Riding for the Disabled South West Centre learned from the best on Monday with Paralympic gold winning equestrian coach Sally Francis OAM assisting with their Hippotherapy horse handlers workshop. Ms Francis is a nationally accredited coach and handler and was there to provide training on how best to manage the horses, relying on her 35 years of experience in caring for and coaching horse riding for people with a disability. She helped with the South West Centre’s horse handling workshop, designed to improve the ability of volunteers who assist with running hippotherapy sessions. Riding for the Disabled is an international program aimed at improving the life of young people with a disability using horses. Many centres offer hippotherapy, a physiotherapy exercise using horses to improve balance, strength and mental health in people with physical and sometimes intellectual disabilities. Riding for the Disabled South West Centre, which started in 1975, has offered hippotherapy for the past 23 years. In 2019, Ms Francis was awarded an Order of Australia for her service to people with a disability and horse sports. Ms Francis has attended multiple World Championships and Paralympics, including leading the team to gold at the 2012 London Paralympics. She said the impact horses could have on people was like nothing else. “Horses are magic, that’s all you can say,” Ms Francis said. “They enable people of all abilities and functional abilities to have the experience of being up there on the world stage. “Even these people here (the trainers) have gotten so much out of developing a relationship with the horses.” Roughly 40 volunteers help the centre with each horse needing three people to create a safe environment for a child with a disability to ride it. A 2019 report to the National Disability Insurance Fund said studies into hippotherapy had found it could help improve motor skills, mental health and interpersonal behaviour.