ‘Dusty’, the RDA horse, and the happiness and sense of achievement on her face was lovely. The second is every weekend when she gets on her pony Beau, gives him a hug and rides around the paddock singing with joy.

Are you a volunteer? 

Yes, this year I have been elected Secretary of RDA New England. The whole centre is run by volunteers, including our qualified coaches and riding assistants.

Is the Riding For Disabled Association only operational in our region?

No, the RDA (NSW) is a volunteer organisation whose primary objective is to provide most people with a disability the opportunity to ride and enjoy all the activities connected with horse riding, with approximately 40 centres all over NSW. To quote an Athens Paralympian: “Alone I stagger – together we glide”.

How many local members do you have, and how can our readers become involved?

RDA New England is a relatively young centre, with currently 3 full-time riders and ten volunteers. We always welcome new riders and of course, more volunteers to assist our riders. We would also love any donations, either monetary, food or equipment for our horses. It is very easy to donate a few hours a month to a fantastic organisation, where you are surrounded by passionate people who assist the development of others.

For more information on RDA (NSW), visit their website at www.rdansw.org.au or email us at newengland@rdansw.org.au

Thanks Ariane.

This story was published in issue 60 of New England Focus

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