Riding for the Disabled Association: How Horse Riding Helps My Disability

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I was about 8 or 9 when I started horse riding at my local RDA Centre; I am now 20 years old. Through my time horse riding with the RDA I have found that riding isn’t just something I love to do and I look forward to it during the week. It has helped me in many different ways: one of the big ways it has helped me is with my disability.

When I was younger, horse riding was great physiotherapy for me. It was also very clever because I enjoyed it so much I didn’t see it as having to do my daily stretches and exercises my physiotherapist gave me.

Over the years horse riding has helped me build up my muscles and core strength. Horse riding has helped me to improve my balance massively. I remember when I first started riding and my instructor got us to do lots of different activities to help not only build up confidence and communication skills but to also make sure we were working our muscles safely. For example we had to do activities siting on bean bags or balancing a bean bag on our riding hat and try and make sure it didn’t fall off. This helped me to develop better posture in everyday life. At school I used to have problems writing and making sure my posture at the table was good or when I was eating a meal. I found that over time horse riding really helped me to develop better posture and now I can do tasks so much more easily. Doing this also helped me to see if I was sitting properly on the pony. If the bean bag fell off I learnt that my balance was not even and that I was sitting too far over on one side.

Horse riding has helped and continues to help me with my visual perception. I find seeing shapes challenging and this can be confusing. In my lessons I do a lot of work on riding circles evenly as I can sometimes make one side of my circle a lot bigger than the other. During my lessons I may change the rein and to do this I have to ride diagonally across the riding school so now I understand more about what a diagonal is.

Horse riding helps me with my spatial awareness and planning as I have to take into account the other horses and ponies in the school. For example I have to make sure if we are all lined up behind each other that we leave a safe distance between each of us. As well as this sometimes some of the horses and ponies in the class don’t get on very well so we may need to prepare more about who we chose to stand behind. As well as this in some of the activities we do, we may have to halt between cones or on “X” so I need to prepare my halt in advance and make sure my legs are forward and that I am sitting back into the saddle and don’t tip forward.

Lastly going horse riding at the RDA has helped me to feel less alone and not to feel ashamed of who I am because at school other kids bullied me because of my disability. When I’m at RDA I feel accepted and I can be myself.

The Power of a Hashtag: #DisabledPeopleAreHot

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You might have heard about a very popular hashtag used in the disabled community at the moment. The Hashtag #disabledpeoplearehot created by Andrew Gurza has taken the online disabled community by storm. Disabled people from all around the world are now using this hashtag all over social media.

As a young disabled women I love this hashtag; I think it has such a powerful message that all of us disabled or not could learn from.

Just because we might not fit into the social norm doesn’t mean that we are not like other people our age. Yes we might have to go to more doctor appointments or use aids to help us get around but that doesn’t make us not “pretty” or “hot.”What is the definition of beautiful? What is the definition of hot? What makes us attractive?

We are all individuals if everyone was the same life would be boring.

This hashtag I believe really helps to challenge the stigma around disability and dating. Sometimes if a disabled person has a boyfriend or girlfriend others automatically think that their partner is also disabled. If a disabled person is dating an able bodied person others might just think they are friends or that the other person is their career. It can take others by surprise that a able bodied person is dating or going on a date with a disabled person. This hashtag helps to challenge society’s views on disabled people finding love and having a relationship.

Finally I think that this hashtag helps to empower the disabled community. The hashtag helps others to build up confidence as well as helping people to feel proud of who they are in a time where there is a lot of peer pressure to look a certain way that could be that  through the media or school life in the playground.

The Power of a Smile

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Just because someone is smiling that doesn’t mean they are happy or ok. A smile has the power to hide the most saddest and darkest most painful feels , thoughts and emotions to the outside world; to others nothing seems wrong but inside you are a mix of emotions all going at 100 miles an hour. A smile can be like a shield you use to protect yourself from the outside world and everyday situations.

In the past I used to smile and try and look happy to the outside world but actually I was in  such a dark and scary place that I didn’t know how to get out of.

At school I was getting bullied constantly every time someone said something horrible and upsetting to me I would try and not show them how much hurt they were giving me. I didn’t want to look hurt because I knew that they would carry on, laugh and it would probably get worse. I felt suicidal and just wanted it to stop I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember trying to tell adults I trusted what was going on however I was terrified because I knew if the bullies found out something even worse was going to happen so I just smiled and tried to look cheerful. I did tell some teachers what was going on but they didn’t believe me or they would tell me everyone gets bullied and that I should feel sorry for the people bullying me, other teachers tried to help but couldn’t.

For me I found out that a smile could be so powerful because by smiling it used to trick me into thinking everything was fine and that it was completely normal to be getting bullied by lots of people on a daily basis.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is just because someone looks happy to you doesn’t mean they are. We are all fighting things others can’t see or don’t know about. For me a smile was my way of trying to cope with things the best way I could.

Riding for the Disabled Association: Billy’s First Ever Dressage Competition

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At the moment I am helping to train the youngest pony at the stables: he is called Billy.

In my horse riding lessons I have worked with him a lot. He has now got so much better doing work in the school with other horses and ponies being in the same arena as him. I have done quite a lot of with him to improve his circles and also making sure he is on the track and goes into the corners. With Billy I do have to work more on making sure he is listening to me as he gets easily distracted and likes to look out of the school doors and see what’s going on.

Recently Billy and I took part in a dressage competition with Dressage Anywhere.This was Billy’s first ever time competing in a dressage competition.

On the day of the dressage competition Billy was fantastic. He was very curious and did enjoy looking at himself in the mirror at times. He was also very interested in the video camera. We joke a lot and say that we think Billy quite fancies being a model. During our dressage routine Billy did amazingly: he was alert but also listening to me. He seemed to take everything in his stride. I was so proud of him especially because it was his first ever dressage competition, so I wasn’t sure how he would react to doing things in the school by himself with no other horses or ponies around with him.

Here is a small clip of different things we did for our dressage.

Billy and I came 1st in the dressage competition which was brilliant: we scored 71.39%. I am so proud of him and how far he has come in such a short space of time. He really is a pot of gold!

Riding for the Disabled Association: How Horse Riding Helped Me Through Getting Bullied

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one of my very first horse riding lessons at RDA riding the beautiful  Anya.

I was first bullied in primary school however when I went into secondary school the bullying got a lot worse and on a whole new level. I was getting bullied physically, verbally and online. The thing was I wasn’t just being bullied by people in my Year I was also being bullied by the kids in the older and younger years too. I felt like I just couldn’t escape from it; I was always on edge waiting for the next horrible thing to happen. I felt suicidal it felt like I was living in darkness with no light. When I would come back from school in tears their where days I would cry myself to sleep and wish I wouldn’t wake up.

However there was one place I went to in the week were I just felt so happy, safe and not scared; that special place was going to my local RDA stables for my horse riding lessons. I would look forward to my Saturday horse riding lessons like crazy and when the bad things happened I would just try to think about the amazing horses and ponies at RDA.

There were days when I didn’t want to go horse riding because I was so upset and down from what was happening at school. Sometimes I didn’t think I deserved to go horse riding as the bullies made me feel like a horrible person; who deserved the things that would happen to me daily at school.

Forrester all tacked up ready for his lesson.

In spite of everything when I got to the stables and onto one of the ponies or horses everything changed for the better; I was able to forget about all the horrible things that were happening at school for a few minutes a week. The horses and ponies really helped me to feel like I was good at something. They made me feel that I was needed as they needed to be exercised. The horses and ponies also helped me a lot as I didn’t feel judge by them in anyway, they just accepted me for me and that was amazing in fact they still do!

I remember when I used to do trotting in my lessons, when I was doing trotting I would try and use it to help me to move on from the things I was having done to me during that week at school. Before trotting I wold think about the horrible things that week and then when I got the pony or horse to trot I would try and imagine trotting those experiences away and forgetting about them. I found this a really helpful coping strategy because I would tell teachers about what was happening but nothing was done about it.

The horses and ponies, grooms, riding instructors and other volunteers are all incredible. I don’t know what I would have done or where I would be now if it wasn’t for this amazing charity;that has helped me get through one of the hardest and most painful times in my life, SO THANK YOU!

Dance and Disability

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Every week I have dance class workshops at the theatre groups I attend. When I was younger I also did ballet class once a week. Over the past couple of years I have noticed that dance has a positive impact on my disability. Here are a few ways dancing has helped my disability:

1. Dance does not just help me to stay more fit and active; I find that sometimes dance can help me to express my emotions through a creative outlet without me having to talk to express my emotions and thoughts.

2. Dance helps me to improve my balance as we do a lot of warm up activities that make us need to focus on our balance but also I may need to balance when preparing to do high kicks in our dance routines or fast turns.

3. My disability makes it really hard for me to know the sequence of events. So having to do a dance routine really helps me to work on ways to try and remember a sequence due to the fact that our dances have lots of fast moves one after the other and can be quite quick.

4. I find that we have to use our core muscles a lot to help us stay up right when doing kicks or lifts. So I have found that my upper body strength is improving and that I am able to use my core muscles a lot better now when dancing.

5. I find eye, hand coordination tricky at times however dance helps me to use different parts of my body at the same time. I have found that listening to the music when dancing helps me to keep the rhythm and beat of the dance I am doing.

6. I have found that dance has also helped me to loosen and relax my hand strings. This has helped me a lot as I know can get dismount of the horses and ponies I ride as well as when I am in my riding lessons my legs are more relaxed and not so tight gripping onto the horse.

Animal Care Volunteering Update: Meet Boyce and Pip

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I have been volunteering at a farm for a few months now; we recently welcomed to new ponies called Boyce and Pip to the farm. They are both brother and sister and it’s been a fantastic to get to know them both and learn about each of their personalities and cheeky traits.

One of the first things I loved about Boyce was his furry moustache. We all find it funny when we take off his rugs because he is all shiny clean from where the rugs been but his legs are just covered in mud we like to say he’s got brown boots on. Boyce doesn’t really like females handling him he much prefers men. We are not too sure why this might be but we think he might have had a bad experience with a female from his past handling him. At the moment we are trying to help Boyce feel more relaxed and safe towards females handling him and stroking him. It is very important we try and build up his confidence and feels more comfortable with females because the farm offers birthday parties and the children who come straight away run up to the ponies and want to stroke them.

To try and help Boyce feel more safe and confident and not so scared around females we have been trying to do small tasks with him daily. For example we will give him his food separate to Pip and whilst he is eating I will just talk to him softly and calmly. We have tried stroking him by just putting our hand out and waiting for him to come to us but sometimes he will come up to us girls and want to bite us. However he is starting to feel more confident around females and we are going to try and do some ground work activities with him in the summer for example going over poles and in and out of cones once he feels safer and he begins to trust us more. Boyce is also in charge as he doesn’t like the little Shetland ponies we have and he has tried to have a fight with one of our pigs Wilbur through the bars of the fence.

Pip is a very sweet, gentle and calm girl who can be very shy at times but once she sees you with a camera she loves posing for you. She is definitely not camera shy! Unlike Boyce Pip prefers females and tends to dislike men. We think Pip had a bad experience with a man in the past. When they first arrived at the farm Pip was definitely more curious. To build up her confidence we did some one on one ground work activities with her. Pip enjoys being groomed so we did this with her a little and often to help build up her confidence.We have done circle work with her too and now in the week she does lunging.

Now that Pip is more relaxed around us we are now getting to know more about her, she is a very adventurous pony who likes to explore. In the summer who hope to take her out on short walks around the woods and do some ground work activities with her like a little obstacle course.

 

Recently it snowed at the farm; here is a video of Pip playing in the puddle after the snow melted.

I’m A Barbie Girl: Representation of Disabilities Shown Through Children’s Toys

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When I was in Primary School and it was my birthday one of the biggest memories was getting Barbie Dolls as presents at my party. I used to have a box of them under my bed and every year my collection would grow.

I remember at one point all the girls would bring in their Barbie dolls so they could play with them at break and lunch. The playground was just full of lots of different games involving all us girls playing with their dolls together. During playtime lots of us girls would say we wanted to look like or be like our Barbie Dolls.

When I read an article about Barbie creating a range of dolls with disabilities I thought this was fantastic news. One of the biggest reasons I liked this was because I think that if children are playing with these popular toys then to show all the toys having differences would help children learn and understand from a young age that we are all different, unique and special in our own ways. I think it would also help young children to build up self-esteem and confidence.

By having Barbie Dolls with disabilities I think will help disabled children explore, process and understand what a disability is , what their disability means to them and how others may perceive them. I also think that having these dolls would not only help that child but their family too. As parents maybe able to use the dolls to help explain to other family members such as siblings why their sister or brother doesn’t look like the others in their class.

I was diagnosed with my disability when I was in year 2 , I remember going to all these different hospital appointments were I would have to have all these tests and scans. I didn’t really understand what was going on but then I got told I had a disability.

At the time I was diagnosed and didn’t really understand I think having dolls with disabilities would have really helped me to understand more about what I had. I think this Barbie Doll range would be brilliant in children’s hospital waiting rooms and on the children’s wards.

I think that these dolls could help children who are getting bullied because they are disabled as with a doll they may feel less alone .

You can find out more about the new Barbie Doll range,

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/47212877?fbclid=IwAR0uCNBZ-GStQph4XvP9iG8GUqNxz3D7zWTKc3Rc2guxBwqG9zIj7M8lNlw

The Self-Love Journey

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Today is self-love day; for me self-love is a very difficult emotional journey as I have low self-esteem and low confidence due to past experiences.  I often think people around me are talking negatively about me, I might be in a queue waiting  to pay for something or I might just be walking to my class at college. I sometimes feel that I am too short or that I should be thinner.  Self-love is so hard for me a because I can be positive about others but when I look at myself in the mirror I just see and think negatively  for example the voices in my head say “Bryony you’re not tall enough” or “Bryony your outfit would look so much better if  you were a small size.

At school I was bullied by some kids because I have curly hair so for a long while I hated having curly hair and the voices in my head would be like ” Bryony why do you have such frizzy hair it’s not all long and smooth it’s just a heap of frizz”.

Even though I have a long way to still go with my own self-love journey I thought I would share with you some of the things I try to show myself self-love and be more body positive.

 

  1. I love to  just  watch a TV program I like or go on YouTube and watch my favourite YouTubers.

 2. I enjoy taking my dog for a walk and bringing my camera along too so I can practice my photography.

3. I enjoy trying out new makeup looks or trying out my new makeup products.

4. I enjoy watching one of my favourite films such as Mamma Mia or The Greatest Showman

5. If  I have had a long day I enjoy having a lovely bubble bath sometimes adding in a Lush bath bomb.

6.  I enjoy sometimes just doing some home baking and baking.

7. I really enjoy just sitting  down and read a book or doing word searches.

 

With my past care coordinator we recently came up with the idea that I should try each day to say something positive about myself too myself. For example” Bryony I like the way you have done your hair today or” that colour top really suits you”. We also spoke about writing these statements down so when I am in a low place I can look at them.

 

One of my favourite quotes!