Wollondilly Pony Club stalwart Betty Wallace awarded OAM

SHOCKED: Bargo resident Betty Wallace OAM stands at her beloved Wollondilly Pony Club grounds. Picture: Simon Bennett
SHOCKED: Bargo resident Betty Wallace OAM stands at her beloved Wollondilly Pony Club grounds. Picture: Simon Bennett

The name Betty Wallace is synonymous with the Wollondilly horse community.

Ms Wallace helped found the Wollondilly Pony Club more than five decades ago and has been a driving force behind Tahmoor's Riding for the Disabled Association.

She has taught countless children and adults to ride a horse over the past 50 years, including many people with disabilities.

The Bargo resident has now been rewarded for her dedication with an Order of Australia Medal.

The 89-year-old told the Advertiser she was "quite surprised" to receive the OAM.

"I am very proud and very honoured," Ms Wallace said.

"You don't do these things to get the awards at the end of it. You do it because it has to be done and to help people."

Ms Wallace was specifically recognised for her "service to people with a disability" on the Queen's birthday honours list.

The idea of launching a Wollondilly-based Riding for Disabled Association (RDA) club began during the 1970s.

The first RDA club was founded in NSW by riding instructor Pearl Batchelor in 1972.

"When I heard about it, I thought it was a brilliant idea," Ms Wallace said.

Ms Wallace, with support from her husband Graham, held a public meeting in 1986 in Tahmoor to gauge interest for starting a local club.

"I had received feedback from people that a lot of parents wanted to bring their children with disabilities to the Wollondilly Pony Club," she said.

"Graham chaired the first meeting and became club president. I was our first vice-president and became head coach."

Ms Wallace said support for the Tahmoor RDA had continued to grow over the past three decades.

"The club has been wonderful and we've had some great successes," she said.

"There are very few kids that we couldn't help over the years."

Ms Wallace estimated that she had taught hundreds of disabled people, mainly children, to ride a horse.

"It's been an absolute pleasure," she said.

"We have around 25 helpers and we ride every second Tuesday during the school term.

"Everyone is different, so coaching has been a day-to-day kind of thing.

"You need to adapt [your coaching style] to what's in front of you."

Ms Wallace's husband passed away in 2017 and she took over as Tahmoor RDA club president.

The community stalwart also remains Wollondilly Pony Club's president.

The Wollondilly Pony Club toasted its 50th anniversary last October and Ms Wallace said she was proud to keep supporting the club.

"To be still operating after 50 years, it's a long time," Ms Wallace said.

"I'm very proud to see how much the club has grown."

Ms Wallace is also recognised today for service to other Wollondilly community groups, including Meals on Wheels, the Tahmoor Bush Fire Brigade and Picton Show Society.

The Wollondilly Pony Club celebrated its 50th anniversary last October. Picture: Supplied by Kelly MacAllister

The Wollondilly Pony Club celebrated its 50th anniversary last October. Picture: Supplied by Kelly MacAllister