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.

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

Riding for the Disabled Association

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!

Riding for the Disabled Association

Riding for the Disabled Association

Before I started riding with the RDA I had riding lessons at a different stable. I had to wait ages to do riding with the RDA because the waiting list was so long. To this day I still remember going to the RDA for the first time for my assessment to see what class I should go in. I’d been so excited about the idea but when it came to it I didn’t want to get on. I thought the pony would be like this very naughty one I used to ride. However when I got on this lovely gentle old pony called Barbie even though I was nervous I began to trust her.

This is me with the beautiful Billy.

I’ve now been riding at the RDA for 9 years and I love it! Going horse riding has helped me in ways I thought wasn’t possible. Not only is it good to do because it helps me to improve my balance and strengthen my body but it’s helped me grow in confidence, helped me get through the week when I was getting badly bullied at both primary and secondary school. You could say it’s my rock and I am always looking forward to the next week. It has also helped my mental health massively. I often say to people it’s funny you know because I trust the horses and ponies I ride more than humans.

Riding the celebrity pony of the stables Forester at The Countryside Challenge Regionals 2011.

This is Bonnie and I at The Countryside Challenge Nationals 2012.

The very cheeky but lovely pony Eddie.

I love all the horses and ponies at South Bucks RDA, some of them have been in the Paralympics. I love to talk to the horses when I ride them as well. I have done the RDA Countryside Challenge Competitions. A couple of times I have been to the regionals and once to the nationals. Once the pony I was riding at the regionals called Eddie was so cheeky he wasn’t allowed to participate in another RDA Countryside Challenge again ! I love how all the horses and ponies have their own personalities and cheeky things they like to do.

Riding the fantastic Pieces at the 1st round of The Countryside Challenge 2018.

In our lessons we have leaders to help us they volunteer for the RDA and without all the volunteers riding these amazing animals would not be possible. Even some of our riding instructors are volunteers too. The volunteers help us during our lessons sometimes we get to ride unled so they help us to make sure we are safe they are all very helpful and I’m always learning new ways to help me ride.

Here I am riding the brilliant Yogi with help from my amazing helper.

In our lessons we practice things such as making sure our ponies and horses walk in a straight line, changing the reins, practising different sized circles, riding round obstacles, and I have done some trotting in the past! In the summer we sometimes go on hacks in the woods.

Going for a hack in the woods

Horse riding gives me so much pleasure and I have so many happy and funny memories that I will have for treasure for ever. My sister has recently become a volunteer which I’m super proud of. My dream one day is to have my own horse! If you’re thinking about trying horse riding my advice would be try it I am so glad I got on Barbie and ever since then I haven’t stopped. If you’re thinking about volunteering at RDA try it you might come back home telling funny stories round the dinner table.