Carousel Dreams for for children with Disabilities

I wanted to create something magical for children with disabilities and when I heard about the organization Riding for the Disabled Association of Victoria (RDA) an idea began to take shape. A fantastical place where children who face challenges every day are galloping free in their imagination. An idea inspired by a movie from my childhood – Mary Poppins.

The scene that inspired me from the movie Mary Poppins


When I thought about horses being magical, I was inspired by the concept of beautiful carousel horses coming to life in a fantastical setting. I reached out to Luna Park in Victoria to see whether they’d be open to my photographing their historic carousel.

This beautifully designed carousel, over 100 years old has been closed for refurbishment. I was thankful to the team at Luna Park for allowing me access at this time to photograph the Carousel in preparation for adding the magical horses and riders from RDA.



A little history on the Luna Park Carousel

Luna Park’s Carousel is the largest and most elaborate in the Southern Hemisphere.

At its time of manufacture, the amusement business was flourishing with hundreds of carousels operating
throughout Europe, England and America .

The Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) was renowned for Its large, decorative carousels and was one of the most important American manufacturers. The Luna Park Carousel was number 30 of a total of 80 carousels made by the company between 1903 and 1931. One of the company’s finest four-row machines, PTC#30 is one of only 25 PTC carousels still in operation and was the only one exported.


I first learnt about the RDA from Jacqui Griffin, mum to our first Heart Project recipient, Tahliyah

Read about Tahliyah’s Heart Project Story


Tahliyah Griffin has severe disabilities, and is unable to walk or speak. She is wheelchair bound and requires round the clock care. These physical limitations seem to magically diminish however when Tahliyah is at RDA and is riding. Tahliyah communicates with her eyes and her smiles. Those expressions tell me a story about how she imagines this time at RDA riding. She is free, it is magical, it is almost ‘Mary Poppins’ like.

Jacqui GriffinTahliyah loves the horses who are soooo gentle with her while getting to participate in an activity with her peers. The added physical therapy is a bonus. Tahliyah looks forward to her RDA days and is so relaxed after she rides. The staff are amazing and so caring, working with each child (or adult) to bring out the best in them.

Jacqui Griffin




To create this piece I needed to first photograph horses in the action of jumping. My purpose was to composite the RDA riders onto these horses in flight, knowing that this would inspire the children when they saw their final image. I knew the children at RDA would have a number of limitations which meant being creative with my ideas on how to achieve that magical final piece.


With thanks to Ayr Hill Equestrian Centre, I photographed the horses during show jumping practice. I then mocked up my image roughly so that I could match the perspective and angles when I photographed the children at RDA.


With my plan ready on my Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, we visited Doveton RDA – Riding Develops Abilities, to photograph some beautiful children and young adults experiencing their favourite part of the week.

I watched as the volunteers shared their passion for horses and riding, and guided the young people around the arena. This organisation continues to run because of the dedication of these volunteers. If you’d like to find out more about becoming involved: Visit RDA’s Website:

What resulted were some wonderful moments. As I photographed the children, I imagined what might be going on in their own imaginations as they proudly rode the horses.

Watch the video

Special thanks goes out to The Heart Project team members that helped capture the magic behind the scenes: Brittany Long, Lorraine MacGillivray, Melissa Wood and my fantastic hubby, Stuart Alsop.

As always, this sort of art could not happen without some essential tools including: Adobe Photoshop, my Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, my EIZO monitor, my Canon 5dIV, Tether Tools, Elinchrom and Xlite gear, and the finished print on Canson Infinity Photographiq Rag printed on an Epson P800


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