This year, The United Nations has marked out 2001 as International Year of Volunteers.

According to the Institute for Volunteering Research, 23 million adults do some kind of volunteering each year.

Training consultant Maddy Buttner is one of those millions: she decided to do some voluntary work when she became her own boss running training courses for a number of different companies.

Every Wednesday morning however, Maddy is to be found at Avon Riding Centre for the Disabledin Henbury, Bristol, where she helps to teach riding.

“There is a volunteer force manning lessons throughout the week,” she said. “My stint is Wednesday morning for three lessons at 10, 11 and 12.”

Thirty-seven year old Maddy moved to Bristol as a student: “I had always known about Riding for the Disabled, and I had experience of both horses and working with the disabled, ” she explained.

She volunteered at the first chance she had to commit the same time every week, and was snapped up immediately. She phoned the centre on a Tuesday and was there next day.

“I had been around horses off and on all my life, and my mother used to run a youth club for people with disabilities and for those without.”

There’s no pay for the work of course, but she describes the rewards as a “triple whammy”.

“I love working with horses and always have,” she said. “It’s also a confidence builder for the volunteers, who sometimes start off feeling quite nervous of horses.

“And it isjust fabulous to watch the riders – when you see someone up there who is normally down in a wheelchair, week by week you watch their confidence building and their mobility increasing.

“There’s a woodland at the centre which has bluebells in spring. Many of our riders, whether adults or children, wouldn’t be able to go there normally, but they can on horseback. That’s an amazing thing to participate in, and I wouldn’t give it up for all the tea in China.”

Gill Edwards, group organiser atthe Avon centre, confirmed that the organisation were always looking for more volunteers. “We have 150 volunteers on our books, but people come andgo and we need 120 volunteers a week to run the sessions for thedisabled.”Gill can be contacted at (tel: 0117 959 0266).

For more information contact: Riding for the Disabled Association (tel: 024 7669 6510), or write to: Lavinia Norfolk House, Avenue R, NationalAgricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire CV8 2LY.