'Hoofball' kids to be first in RDA arena

By Michele McPherson

After months of construction, the first riders are preparing to enter the $800,000 indoor arena at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled these school holidays.

Children attending the Own Your Own Pony programme will be the first to use the arena and will have the chance to introduce the horses to hoofball - a soccer game designed especially for horses.

Like soccer, the objective is to score the most goals. Tauranga Riding for the Disabled (RDA) chief executive Kat MacMillan said hoofball was relatively new to New Zealand but had proved a big hit with horses.

"The horses actually kick the ball up and down the arena," she said.

Hoofball will allow disabled riders to take part in a team sport, something they may not be able to otherwise do.

Holiday programme coach Charlotte Besse was looking forward to using the indoor arena.

"It will be great. First of all we'll be able to run it in all weather and we will be able to have two groups at a time going.

"The whole programme will be able to be in one place. We're really privileged to have it," she said.

Ten-year-old Cliona Whyte had attended the last four Own Your Own Pony programmes along with younger brother Nathan, eight, who has mild autism, and was introduced to Tauranga RDA two years ago.

"It's nice that he can do this on his own but with his sister looking over to a certain extent," said their mother Maxine Whyte.

Mrs McMillan said the able-bodied children on the holiday programme would be helping to get the horses ready and training them to get used to the indoor arena before the start of the school term and the return of the riders with disabilities.

This will include familiarising them with the large mirrors, using props, games and playing hoofball inside the arena.

The Oscar-approved holiday programme will run in late January and bookings are available by contacting Tauranga Riding for the Disabled on 544-1899.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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