RDA changes lives: Oran’s story

RDA changes lives BR Farm
RIDING: Left, Oran Mullan riding with the East Antrim RDA Group in January 2019, assisted by RDA Coach Judith Watt (left) and RDA Volunteer, the late Jonathan Stirling. (FW47-517NN)

ORAN Mullan from Glengormley had a great year in 2019 – he was Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) NI Junior Rider of the Year. This is what was written about him at the time by East Antrim RDA Group organiser, Belinda Millar:

“Oran (aged 12) attends Hill Croft School and has autism. Hill Croft send us (East Antrim RDA) groups of pupils for six to eight weeks at a time – Oran had attended sessions for three years before this year (2019), but had so far not managed to get on a pony. He really wanted to ride, but each time he would get some way, e.g. hands on the saddle or foot in a stirrup, and then he would start to cry and even tremble in fear and that was it. Despite this, each week he would try again.

PRESENTATION: Oran Mullan being presented with the RDANI Junior Rider of the Year award in June 2019. He is pictured with Principal Roz McFeeters, RDA Volunteer Lesley-Ann Cromie and RDA Group Organiser Belinda Millar (FW47-516NN)

“This year started the same way. Volunteers tried various tactics with lots of patience and encouragement. Then one morning, Oran gathered up all his courage and finally mounted a horse. This action had a profound effect on all present – his class-mates, teachers and volunteers, as everyone had been rooting for this to happen. Everyone cheered and shouted with joy, Oran’s grin was enormous and there were tears in many eyes.

“We thought we would walk only a little way with him on the horse, but that was not what he wanted. He was determined to join in all the activities the rest of the ride were doing, e.g. stopping and starting, steering with reins and taking part in games. It was as if being on horseback was the natural place for him to be. He absolutely loved it.

“His teacher told us that this achievement made a big difference to his self-esteem both in and out of school and created a determination to try new challenges on a daily basis,” said Belinda.

His mum, Sarah-Jayne said: “Because of this, he is more courageous, daring and happy, and wants to try more and more new things. I have a very happy boy now.”

Belinda continued: “Oran continued to enjoy riding and, on the final day of the series, five members of his family came to watch him ride!

“His achievement in riding has not only had far reaching implications for him, but has impacted on many other lives – fellow pupils, school staff, his family and RDA volunteers. We all celebrated his achievement and it created a new team spirit at school and at our RDA group. His whole school was thrilled.

“10 months later (November 2019), Oran returned to ride with us. He was confident and happy, showing no nervousness at all. He was able to trot and thoroughly enjoyed himself,” Belinda concluded.

Moving on another eight months to July 2020…

Oran’s mum, Sarah-Jayne wrote to East Antrim RDA, stating: “We decided to go horse riding recently in Donegal. I just had to show you some of the pictures of Oran. He was absolutely amazing and knew exactly what to do. He told us to stand up when the horse is going to the loo, so as to ease the pressure off the horse. He was the leader of our group! He led us around the paddock, while doing a few wee tricks and then out over the road and on to the beach. He then led us through some quite deep water to the other side of the beach and back again (I don’t mind telling you, there were some quite scary moments, but it didn’t faze him at all!). He was an absolute pro!

“I am so pleased with him; he took full control of his horse. He was so proud of himself, especially with it being a different horse and different surroundings. I had spoken to the staff of Downings Riding School about him, just saying that he might need a lot of help. In the end, it was ME who needed the help, not Oran lol!” Sarah-Jayne concluded.

RDA is life-changing – Oran is a perfect example!


HAPPY: Oran Mullan was very happy to win the RDANI Junior Rider of the Year in June 2019. (FW47-515NN)

RDA very much needs more volunteers to help – no previous experience required as they will train you. You don’t even have to work with the ponies – there are many other roles. Please get in touch at eastantrimrda@gmail.com if this is something that interests you.


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