Horse riding charity gets back in the saddle

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AFTER last year having to close their doors due to COVID-19, Pegasus ACT, which helps disabled children through horse riding, is back on track.

“It’s amazing to be back. We now have 63 participants – a number that’s up from the original 55 from before covid,” says executive general manager Matt Watson.

Matt Watson.

“The March quarter result delivered a trading surplus of $28,510 compared to a trading loss of $379,626 for the same period last year.”

The organisation, which has existed in the ACT for nearly half a century, was turned upside down in 2020 when Australia locked down.

“It came very suddenly. On a Saturday in late last March we had to stop our programs for our 55 participants with very little or no notice,” says Matt.

“Like the rest of the country we had no idea when we’d be coming back. If restrictions had gone through to 2021 we would have been in an even more disastrous place.”

Matt says the programs, which teach mentally and physically disabled children how to ride horses, offer them important skills and provide an environment that’s both therapeutic and fun.

The almost overnight shut down not only dramatically affected the participants, but also the volunteers and staff of Pegasus.

“It was incredibly tough, our volunteers and staff really enjoy coming for the benefits to their well being and peace of mind as well,” says Matt.

“JobKeeper offered us breathing room and allowed us to review the entire organisation, but we still had to make some hard decisions.” 

The road to recovery was slow, with Matt saying the charity had to gradually reintroduce programs to get things back on track.

“Some of our more capable and independent riders who don’t need a lot of physical support were able to come back first, around two weeks after Andrew Barr said schools could go back,” Matt says. 

“But the last of our participants who have a lot of physical needs weren’t able to come back until term four of school.”

However, through perseverance and resilience Matt says the future of the organisation is looking much brighter, with plans to increase the size of the herd and improve land and horse management. 

“We’re excited to announce the addition of our amazing miniature horses to the herd, to support our new ‘HorseAbility’ program with an emphasis on those restricted to a wheelchair,” he says.

There’s also the “Pegasus Futures Fund”, which aims to support the future of Pegasus by encouraging businesses, individuals, syndicates and families to donate.

“We can’t be complacent as we will need to generate additional funding next financial year to replace the JobKeeper payments if we are to deliver a similar positive result,” says Matt.

“But it means so much to be back, we’re here to do something good for the community and we’re excited moving forward.”

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