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The Arrow Riding Centre in Dartford is helping those with disabilities live their best lives


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A teenager has said she 'couldn't live without horses' as they make her life easier and help reduce the pain caused by her condition.

Ella Bennett, from Rochester, has cerebral palsy and attends Arrow Riding Centre in Dartford, where she works with physiotherapists and horses to improve her mobility and wellbeing.

Natalie Scott speaking about the therapy the horses offer those with special needs

The 17-year-old began riding at the volunteer-based charity, that supports young people and adults with disabilities, when she was a baby.

She said: "I started riding as it helped with my cerebral palsy.

"I do exercises every day and I have a physio plan but horses are vital to keeping me in shape.

"Riding reduces my pain and keeps me less tight and more supple. I couldn't live without it!"

Ella Bennett during one of her riding lessons
Ella Bennett during one of her riding lessons

Horse riding can benefit those with cerebral palsy because a moving horse offers the rider a rhythmic movement similar to the human gait.

Along with the warmth from the animal, this can activate the part of the brain that controls movement, which can help the rider develop better balance and increased strength.

Ella explained that being with the horses also benefits her mentally and thanks to the staff at the riding school she is in the process of being graded for her dressage skills.

She said: "Having goals and targets to reach improved my mental state, it gives me something to work with.

"The instructors are amazing and even helped me overcome an operation I had on my tendons."

Horses at the Arrow Riding Centre
Horses at the Arrow Riding Centre

The centre starts riding sessions with children as young as 18-months old, who don't have any head, neck or spine control.

They start by laying down on a sheepskin on the horse's back, which is known as hippotherapy.

Natalie Scott, from Bexleyheath, is the head coach and yard manager at the charity, she works with the stable's 11 horses.

The 34-year-old said: "We help our riders become mobile again, it helps them walk properly and live their lives.

"We make it as fun as we can and along with the physio side of it, we play games, do different activities, they love it."

Kelly Lock, a 41-year-old from Dartford, has been riding at the school since she was seven.

Kelly Lock, 41,(left) and her mum Jacky
Kelly Lock, 41,(left) and her mum Jacky

Her mum, Jacky, said: "She loves it, it is her favourite day of the week and it gives her a bit of confidence away from me.

"The staff are brilliant, riding builds her confidence and the exercise is beneficial."

Val Blake, group organiser at the stables, has been working with the riders and horses for 34 years.

The 73-year-old, from Joydens Wood, said: "Watching the progress of our riders is magical.

"A lot of them have able-bodied relatives, they see them having fun and doing activities and feel left out.

Val Blake leading one of the Arrow Riding Centre's horses
Val Blake leading one of the Arrow Riding Centre's horses

"But that doesn't happen with horse riding, they can get involved, work towards goals and achieve things."

The school's oldest rider is in their 80s, and the charity can help anyone with a range of disabilities from autism to down syndrome.

If you would like to find out more about the Arrow Riding Centre click here.

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