Pinjarra man riding high despite the odds

On any given Wednesday afternoon it is not hard to spot cheeky Cameron Danzi zoomming past Fairbridge in a horse-pulled carriage, giggling. 

The 21-year-old from Pinjarra is one of the many riders with a disability who come to the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) Mandurah-Murray headquarters to learn about horses and all things related every week.

In his case, he learns how to drive a carriage and take care of his horse Twister. 

Mr Danzi was diagnosed with Pneumococcal Meningitis when he was only six months old, and after fighting the illness for several months in hospital he was left with severe brain damage and no muscle control.

“He had less muscle control than a newborn,” Ms Danzi said.

Mr Danzi started hydrotherapy straight away to awaken his muscles but he couldn’t develop the core strength that would allow him to walk.

“We ran out of the swimming that we were able to access through the hospital and I saw this sign for RDA and I thought I’ll give that a try,” Ms Danzi said.

On his first day it took six volunteers to hold him on a horse. Six months later he walked for the first time on his own.

“He just kept going and now he can walk, and he can climb into a carriage and he can drive it around, which is just incredible,” she said.

“I call it RDA magic.”

Ms Danzi said RDA had changed Cameron’s life, and almost twenty years later he is still benefiting from his weekly horse riding experience physically and mentally. 

“There’s just all these options for the kids and it just builds up their confidence and if they are being confident they’ll take that away elsewhere,” she said.

“He is in control and there’s hardly anything in his life he actually gets to control so it’s just very special for him.

“I think [RDA] is an incredibly unique organisation and I think it just need to be recognised more.”

RDA is a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers that provides horse riding and carriage therapy for people aged three and above who have a disability.

The therapy helps clients to stretch their muscles, gain balance and boost their confidence in a fun and engaging way.

Besides exercising their muscles, their clients also learn about subjects like maths, colours and nature while playing.

The therapy is open to people suffering any sort of disability, physical or mental, and available for people who require a wheelchair.

However, the organisation is in urgent need of volunteers to take over tasks such as taking care of the horses and teaching clients.

RDA volunteer Belinda Brown said volunteers can be aged from 12 up to 85 years old and they don’t require any previous knowledge as all training is done on site.

Volunteering dates and time are also flexible.

Their only requirement is that volunteers are keen to change the lives to people with disabilities for the better in order to keep spreading the ‘RDA magic’ that changed Cameron Danzi’s life.

“This is the highlight of his week, he just loves being in this environment because he knows this is somewhere where he belongs,” Ms Danzi said.

“And everybody needs somewhere that they belong.”

For more information about RDA Mandurah-Murray or to sing up as a volunteer call (08) 9531 1822.