The Future of Connemara Therapeutic Riding

It began with a dream.  A group of parents in discussion with community development workers from Forum Connemara researched the novel idea of how to provide a therapy which would be of great benefit to many children and people of all ages with all kinds of disabilities. This therapy would also provide unique and fitting for the Connemara pony’s natural ability.

It was a bold and exciting initiative, never before tried in this area, and it would make a huge difference to the lives of the young people involved and their families.  A working group was set up including members of Paving the Way, Forum Connemara, Connemara Pony Breeders Society, and the Connemara Pony Club. Leader funding was secured, and several local people trained as therapeutic riding coaches.

As you know, we were initially based at Errislannan Manor where ponies and time in the arena were hired and began operations in June 2015.  We employed a part-time manager and therapeutic riding sessions began, supervised by two of our therapeutic riding coaches assisted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers.  We became CTR – a company limited by guarantee in 2017 and a charity in early 2018, run by a voluntary board of directors. In May 2019 CTR’s application to the Community Services Programme (CSP) administered by Pobal was successful in achieving partial funding for a manager and three other staff members. It was hard work and there were many challenges along the way.  We kept the service afloat by constant fundraising.

With this huge community effort, we were successful in attracting a good number of clients from all over Connemara, including children from local schools.  The dream had become a reality.

We have many wonderful memories from those years:  the smiles on the faces of our young riders as they experience the joy of being mounted on Angel, Tom Fancy or Ríona; the satisfaction of our TR team of coaches and volunteers as they watch the magic happen; the contented sigh from a parent who sees the transforming effect of the experience on their child as they enjoy a bit of respite from the cares of the day.  We also remember the fun at our summer camps, open days, novelty shows and other fundraisers when the community came together to enjoy and support the activities of CTR.

Then our world changed in 2020.  Early that year, due to our inability to secure a lease and an increase in operating costs at Errislannan Manor, we found ourselves unable to continue our service there.  After an extensive search of the area, we managed to secure a lease on a greenfield site at Ardagh with an assurance from our engineer that obtaining planning permission would not be an issue. However, when we submitted a planning application to Galway County Council it was turned down. Following a meeting with our engineer, we have come to the conclusion that the level of expenditure needed to obtain planning permission is not feasible.  We plan to terminate the lease within the next few months. However, despite huge efforts to find an alternative venue we have not been successful.

These financial difficulties would be extremely challenging at the best of times.  However, with the added restrictions we have faced due to the Covid pandemic, we have found it almost impossible to continue with any of our usual fundraising activities.  This has made it impossible for us to make up the shortfall in wages, insurance and other expenses. In addition, due to the pandemic and lack of capacity, we have been unable to expand our business and develop a tourism package.  This is one of the conditions of the funding we receive from Pobal.   All of this has led the Board to the heart-breaking decision that, following Consultation with our auditor, Pobal and outside agencies, the board have decided that we pause our activities for a period of 6-to-8-month  to review our situation.

Sadly, this means that we will have to cease all operations and there will be no service delivered in this time. All our staff contracts will also be made redundant.

From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank our hardworking staff, dedicated volunteers and the wider community for all the support they have given us over the years.  Last, but not least, we would like to thank all the amazing young people and their families who have shared this journey with us so far and who, we hope, will re-join us when that is possible.

We began with a dream.  The dream is not over but we must be realistic and determine how it might be possible to continue with our vision.  CTR’s mission is “to improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs and their carers in a remote part of rural Ireland”.  We still aim to fulfill that mission, but we need to review the possibilities of restructuring and setting up a new entity in a way that is financially sustainable.

 

 

Go Fund Me Campaign

Connemara Therapeutic Riding is in the process of an exciting new project, to develop a new, specially designed center to provide our much-needed service to the community. The center will include an accessible arena, stables, sensory room, multi-functional room and accessible bathroom.

This of course, is a huge financial undertaking for our voluntary committee. We have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for this project.

Our goal of €30,000 will cover the accessible arena and a sensory room, both extremely important in allowing us to provide the services.

Any donation, big or small is greatly appreciated. Your support enables us to provide this essential service to the community.

Please click here to find more information.

 

Fundraiser – Saturday 22/08/2020

Connemara Therapeutic Riding is holding a fundraiser Saturday August 22nd at Supervalu, Clifden.

Be in with a chance of winning a Hamper worth €130!
Fairy Doors & Handmade Face Masks will also be available for purchase
All proceeds to Connemara Therapeutic Riding
For more information, check out our Facebook page
We value your ongoing support, hope to see you there
Thank you!

Fairy Doors

Our chief fairy has been very busy over the last number of weeks creating her very special fairy doors with real Connemara pony shoes.

We are delighted to offer these for sale at the special price of €25 including post and packaging. Just contact us through our Facebook or Instagram, or email us connemaratr@gmail.com to find out more!

All proceeds will go towards therapeutic riding sessions for children and adults with special needs

Face Masks Available

Our talented Fairy Door creator is now creating these beautiful, handmade cotton Face-masks. As seen modeled by the beautiful Ciara and Belle

 

The masks come in a variety of designs and themes. Each mask is machine washable and can be re-used. 

Investing in a reusable Face mask is good for the environment and for your pocket!

The masks can be purchased in businesses throughout Connemara

  • Connemara Horse and Country
  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Veldons, Letterfrack
  • Inishbofin Ferry Tickets
  • Dolphin Hotel Inishbofin

All proceeds go directly to Connemara Therapeutic Riding.

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for new designs!

We value your continued support, thank you.

Connemara Therapeutic Riding Awarded CSP Funding

 

Connemara Therapeutic Riding CLG welcomes the announcement by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring TD that it is to be granted funding under the Community Services Program. Minister Ring announced the news on Friday 25th October during his visit to Forum Connemara in Letterfrack, Co. Galway and said he was “delighted to be able to support the wonderful work being carried out by Connemara Therapeutic Riding” while also speaking of the importance of having services and a community to support people especially those in a rural area. Clients and volunteers from Connemara Therapeutic Riding were in Letterfrack along with a Therapeutic Riding Connemara pony to welcome Minister Ring.

 

The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community companies and co-operatives to deliver local social, economic and environmental services that tackle disadvantage by providing a co-funding contribution towards the cost of employing a manager and full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.

 

Connemara Therapeutic Riding (CTR) was formed as a CLG in 2017 after operating successfully since 2015 as a voluntary community group. CTR provides a community-based Therapeutic Riding service for adults and children with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities while promoting the Connemara pony as an ideal equine. Therapeutic Riding is a worldwide recognised therapy to improve physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioural and educational skills as well as being a healthy and fun activity. To date over seventy people have availed of the service. The service is delivered at Errislannan Manor, Clifden, Co. Galway with fully qualified Therapeutic Riding coaches using specially trained Connemara ponies. Minister Ring’s announcement will enable CTR to employ a full-time manager and three full-time equivalents providing a welcome boost to the local economy. Cathy Keane, Chairperson of CTR says “the Community Services Programme will enable CTR to grow it’s social enterprise and enhance the service it is providing to current clients as well as attracting new clients. This much needed funding will give also CTR the opportunity to develop a tourism offering”. CTR plans, with the aid of CSP funding to promote Connemara as an accessible tourism destination and to develop links with other tourism service providers in the area.

 

Since its formation Connemara Therapeutic Riding has worked closely with local organisations such as Forum Connemara, the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society, businesses and strategic partners, and also local schools and daycare centres.  Support has also been given to participants from Ability Connemara. The Ability programme provides funding to local, regional and national projects in the Republic of Ireland that focus on bringing young people with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 29 closer to the labour market.

 

CTR is committed to supporting the objectives of the Community Services Programme and looks forward to embracing the next part of it’s journey.

 

For more information on Connemara Therapeutic Riding please visit www.connemaratherapeuticriding.com .

Connemara Therapeutic Riding Novelty Pony Show

Manor Arena, Clifden, Co. Galway was once again the venue for the third annual Connemara Therapeutic Riding Novelty Show. The show took place under blue skies on Sunday 22nd September. Boasting over 140 entries this year the show continues each year to attract more entries.
An exciting schedule of inclusive classes enticed entries from adults and children alike and Judges Eleanor Curran and Padraig Geoghegan had a hard task in selecting winners from the hotly contested classes. One young competitor even travelled the long distance from Dublin to take part. The Mini Handlers and Young Handlers classes started the day off with 21 and 16 competitors respectively enjoying the opportunity to show off their pony handling skills. These young competitors left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they will be the showing superstars of the future. As in every class all competitors received a rosette and a novelty prize with the judges selecting Aoife Gorham and her pony Doonhill Misty Dawn as the winner of the mini handlers class. Kathryn Conneely showing Saoirse na Mara was victorious in the Young Handlers Class.
A new addition to the schedule this year was the Walk Trot class, which proved very popular and was deservedly won by Inishbofin native Kitty Concannon riding her pony Lenny. The lead rein showjumping and cross pole showjumping classes are always well supported and they give future showjumpers the chance to impress the judges and spectators with their bravery and skill. Taking the lead rein showjumping title this year was Tiernan Diamond Carey, while Eliosia Boulger took the title in the cross pole showjumping class.
The jockey and groom showjumping class involved teams of two with the jockey first jumping the course on a pony followed by the groom jumping the course on foot. It was evident that had Philip Duane and his groom Diarmuid Roche had serious practice put in beforehand which led them to jumping clear in the fastest time.
Beautifully and creatively plaited ponies entered the ring for the best mane and tail class. A huge amount of time must have gone into getting ponies ready for this class, with manes and tails decorated in flowers, ribbons, bows and glitter. Sadhbh O’Toole took a break from her busy dressage career to attend the show and her plaiting skills were rewarded when she received first prize for her pony Kayleigh.
An array of colour could be seen in the arena for the Fancy Dress class. Entries included a superhero, Rapunzel, Pocahontas , and Willy Wonka. Following a long deliberation in a class of very creative entries the judges chose Yann and Alex Walch entry ‘On Safari’ as their eventual winner.
Pony most like its owner was awarded to Belle and her owner Ciara Heanue who wowed the judges in their purple ensemble. The obstacle course is always great fun and once again proved challenging for all contestants. Spectators were on the edge of their seats as they cheered on the riders. The appearance of a giant Winnie the Pooh caught out a few people. Ciara Heanue and her pony Lochy scooped the prize in the final class of the day.
A huge thanks goes to the Noonan Family for the use of their fantastic facilities, to the judges, stewards and volunteers without whom the show could not have been run. A very special thank you to all the generous sponsors and most importantly thanks to all the competitors who took part. We look forward to welcoming you all back again next year. Keep an ear out for some exciting news regarding next year’s classes.
All photos from the show can be viewed on the Connemara Therapeutic Riding Facebook page. If you are interested in finding out more about Connemara Therapeutic Riding please contact Marion on 083 8418448.