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.
One of my very first riding lessons at RDA. Here I am riding the beautiful Anya.
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!
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.