A man of few words, Josh Pullyn, sums up his experience at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled with just one: "Awesome".
The 11-year-old has cerebral palsy and celebrated his birthday yesterday with his weekly ride amongst classmates from the nearby Rudolph Steiner School.
His mother Diane Pullyn said Josh was a much-loved youngest child in a large, blended family and until a couple of years ago had been terrified of animals, large or small.
When the school suggested he attend RDA, she thought the idea sounded very unlikely.
But after becoming more comfortable with small animals, Josh made the brave move to get on the back of RDA favourite, Red.
"He said, 'I felt a bit scared but I still really wanted to do it.' It's a huge sense of achievement and confidence and absolute love for the horse, he's just adoring what he's doing. It's really helped him to feel comfortable around animals," Mrs Pullyn said.
Cerebral palsy means Josh has difficulty with mobility, muscle control and co-ordination but coaching at RDA by former physiotherapist Sharon Aldersley, combined with swimming and Bowen Therapy treatment from his mother, Josh is making physical gains as well.
"I would say that he's improving all the time. It's [RDA] helped to contribute to his increasing strength and flexibility and his overall confidence. He's very proud of himself that he's trotted and that he is riding in a saddle. You can see in his face how much he loves it, they [the riders] can't wait to get up and get dressed that day," Mrs Pullyn said.
Horse riding has also given Josh the opportunity to develop skills in a sport of his own.
"It's a way of him being involved in the same sorts of things as other people and in a group setting," Mrs Pullyn said.
The Pullyn family developed a connection with RDA about four years ago when they offered their daughter, Sacha's, horse, Missy, on long-term loan to RDA, an organisation which Mrs Pullyn describes as a blessing and gift to the community.
"I think it's incredible. It's such a gift, the facility. The generosity of the people that work and volunteer here," she said.