Behind the success of every rider at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled is a specially trained horse, one of only a handful of horses that are up to the task.
Tauranga RDA chief executive Kat MacMillan said there were usually 10 to 12 horses working at RDA but each had to be carefully selected, trained and trailed.
"It's quite a difficult criteria to fill for a horse because they need to be really well trained and responsible and sensible, but on the other hand they need to be really tolerant. The horse needs to be alert and respond to the leader or the rider depending on the disability, but not get too excited or distracted by any conditions that are happening around them."
There are currently 11 horses at RDA, Rawenga Santa, Cisco, Bay Orchard Sprayers Missy, Zena, Caleb, PowerCo Betty, Harbour City Honey, Peanut, Red and Zac.
RDA staff and volunteers put hours into training these horses to be desensitised to potentially frightening situations.
Mrs MacMillan said the horses need to be able to cope with riders making sudden loud noises or jerking movements, while being comfortable with walking up a wheelchair ramp to a platform which allows the rider to mount and dismount.
The horses also need to be comfortable with meeting and working with different riders and volunteers each day.
"Our horses have to be handled and ridden by lots of different people which can be quite stressful for them," Mrs MacMillan said.
RDA horses come from a range of places and are put on trial to see if they are suitable for the role.
"Sometimes they are donated to us and sometimes we will buy them, usually if we do buy one, it comes as a recommendation from somebody who knows the horse's background and that it might be able to cope with this kind of work," Mrs MacMillan said.
A selection of the horses at RDA are sponsored by individuals or local businesses which covers the $3000 a year it costs for feed, equipment, training and veterinarian and farrier care for the horses.
Mrs MacMillan said there were still horses requiring sponsorship.
Peanut is about 23 years old and a favourite among many of the disabled riders. She is best friends with Red.
Rawenga Santa is a 4-year-old and the youngest and newest horse at RDA, having been there about six months. Proving a very good horse for the job he loves his work and the people at RDA.
Red is about 22-years old and can handle any rider with any disability, even if they're lying over his rump. He can sense if a rider is about to have a seizure and stops. He will always jump out of his paddock to be with his "girlfriend", Peanut.