Kia ora koutou. Nga mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai haere mai ra ki te Whare Kawana o Tāmaki Makaurau.
I specifically acknowledge: Donna Kennedy, Chief Executive of NZRDA; Peter Johnston, Board Chair of NZRDA. Tēnā kōrua.
My husband Richard and I are delighted to host members of New Zealand Riding for the Disabled and their supporters, as we celebrate your 60th anniversary.
Richard and I do not need any persuading about the therapeutic effect of animals on human wellbeing.
As a doctor, Richard has first-hand experience of those benefits when our pug Pebbles sat in on his consultations.
When it comes to human interactions with horses, Hippocrates was an early advocate for horse-riding for therapy and rehabilitation, and Dr Thomas Sydenham, in his 1670 book on medicine wrote: 'There is no better treatment for the body and the soul than many hours each week in the saddle'.
As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Aotearoa, I am happy to say it’s an ethos that resonates with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, whose enthusiasm for riding has not diminished at all over the years.
Recently, when I was in Dubai representing New Zealand at ceremonies following the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the benefit of horse-riding was a topic of conversation during my conversation with his widow, the Sheikha.
She spoke about the strong religious and spiritual significance of horse-riding for the people of the United Arab Emirates.
Her enthusiasm for therapeutic horse-riding stems from her belief that a nation’s progress is dependent on everyone having opportunities to move forward.
It’s a sentiment that has underpinned the work of Riding for the Disabled over the last 60 years.
Thank you for the part you have played in empowering people in your communities and helping to make our communities more inclusive.
We can see from the growth of your organisation around Aotearoa that New Zealanders welcome what you have to offer.
In order to provide this service to your communities, your organisation needs the support of those communities – including the work of thousands of volunteers, hundreds of staff and skilled therapists – as well as access to suitable land.
It also depends on the generosity of your supporters who are happy to – forgive the pun – ‘pony up’ for you.
Over the past 60 years, you have helped change thousands of lives for the better. Riders of diverse abilities have been given the chance to get in the saddle to learn, build strength and self-confidence – and I’m sure also develop a life-long affection for horses.
I offer my sincere thanks to everyone who has been part of this organisation. I appreciate the difficulties COVID-19 has presented for your operations and your commitment to continue providing your services.
I hope you will continue helping New Zealanders for another 60 years and beyond. I wish you every success for the future.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.