Sunday May 13 2007
Ron and Val Males aren’t just known for their contribution to the Arabian horse world. They’ve also been recognized for the work they’ve done with and for disabled people.
One day about 30 years ago they got a handwritten letter from a little kid asking if he could board his horse at their place. They agreed, and he wrote that his parents would bring him out. When he arrived, the Males were quite surprised to see a 30 year old man. John had been stricken at a few months of age with cerebral palsy. He’d done some handicapped riding, but at Ralvon he was just another person. He’d fall down, they’d let him lay there until he could get himself up (he wanted it that way). He’d wobble up to his horse shoving a shaking bridle at him, and his horse would stand there and be bridled. He got to where he could saddle and bridle his own horse and go out riding by himself; he’s done a few endurance training rides; and he’s even done a cross country trip in a sulky by himself. If you can imagine the enormous amount of effort and determination that took, you’d never complain about how hard something is ever again. With Ron’s help he broke in the horse he has now - the horse is now 18 yrs old. He was told he’d be in a wheelchair the rest of his life; that was a long time ago. The horses keep him going and stimulated. John’s been like a member of the Males’ family for 30 years, and he still comes out every weekend to ride his horse - I had the pleasure of meeting him while I was there.
The Males used to run holiday camps for girls, 5 days long, taking in 18 girls at a time, to earn money. They also started, about 10 years ago, holiday work camps for people to come stay and live with them for a week at a time and work on the farm.
The holiday girls camp is where they met Neville, father of two of the girls. He’d been a taxi driver with a normal life, until the day a passenger shot him in the back and made him a paraplegic. Taking his girls to the camp gave Neville the idea that he’d like to ride a horse, but how on earth could that happen? He enlisted the help of Ron and Val, and kept it a secret. On his lunch hours he’d sneak out to their farm. Ron put a riding pony into stocks for confinement, and built a special ramp Neville could roll his wheelchair up onto, and maneuver his body down onto the pony. Ron gave him riding lessons; Neville would post by using one arm on the saddle horn to lift himself out of the saddle. Neville worked indoors at a typewriter business, and his wife was wondering why he was getting so tanned. He told her he was eating his lunches outside.
One day when his kids went to the Males’ camp to ride, here came their dad, not in a wheelchair, but riding on a horse by himself. Thanks to the Males, Neville was able to leave his wheelchair and ride hoses with his family. Neville wrote a moving poem about it, the first line of which reads, “Gee Dad, how did you get up there?”
In 2004 , Ron and Val were awarded the Order of Australia Medal - an award from Australians recognizing achievements and service of fellow citizens - for services to the horse breeding industry, to equestrian sports, and to people with disabilities. (Val’s a bit embarrassed by it). Very appropriate for two wonderful people, who’ve given so much of themselves and their lives to other people.
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