Riding high for WindReach
To some, hobby horses might appear to be simple toys: stuffed fabric on a stick.
Debbie Cottingham can vouch that they are much more complicated than that.
She recently made 150 hobby horses to help raise money for WindReach.
“It’s quite a labour-intensive process,” said Ms Cottingham, who explained that patterns had to be drawn up, metal dowels of a certain size had to be tracked down and then various bits of fabric and thread needed to be cut, sewn, stitched, attached, stuffed and sewn some more.
“I think the biggest challenge was time,” the 61-year-old said.
“Once you get to understand the process, it probably takes about an hour and a half to make one.”
The hope is that members of the public will pay $30 for a horse and donate it to WindReach to pass on to one of its clients. Anyone who donates will then have the opportunity to buy a second horse for themselves. The money raised will go towards WindReach’s operational fund.
The first hobby horses were delivered to the charity’s clients yesterday. Each person who received one also received an activity book filled with exercises.
“Since the pandemic, we have had many messages from clients saying how much they miss our programmes, our animals and the riding,” said Paige Eversley, the charity’s recreation and volunteer co-ordinator.
“This is a really cool and unique way to bring a therapeutic pony to them.”
The hobby horses began as part of a plan to celebrate WindReach’s 20th anniversary last October. The event was cancelled after Hurricane Humberto brushed Bermuda on September 19, causing widespread damage.
Celebrations were moved to the beginning of this year, but then cancelled by Covid-19.
“As Covid-19 hit, we had to temporarily close our doors,” said Tammalita Joseph, the charity’s fund development manager.
“The hobby horse idea at that point was paramount in having us stay connected to our clients.”
Ms Cottingham and her husband, Dudley, became involved with WindReach through its late founder, Alexander “Sandy” Mitchell.
When the Warwick property opened in 1999, Ms Cottingham signed up immediately to volunteer.
“In the early stages of our friendship, Dudley assisted Sandy in the establishment of WindReach and Dudley has been a trustee from inception,” she said.
“I started out volunteering with Friends of WindReach. We were in a little cottage and the main building wasn’t even there yet. There was just the riding.”
Since then she has helped with organising many events and projects for the charity and is happy to see how beneficial it is to people with mental and physical challenges.
“They get what they need, or some of what they need here,” she said. “I just love that.”
Although she learnt how to sew in high school and loved to make her own clothes when she was younger, Ms Cottingham was a little out of practice when the time came to make the hobby horses.
“I hadn’t taken my sewing machine out in 20 years,” she said.
Many people pulled together for the project, said Ms Joseph, who described it as “an assembly line of sorts”.
Cheree Wade, who heads up WindReach’s adult day programme, said her clients were very interested when they saw the hobby horses being made
Most of them are in their sixties and seventies. They helped stuff the hobby horses and sew on the eyes, which were made from buttons.
“They wanted to be a part of the excitement of what we were doing. Sometimes there was more stuffing on the floor than in the horses,” Ms Wade laughed.
She said her clients had great conversations while they worked.
“They’d talk about the first time they saw a horse,” she said.
“Or they’d talk about the first time they rode one. And they enjoyed the process of giving back to the community.”
Once the hobby horses were nearly completed, they went to Ms Cottingham’s home for the finishing touches. They were there for quite a while.
“They spent time in my dining room,” she said.
“They spent time in my spare bedroom, and then my daughter’s house while I had house guests. They are well-travelled hobby horses. Now, they are ready for their for-ever homes.”
The hobby horses have raised more than $1,200 for WindReach so far.
• Make donations into WindReach’s HSBC account 010-857621-001. Please list your first initial and last name plus HHorse. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or windreach.bm
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