Marlborough Riding for the Disabled is facing a battle for survival.
Members of the Blenheim charitable organisation have pleaded for help as they reveal the severe financial struggle they face.
Funds were so tight, the centre was operating on a “hand to mouth” basis.
Vice president Louis Lefebre says the centre has a big impact on many lives; his own included.
The engineer was paralysed in a freak skiing accident at Mt Hutt in 2010, while celebrating his son’s 17th birthday.
He helps oversee vital maintenance projects at the Churchward Park facility.
“Riding was not part of my life…when I came out of Burwood I couldn’t even sit on a chair without falling over.
“Most of the clients either haven’t got the ability physically or mentally to sum up what it does for them so I’m speaking on their behalf.
“I’ll ask the little kids how they’re riding’s going, and some can’t speak but there’s a smile that comes up and you know it’d been a positive experience.
“But the stress of worrying about the money takes away from what we’re trying to do. We’re not empire building here, we just want to do our best”, he says.
Long-time coach and volunteer Roslein Wilkes revealed it costs $85 to put just one rider on a horse.
Costs were recouped at $20 per rider and with 80 riders a week, the centre was left with a huge shortfall.
“We’re trying to make that up all the time,” she says.
The group caters for children and adults from across Marlborough, with children from almost every school attending in some capacity.
With many horses retiring, demand outstrips supply, says Louis.
The horse he rode on, Pepsi, sadly died just before December and the centre cannot afford to buy a replacement.
“I haven’t been able to ride since then as there is no other horse suitable,” he says.
There is a waiting list of five adults.
RDA committee member Tim Smit revealed the Blenheim-based centre was facing a daily funding battle and had become a victim of its own success.
He implored members of Marlborough District Council to consider extending the help they already offer.
“Like most charitable organisations, our time is spent on trying to raise funds.
“We rely entirely on the goodwill of donations. It’s a hand to mouth business, with barely enough money one or two months ahead.
“When people rely on us for pay, this can be very stressful,” he says.
The RDA rent the building from Marlborough District Council for a “peppercorn” figure.
Council staff have been instrumental in helping cut soaring power bills in half, says Tim.
But the group hope council will help again in any way they can, from maintaining the property and grounds in terms of cash or supplying contractors.
Blenheim councilor Jenny Andrews praised volunteers for all their efforts.
Having visited the centre for herself, she says it is easy to see the positive difference it makes.
“I came back thinking three words; transforming, magic and hope.
“It’s like a miracle, with smiles as wide as the skies,” she says.
For further information about donating or volunteering visit facebook.com/pages/Marlborough-Riding-for-the-Disabled
Since this article appeared in print, the RDA has been successful in securing $10,000 towards maintenance costs from Marlborough District Council in their annual Long Term Plan.