A HORSE rider says helping disabled children overcome their fears and seeing them walk for the first time is “real soul food”.

Greg Block, who has been working at Chigwell Riding Trust for the last seven years, says he wouldn’t trade his job for the world.

The 46-year-old works with people aged two to 80 with a range of mental and physical disabilities.

He said: “There’s never a day when I go up and think that I don’t want to this, or that I can’t. This job is an absolute pleasure.

“It’s what I call good soul food. My riders don’t realise they need me just as much as I need them.

“It’s actually turned into a bit of a lifestyle choice almost, it’s a vocation. It’s no longer just a job but something I love doing it. I get so much pleasure of it.”

One of his proudest moments was seeing a six-year-old boy, who constantly wet himself out of fear anytime he saw a horse, finally get comfortable enough to stroke one.

Another boy used to drag himself on his elbows as he was unable to walk, but the moment he learned to sit up on a horse unaided, he learned to crawl.

“The day he managed to walk up to the horses holding his mum’s hands, everyone was in tears,” he added.

“It was just amazing to see. I’ve had many children come in who were unable to walk, but managed to gain enough core strength through riding.

“It fires up the brain and uses the same muscles we need to walk.”

Many of his students have gone on to train in para competitions and the RDA National Championships thanks to his guidance.

Mr Block, a dad-of-two, had always been a horse riding instructor but gave it up for around four years.

He lived in Suffolk and took a job as a car worker, helping boys with behaviour issues and learning difficulties overcome a range of issues.

But he decided to try and introduce horses into their lives and said he was dumbfounded to see how much it helped them.

By chance, a friend who used to work at the Chigwell centre told him a job was coming up and suggested he go for it.

“The rest, as they say, is history,” he added.

Mr Block, who lives on site and has a 19-year-old daughter and a son, 17, has just been named Riding for the Disabled's High Performance Coach of the Year.

He was nominated by his boss, two horse riders, a volunteer and a parent.

They said: “His enthusiasm, empathy and depth of knowledge are a credit to him – nothing seems to faze him.”

He said: "It’s nice to know you’re actually changing people lives but seeing it in black and white was amazing."