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A young participant experiences horses up close at MacKay Riding for the Disabled. The photo was supplied.
A young participant experiences horses up close at MacKay RDA. Photo: Supplied

Chaps help kids giddy-up

The Iona West Men’s Shed in Mackay is helping a local charity saddle up to overcome disadvantage. Ashley Thompson reports.

Iona West Men’s Shed Coordinator Chris McAdam recently handed over one of six horse-shaped saddle racks to the Mackay Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). The association works to develop ability and enrich the lives of disabled people though relationships with horses.

Chris McAdam's horse-shaped saddle rack "Woody" created for Mackay RDA. The photo was supplied.

Chris McAdam’s horse-shaped saddle rack “Woody” created for Mackay RDA. Photo: Supplied

Run out of the Iona West Uniting Church, this neighbourly attitude is at the heart of the congregation’s outreach. Other projects run by the shed include easels for the Whitsundays Anglican School and hobby horses for needy kids, all made out of recycled or donated timber.

“We first started up as somewhere for men who didn’t have a shed of their own, now pretty much anything that comes along, if we are able to do it, we will be happy to help out,” says Chris.

The Men’s Shed Association offers more than free materials and carpentry guidance, sheds provide the opportunity for men with skills and enthusiasm to make a valuable contribution to society.

Mackay Riding for the Disabled committee member Amaryllis O’Hara was at the receiving end of their kindness.

“One of our members had an idea to make some sort of saddle stool to use for us as a bit of a novelty and it sort of snowballed from there to turning into more of a therapy tool,” says Amaryllis.

“It is more of a seat and a way for people to use for stretching before they ride. Some disabilities mean the muscles are hard so they need to stretch them before they get on the horse. They are also able to use it as a teaching tool like how to clean and look after a saddle—the sorts of things that are harder to do on a real live moving horse,” she says.

The partnership between these two organisations has seen men empowered to help the disadvantaged and opened up doors between the church and the community.

Not a church-goer himself, Chris journeyed through depression before a professional suggested he look into using his carpentry skills at the local Men’s Shed.

“Not all the men that come in here will pour their soul out to you but some have just been waiting for someone to listen to them.”

At the 31st Synod meeting in October the Queensland Synod will launch a new resource called Stats have Faces designed to help congregations engage more effectively with their community.


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