A Tauranga man has been awarded Rider of the Year by the national body of Riding for the Disabled.
Hayden Roper received the award, jointly with Otorohanga rider Brayden Guilford, at an Awards Dinner held in Tauranga.
The Awards dinner was part of the Annual National training Seminar programme, which was this year hosted by the Tauranga Branch of Riding for the Disabled.
Hayden has been receiving equestrian therapy at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled for two years. He has Wilsons Disease, a rare genetic condition that does not allow the body to cope with copper as his liver is unable to process it. In Hayden's case the copper build up has damaged various parts of his brain.
Hayden said it has affected his life dramatically.
"It has pretty much robbed me of everything, from talking to walking, even my eating is now through a feeding tube. I have lost friends and independence," he said.
When Hayden first started with RDA he was unable to stay upright on the horse. Over the two years in the equestrian therapy programme his core strength has increased considerably and his balance is slowly improving and he is even able to steer his horse.
Hayden's RDA coach Sharon Aldersley praised his tenacity.
"He just never gives up. It is wonderful to work with someone who has such a tremendous work ethic and pushes himself to such a degree. This national award is an amazing achievement for Hayden as there are some amazing RDA rider stories from throughout the country".
Hayden said attending RDA also came with many social advantages.
"I have gained confidence and made new friends.... It has given me something special to look forward to each week and I love coming here"