Youngsters ride high on horse and carriage

IT'S well known as Prince Philip's favourite sport – and now young disabled people are riding high themselves thanks to the efforts of a hardworking Sheffield charity.

The youngsters are being given the chance to go carriage driving, with the help of volunteers based at Windmill Hill Farm in Chapeltown.

The more able ones are given the chance to take the reins themselves, experience the excitement of basic horsepower and can even help in looking after the ponies.

And for those less fortunate, there is still the thrill of feeling the wind on their faces and the freedom of riding through the open countryside.

The carriages used by the group have been specially adapted and are sometimes purpose-built so they can take wheelchairs on board.

The work of the Sheffield Carriage Driving Centre for the Disabled was showcased at an open day put on by the volunteers.

Set up by Rob Forster, Ray Aziz and Jay Singh two years ago, the group is the only one of its kind in the area.

Trustee Liz Pope said the aim of the day was to raise awareness of the charity's work among the local community.

"There are activities available to disabled children but once they turn 18, sometimes there is not a lot for them to do," Liz said.

"Sometimes they can get stuck and institutionalised – but we give them a chance to visit a real farm and get out into the country.

"It is also about making them part of the community in a positive way, and getting families involved too. It's a great experience for the young people when we put their wheelchairs on the back of a carriage and soon they are speeding down a country lane."

Around 200 people attended the open day, with most visitors keen to say hello to the horses and ponies.

Ray, the charity's founder, and also a competitive carriage driver, showed what the charity is all about with the help of some of the regular drivers.

"We had new young people come along who went on the carriages too. When they do get interested it becomes a real hobby for them, and they have their own hats and gloves.

"They get to know the horses' names and off they go, with the wind in their faces and using all their senses," Liz added.

n The charity relies on public donations and is always keen to welcome new volunteers – more details can be obtained by calling 0800 0588455.

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