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35+ Years of Volunteering - Willie and Rod Warnock's Volunteering Journey.

Updated: May 23, 2022

Congratulations once again to Willie and Rod Warnock for being awarded the Access Mundaring award by the Shire of Mundaring presented by Shire President Cr James Martin.

Willie and Rod were recognised for their significant contribution and outstanding service to the community in January 2022. They were recognised for providing their property as a space for HorsePower Hills to operate its recreational and therapeutic programs for over 23 years.

Willie and Rod Warnock receive the Access Mundaring award from the Shire of Mundaring. Presented by Shire President Cr James Martin (who is also a HorsePower Hills parent) in January 2022

To celebrate this award, let’s follow Willie’s and Rod’s volunteering journey in Sawyers Valley. You’ll be surprised at how their journey began and the huge contributions that have shaped HorsePower Australia and HorsePower Hills. You’ll come to know how volunteering can have such a large impact on a small Perth community.

Willie’s volunteering journey began after attending a family Christmas gathering. A young boy, who had lost his lower legs, was wheeled towards her and she immediately took a step back in fear. This reaction surprised and shocked her.

“I like to face my fears,” says Willie. Feeling disappointed with herself she decided to join the Doman Delacato program. It’s a program for children with brain injuries, that intends to return damaged functions of the body through ‘rewiring’ the brain. Willie was invited to witness this program by a friend who had a special needs young daughter. Witnessing the amazing improvements the program made to the child’s everyday life, she decided to become a volunteer, which lasted for many years.

It was while volunteering for the Doman Delacato program that she asked if there was a therapy program that used horses, and the answer was yes! - The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

Joining the RDA Hills Group in 1987, she later became a qualified RDA instructor. This began her journey to become an RDA coach and to develop the Specialist Therapy Program, which led to her 30-year career with RDA.

1989 at Sunninghill. Pictured: Willie Warnock (left) Sherry (middle) Sue Abbott inaugural Hills President (right) and Herbie the horse.

You’d be surprised to know that Willie didn’t grow up with horses, as most horse enthusiasts do. She has always admired the beauty of the horse, but she was once afraid of them. So, at 28 years of age she decided to face her fear and was surprised at the outcome.

“I thought horses were beautiful but scary. Little did I know that I would connect with them in such a strong positive way. I always dreamt I would own a horse and a large dog, and I have achieved both!” says Willie.

In 1988, she combined her passion for horses and helping children with diverse abilities by aiding in the design of a Specialist Therapy Program, similar to Hippotherapy, with Alan Longman. With the program underway she attended a workshop delivered by physiotherapist Pippa Hodge, who specialised in Hippotherapy and is the founding member of the Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association (VTEA) in Canada. Showing Pippa videos of their program, Pippa was very pleased with their work saying it was “great” and to “keep it up”. However, their program was eventually taken over by the safer and more controlled Hippotherapy approach.

  1. 1992 Willie backriding with Joel.

  2. Testing the gantry , block and tackle to load the rider. This particular rider was Willie's hero. Louise Pat (left) Ted and Rod (right) and Cass the horse.

  3. Irene (left), Willie (centre) and Alan (right).

  4. 2002 Rebekah Millard (now President of HorsePower Hills).

Before Willie and Rod opened their property to RDA Hills Group (which was renamed HorsePower Hills in 2019), lessons were conducted at various locations around the Mundaring area. This required Willie to transport the horses to and from these locations, sometimes returning 2 or 3 times to collect all the horses. As demand for their services grew, the time, effort and financial outlay became exorbitant. Luckily at this time Willie’s dream property came up for sale and she scooped it up as fast as she could! She’d been eyeing the property on her trail rides for many years and always said to herself “that is my dream property and one day I hope to own it”. When she and Rod bought the property, she knew that it would be suitable to run the RDA program in her own backyard. 23 years later the Warnock's property is still called home for HorsePower Hills.

First lesson in the Goslin St Arena. Kim riding Tequila.

Willie makes a significant contribution to the HorsePower organisation on state and local level. Willie has been the President of HorsePower Australia for the past 6 years and Head Coach at HorsePower Hills since 1998. She says that her goal for HorsePower Hills is to have a “community based HPA Centre capable of helping more people to fulfil their dreams and allowing them to achieve what they thought was impossible”. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult as the organisation is struggling financially because of the effects of COVID-19, the high cost of complying with the NDIS and increasing costs of maintaining a herd of equines. With more financial support HorsePower Australia can open more centres and provide more services allowing it to make a difference to more people’s lives, including riders, parents and volunteers.

Willie at the 2022 HorsePower Hills volunteer orientation and training session.

What Willie loves most about volunteering for HorsePower is that she witnesses first-hand the difference the organisation makes to people’s lives. She loves seeing the enjoyment and happiness on the children’s faces, and the significant mental and physical improvements they make after weeks of riding lessons or Hippotherapy sessions. She can see their confidence grow as their physical and mental strength improves. Willie used one of the young Hippotherapy riders as an example saying, “She knows what she is doing and when you get the big smiles, you go ‘yes’!”.

2022 Willie sidewalking and enjoying tail tickles with Skylar.

Willie describes the biggest challenges for HorsePower are not having enough financial support and volunteers. HorsePower Hills is entirely self-funded and run by volunteers.

It has become even more challenging when lessons have to be cancelled due to volunteers or participants having to isolate because of COVID-19. “We try to work around that as best as we can but if we can’t run lessons, we don’t have an income. Our horses still need to be fed, watered and visit the vet and farrier, etc. It is currently placing a particularly heavy financial burden on our shoulders,” says Willie.

You can help HorsePower Hills by making tax-deductible charity donation or registering to volunteer. Please email for more information.

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