Posted: 16th July 2021 | Back to news feed
Bethany Parkin began riding at Batley Hall Riding School when she was seven-years-old as her parents wanted to find an outlet for her complex emotions and help to improve her focus.
At first, Bethany wouldn’t communicate with staff or engage with the other children but once she sat on a horse she immediately changed and became a chatty, confident young girl who was a pleasure to teach. Gradually, Bethany began to look forward to her weekly riding lesson and even joined the centre’s Pony Club.
Seeing her new found confidence and dedication, Bethany’s parents Tracy and Lee took the bold step to buy Bethany her own pony. Henry and Bethany instantly clicked and even though Henry was just four-years-old and very green, Bethany worked hard to ensure Henry became a safe and sensible ride – her ability is reflected in the fact that Henry is now a real favourite in the Batley Hall Riding School.
Now 14 years on, Bethany is a volunteer at the riding school and having grown too tall for Henry, she is now the proud owner of a skewbald sports horse called Lady. As an accomplished rider she is working towards competing Lady across all disciplines.
Heather Taylor from Batley Riding School has nothing but praise for Bethany: “Bethany is a great person to have on the yard and always has time for anyone who needs help. She has become invaluable during our Accessibility Mark sessions for children with both physical and learning disabilities, as she has a great understanding of the children and their needs.
“She is just one of our success stories and it just proves to us as a riding school what a positive effect horses can have on people.”
Here Bethany tells us in her own words how horses and riding has had a profound effect on her life.
What made you decide to take up riding?
I tried other sports like swimming and gymnastics but was advised that I needed one to one lessons as I became a hazard when I was in a group activity and horse riding gave me that.
How has horse riding helped you?
It’s helped with my confidence a lot and I found it easier to talk to people at the centre as horses became the only thing I was interested in. I have made lots of great friends at the yard and I always looked forward to going more than anything! I never felt judged or pushed to do better, there was no goal to achieve but to enjoy just being able to be myself.
Tell us a bit about your favourite horse or pony
I can’t choose! Henry will always be the horse that got me to where I am now. We just connected when I first saw him and he understood me, he would follow me around the field. We entered a horse show at Upper Batley and won lots of rosettes – he just looked after me. I have learnt so much more with Lady, we are like one. We have done our first dressage test and go on long hacks; our confidence is growing all the time. I feel very lucky that I still get to see Henry at the yard every day.
What is your biggest riding achievement and do you have any goals for the future?
My biggest achievement is entering the dressage competition and having to remember all the movements and directions, I hope to start show jumping soon. In the future I hope to be a vet for big animals and look after horses.
What do you enjoy about being a volunteer and what jobs do you do?
I started out scared and misunderstood and the horses knew that. They know when someone sits on them if they are inexperienced or just learning. I love to see children in the same position I was a few years ago, now happy and smiling.
I help out with mucking out, tacking up, bathing horses, feeding and helping to lead during lessons.
Sum up what horses mean to you.
Horses have been my life from that first one to one lesson, through Pony Club, helping out on the yard at the weekend, to finally getting my own horse - Batley Riding School has become my second home.
I love the outdoors and being active, I am a happier, more confident and calmer person than I ever thought I could be. I am looking forward to the future; I am doing really well at school too and hope to be able to go to university.
Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial to riders of varying levels of disability.
There are currently 53 Accessibility Mark-approved centres across the country.
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk