While around 55 000 racing fans, fashionistas and socialites enjoy the 122nd edition of the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday 7 July, most will be unaware that they are indirectly supporting the pioneering horse-driven charity in Durban that assists handicapped children with weekly horse riding therapy sessions.
The Durban chapter of the South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA) is based in Summerveld, close to the sophisticated training centre that houses most of the runners in the Vodacom Durban July, and every morning it is a hive of activity as buses transport young children from schools and homes across the region for their weekly rides.
From its humble beginnings, the SARDA Operation has expanded to include a large covered arena that enables them to carry out their daily rides with the children irrespective of the weather conditions, and this year they have added a new sensory trail that allows the children to engage with numerous aspects of nature on their rides.
They cater for youngsters with a wide range of mental and physical challenges, attending special needs schools from every community across the greater Durban area, and the impact that their weekly half hour rides has on their physical and mental wellbeing is well documented.
“Every child has different abilities, and our team of volunteers takes each child with a leader, and supporters to walk alongside them and lead them through a range of exercises and fun activities that deal with the muscle tone and physical needs of each child,” said Tracey Cumming who has been actively driving the SARDA programme for many years.
“Apart from the immediate benefit to their physical capacity every week, there are important mental and emotional benefits, and developing a sense of independence and confidence in their own abilities,” she added.
Every year Vodacom and Gold Circle make a substantial donation to SARDA as part of the community involvement programme that runs alongside the Vodacom Durban July.
“It is so encouraging to see how these young boys and girls benefit from this horse-based charity, and it is a great fit with the Vodacom Durban July,” said Gold Circle’s Event Marketing Manager Ken Tweddell.
“The Vodacom Durban July is all about the best thoroughbreds in the country racing for the most prestigious racing title on the continent for two exciting minutes every July, but it is also about making a difference every day at the SARDA operation in Summerveld where the ponies, along with the amazing team of volunteers are changing lives every day,” he added.