My Horse Riding Journey Through The Years So Far….

Riding for the Disabled Association

As some of you may know recently Riding for the Disabled launched their 50 Faces Campaign. I am very lucky and pleased to say I am part of for this campaign. So this got me thinking about how my horse riding and love for horses journey began.

The first time I sat on a horse I was terrified. I only managed a few steps and then just had to get off. You wouldn’t believe me now if I told you. I love going horse riding I look forward to my Saturday morning lessons like mad. I would ride everyday if I could! Going horse riding helps me to stay and be more positive I have found that horse riding and just being with the horses and ponies really does wonders to positively impacting on my mental health.

Just been out on a hack with King.

One primary school holiday I did try horse riding again with Camp Mohawk at a nearby stables to the centre. I remember doing a bit of trotting for the first time with a leader and our riding instructor. When my parents came to lead me around the hacks we would go on. After the summer holidays I decided that I wanted to do weekly lessons at the stables as I enjoyed it so much. At that stables I normally would ride Candy or King. King was a very naughty Pony!

One of my first lessons on Anya.

Whilst riding at this stables my mum came across Riding for the Disabled Association and put me on the waiting list. It was lovely when we got a phone call from South Bucks RDA asking if I would like to come for an assessment as I had been on the waiting list for a very long time. I remember on the way to the stables I was so excited but when I got there I didn’t want to get on. After a bit of persuading I got on and I’m so happy and glad I did. The first pony I ever rode at South Bucks RDA was called Barbie she was lovely by the end of the assessment I didn’t want to get off!

Charlie Girl

And that’s when amazing life changing journey with horses and ponies started. Since that first assessment I have achieved things I never thought would be possible. Horse riding has helped my self esteem and confidence massively. From doing The Countryside Challange and Dressage Competitions at Regional and National level, doing horse riding and horse care as part of my Short Course PE GCSE to meeting Princess Anne!

Rosette from The Countryside Challange 2011.

National Championships with Bonnie 2012.

RDA massively helped me when I was getting bullied. The horses and ponies are like my best friends and I trust them more than people! When I went horse riding I could just forget about the things happening at school. I felt safe and it is a place where I can focus on what I can do and it’s not about what I can’t do. I love all the horses and ponies at RDA with all their different personalities. I have grown a massive bond with the horses and ponies at RDA I call them my Saturday morning pets! The bond between horse and rider is so beautiful, unique and powerful theirs nothing else quite like it!

RDA isn’t just a place where I go riding every week it’s a family. All the grooms and volunteers are amazing without them I wouldn’t of been able to achieve what I have! RDA changed my life and continues too I don’t think I’d still be here if it wasn’t for the RDA. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

To find out more about the RDA visit: https://www.rda.org.uk

Want to meet all of The 50 Faces visit: https://www.rda.org.uk/50-faces/

Guest Blogger My Dad: How Riding for the Disabled has helped Bryony

Riding for the Disabled Association

Bryony started with the South Bucks branch of Riding for the Disabled (RDA) from the age of 8. As her Dad, I’ve got a lot of pleasure seeing how they have helped her overcome some of her problems whilst riding.

But before we get into that, I must confess that sometime in the last century I was also a keen horse rider: my mum had a horse called Blaze and, given her back problems, I became Blaze’s main rider for a few years. I mucked him out (sometimes), I prepared him for shows and won a few rosettes at the local Pony Club Events.

But while the few photos I have are of show events, my memories are quite different. I remember the togetherness of riding him over a round of small jumps with no saddle and no bridle (although I don’t remember how!). And my best memories are of sitting on his back revising for my “O” levels while he grazed on the grass in our small paddock. The type of togetherness that can bind man and animal, or, in this case, boy and horse. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school and Blaze was probably my best friend that summer.

So I can easily understand how the RDA has helped Bryony, how it continues to help, and hopefully help in the future. Her 45 minutes every Saturday morning are one of the top highlights of the week as she becomes a very different person. She becomes much more confident and self-assured, almost literally discarding her other issues as she gets on her horse at mid-day on Saturday. Her horse, whether it be Mabel or Billy, senses that Bryony is in charge. The horse may be led (usually by Hazel), but Bryony is definitely the boss. Her concentration is evident to us, her family, but we see something others don’t. We see that the issues and concerns that are very visible for most of the week are simply not there once she is riding. No-one is threatening her, or making fun of her, and that is clear from her appearance and confidence on the horse. I can’t remember when we last saw her have a fit on the horse, whilst she continues to have such episodes at home when she is not on a horse. Maybe it is the girl/horse relationship, maybe it is the nurturing and care of RDA staff, or more likely it is both of these. As Bryony puts it: the RDA is a second caring family to her and that’s an amazing thing to have when one is six foot up in the air on a very strong four-legged animal!

Bryony started this blog last year and we both hope that while it helps her, it can also help its readers, and can help others discover the pleasures – and very real benefits – provided by the RDA.

A Letter To The Education System

disability

I want to talk about the actual practical experiences of a disabled student with mental health conditions applying for courses at college and the frustrations/challenges I encounter.

I am a young adult who is frustrated about the way the education system treats disabled students even before a student officially joins the college. Disabled students have more hurdles to go through compared with able-bodied students and the process takes a good deal longer than normal.

These experiences damage our self-esteem and self-belief and stress the people who care for us, having an impact on the young adult’s family. Not being able to fulfil my ambitions makes me tired, wears me down, makes me feel useless and worthless as I feel like I cannot contribute to society. I might be disabled but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have a career and be as independent as possible.

I feel that I am being denied an education compared to my peers. For example when I’ve gone for course interviews in various subjects I always get told I am unable to do the courses because:

1. I will find it too physically active or demanding.

2. I will not be allowed/the college are not prepared to allow me adaptations to be able to do courses.

3. I will find course work or exams too hard or stressful.

4. Colleges I have been to are thrown when I talk about my mental health conditions as they do not know how to respond to this, let alone how to help me with this on a daily basis.

Going through constant rejection with no after-care support or guidance on courses we could do instead deeply impacts on our mental health. This then can turn into a vicious circle which seems to never end and you can’t see a way out. It becomes scary and frightening and this makes me feel more stuck and trapped as well as extremely fearful of my future: from not only job searching but making sure that I do not become more unwell, unable to give back to society.

We all have dreams and hopes for our future and this isn’t any different for people with disabilities, mental health conditions or long term illnesses.

This makes us feel concerned about the future because we know we can give back to society and,yes, that might not be in a highly paid job but we want to feel valued and feel more accepted by society. We are all different with different skills to bring into different industries for example, catering, health care or retail. Just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to offer!

In fact we are have a lot to offer; we are determined, resilient and strong. Due to our disabilities we have to come up with new ways to be able to do something an able-bodied person may find easy so we are also great at problem solving! Sometimes our brains work in different ways so we see things differently to others. This means we may be able to notice things others may have never noticed before. Some of us are really good at remembering information and routes like buses and trains timetables or maybe information on other countries. This means that maybe someone with a disability could actually be a fantastic asset to a business!

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

Riding for the Disabled Association

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

disability

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.

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

Riding for the Disabled Association

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!

YOOCAN: A Supportive Online Community For The Disabled

disability

I remember when I first found out about this online community through Instagram. On Instagram they share stories of many different disabled people from around the world. When I looked at the website a big smile grew across my face. This was because I found a place where disability was embraced and not laughed at.

YOOCAN is an online community where people with disabilities from all over the world can share empowering stories about living life with a disability. Here people write about many topics for example they might do a product recommendation . Or write about what it is like to travel with a disability. Another topic I love to read from is all about other people’s hobbies.

I can’t say how many stories I have read about covering so many different topics. When reading others stories and experiences I feel that I am not alone. I also feel that others get it and understand. It’s a great way to get tips and tricks on things I may find hard to do such as cooking. I have got some good fashion styling tips as well. For example when I wore a splint at school I was bullied for this and wearing one made me feel very self-conscious. I didn’t like showing it so wore trousers quite a lot even in summer. Kids bullied me because I couldn’t wear girls and women’s shoes I had to wear boys shoes as my splint made my shoe size bigger etc. By reading other people’s stories I realised that I wasn’t alone in feeling self- conscious and being bullied for wearing a splint. Reading others experiences made me feel that I was not a freak. I felt like a freak a lot of the time at school as that was one of things other kids called me.

One of the big reasons I love YOOCAN is how people write about their stories and their experiences they have had in a positive way but also keeping it real.

Being part of this community definitely helps me with my confidence and self-esteem as I can also write about my experiences; I find I can really relate to others with thoughts about being a disabled young adult on topics such as having to need more support than others my age. Or when my friends wear high heels but I have to wear flats. Just the simple small day to day things that you wouldn’t really think about or notice.

Lastly I think YOOCAN slogan “do anything” is so positive and sends a very powerful message to everyone. Just because someone has a disability that doesn’t mean they don’t have ambitions and dreams. It doesn’t matter who you are your dreams can come true!

Website: https://yoocanfind.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yoocandoanything/?hl=en

 

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