One of the youngest volunteers at RDA

By Michele Hunter

Shovelling poo, grooming horses and weeding the grounds at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled are all jobs 13-year-old Lily Kwiecien does with a smile on her face.
The Mount Maunganui College student has been horse-mad since she was 6 and became a volunteer at RDA when she was just 10.
While helping the charity organisation and the disabled riders who benefit from it, it's clear Lily gets plenty out of her weekly visits to the stunning Welcome Bay setting herself.
"I've just always loved horses. I started riding when I was 6 and once I found RDA, I've just been there the whole time ever since. It's a big part of my life. It's really rewarding. You kind of get into a routine and always look forward to going up to RDA. It's a really good environment," she said.
While learning new skills, Lily has also forged lasting friendships with disabled riders she has discovered are not so different to herself.
"You think, 'how could they live like that' but they're just normal people. You see what the riders get out of it, they look really happy and most of them have really cool personalities and they're cool to talk to," she said.
Seeing the disabled riders begin to share her own passion for riding is another reason Lily fits volunteering into a hectic schedule of school commitments and competing at a national level in taekwondo.
"When they first come, they're all shy and quiet and then by the end of the ride, they're yelling and smiling. They tell you what's been happening with them. Some of them, you get to know quite well, you see them every week and it's quite cool," she said.
But it's not just the human volunteers at RDA that Lily looks forward to seeing each week, it's also Zac - the RDA horse she rides when he's not working.

Despite being one of the largest horses at RDA, and a thoroughbred which are noted for their hot-blooded nature, Lily said Zac was gentle and kind.
"They [the horses] kind of 'get' that they need to look after the person and it's really cool. They switch into that mode when they know they've got someone vulnerable on them," she said.
One of the youngest volunteers at RDA, Lily said other children her age often had the wrong perception of the role.
"You tell people and they think, 'oh I wouldn't want to do that, that's kind of an adult thing', but it's really cool. It's like a hobby. You feel really good after a ride and you've had fun with a rider."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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