Moyra Benbow (1935-2023): shared the healing powers of horses
Moyra Benbow was a champion for disabled young people in Bermuda. She helped them overcome challenges and find freedom through horse riding – and encouraged them to embrace taking chances along the way.
For more than a decade, she brought compassion and her background in teaching and riding to the Riding for the Disabled programme at the WindReach Recreational Village in Warwick.
Speaking ahead of her retirement in 2007, Ms Benbow said she took joy in boosting the confidence of young riders.
“Sometimes some of the little ones are very scared the first day, but that doesn’t last longer than half a lesson at the most. And as soon as they start relaxing, they start benefiting from the ride,” she said.
“To them it seems risky, which is good. It’s good to be challenged in that way and they meet with other children and volunteers, so it’s a good social interaction as well.”
Just the motion of riding provides therapy for young people in wheelchairs, allowing them to sit at eye level and enjoy the feel of walking.
Ms Benbow explained: “Horses can be used in various ways to contribute positively with cognitive skills and to the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of persons with disabilities.
“The benefits appear to arise from the direct interaction between the horse and the individual as well as from the increasing mobility, mastery of skills, confidence, and self-esteem. It is a therapy that affects the person as a whole.”
Born in London, Ms Benbow remembered the onset of the Second World War from childhood: the family home was bombed and they moved out to Surrey. She competed in show jumping during her teens.
Ms Benbow qualified as a teacher and taught in London before deciding to see more of the world – and Bermuda was her first stop in 1964, when she taught at Warwick Academy.
For 25 years she worked as a teacher for the old Roger B. Chaffee School on the US Base at the East End.
After the United States Naval Air Station closed down in 1995, Ms Benbow decided to try something new. The riding programme happened to be starting up.
The Bermuda Riding for the Disabled Association dated back 20 years, but in 1995 the charity was registered as a limited company and formed a partnership with the WindReach Bermuda Trust, catering to people with mental and physical disabilities.
The programme, which Ms Benbow managed, became a rapid success, with its riding centre used to fundraise for WindReach by catering to horse shows.
The programme produced Paralympians and other competitive riders and was visited twice by another keen equestrian, Princess Anne.
WindReach Bermuda said this week: “Moyra Benbow touched the lives of so many through her belief and passion of the special relationship between horses and people.
“She was a cornerstone for the Bermuda Riding for the Disabled when they moved to their permanent home at WindReach.
“This year marks the 50th celebration of therapeutic riding in Bermuda and her commitment to both the riders and the horses helped to provide the foundation of WindReach’s programme.
“She had an unyielding sense of propriety, which led to a very successful and strong riding programme.
“Her love and care for horses extended to all living creatures as she had a very special gift of empathy, kindness and knowledge. All animals in her care were kept to a very high standard with their every need catered for.
“Her passion for the participants and volunteers at WindReach was evident. She was strict but immensely caring and guided with kindness and a strong sense of humour.”
• Moyra Frances Corskie Benbow, who led the Riding for the Disabled programme, was born on February 23, 1935. She died in April 2023, aged 88.
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