Pride in Mann: Katie puts skills to good use

Katie Blackburn, left, at Pennybridge stables with fellow volunteer Jo Smithsons, right, and young student Jake

Katie Blackburn, left, at Pennybridge stables with fellow volunteer Jo Smithsons, right, and young student Jake

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A volunteer who helps young people with disabilities gain a sense of independence through horseriding has been nominated for an award.

Katie Blackburn has been nominated in the Spirit of Youth/Schools category of Isle of Man Newspapers’ Pride in Mann awards.

For the last two years she has been volunteering with Riding for the Disabled Isle of Man, who operate at Pennybridge stables in Kirk Michael.

With Katie walking alongside offering constant reassurance, youngsters with a variety of special needs are able to take the reins and gain a new sense of freedom.

‘I’ve had horses all my life and I’ve been riding since I was seven,’ Katie told iomtoday.

‘I think it really helps the children and it lets them do something for themselves. When they’re on the horses the parents have to step back - I think it shows the parents just how independent the children can be.’

Katie has been nominated by Joan Waters, chairman of Riding for the Disabled Isle of Man. In her citation she said: ‘She has helped with the Isle of Man group every Tuesday morning during term time for the last two years, even when she was working in a coffee shop and Tuesday was her only day off!

‘Everyone in the group notices how well she connects with the children. She enjoys their company as much as they enjoy hers,’ she added.

Describing the nomination as ‘totally unexpected’, Katie said: ‘It’s not really about awards. It’s a lovely thing to do that makes you feel like you’ve helped someone learn something totally new.’

Speaking about the children, Katie said: ‘I think they’re amazing. They have such wonderful personalities.

‘They can be a bit nervous to begin with but they really open up when they’re on the ponies. They’ve always got big smiles on their faces.’

Pride in Mann is an awards scheme from Isle of Man Newspapers and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company which recognises unsung heroes in the Manx community. Nominate online at prideinmann.com

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