Starting this edition, The Advocate will feature IN MY SHOES... a weekly profile on a member of the community. Reporter Hannah Knight gives a glimpse into the life of Liam Richardson.
LIAM Richardon is saddling up for the trip of a lifetime.
The 12-year-old Strangways resident will travel to Taiwan next month with riding for the disabled Victoria to represent Australia in the Hope Cup.
Liam, pictured, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was seven but he refuses to let anything stop him.
He has unsual muscle tone, weakening the left side of his body, so keeping up wih his peers can be a hassle.
But, when Liam’s on a horse he’s free to let the animal do what his body can’t, giving him the chance to be a competetive horse rider.
“I can compete against all other people like me and I actually have a chance of winning something,” he said.
“The horse has to be good for me so I know that when I kick just on my right side, because my left side is weaker, that it means to go and not to turn right and things like that.”
Liam started riding about six years ago when he was asked to take part in a Royal Children’s Hopital/Deakin Univeristy study into the impact of a 10-week horse riding program on cerebral palsy and quality of life.
Liam went on to continue riding with Riding for the Disabled at Daylesford which runs out of Boomerang Holiday Ranch.
Liam visits the ranch every Friday – except in term three when the weather is too unpredictable – and practises his horseman ship.
His regualar ride at Boomerang Holiday Ranch is Ruby, but he sometimes brings along his own horse Tim.
“It’s exciting to be on the horse, except for when he misbehaves,” the young rider said.
Liam’s mum Kylie said he doesn’t like to focus on his disability and refuses to let it stop him from doing the things he loves.
“He plays football, he plays basketball, he plays tennis,” she said.
“So he does everything to the best of his ability but he gets frustrated because he can’t be as good as he wants to be.
“He’s got all the skills but his legs can’t get him there.
“He made the comment probably four or five years ago, ‘I feel like everyone else on a horse’.”
Kylie said it took doctors a long time to diagnose Liam with cerebral palsy.
“We had hundreds of doctors appointments,” she said.
“We saw the heads of all the departments at the Royal Children’s hospital because you know how those people only see the unusual cases.
“It was not like he was major but he didn’t fit into any box... He used to fall over all the time.
“His leg was turned in, so it affects his balance because his legs not out where it should be and before he went to school you’d just sort of brush past him and he’d fall over.
“When he fell, he used to always hit his head all the time too becaue he couldn’t get his hands down quick enough.”
Kylie said riding was great for balance, coordination and it was also a good form of physiotheraphy.
“The stretches that he gets sitting on top of a horse, because the muscles pull his legs in, sitting on a horse gives him a really good stretch,” she said.
“So it’s like doing physio for an hour, sitting on a horse for an hour.”
Liam said he couldn’t wait to put his skills to the test in Taiwan at the Hope Cup on October 20.
He hopes it will be the first in a long line of major compeitiotns and dreams of one day competing in the paraolympics.
“This will be my first time overseas so it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.