I swapped my wheelchair for a horse!
Like many children when I was a kid I wanted to try a lot of different sports and at one point I wanted to go horse-riding. It is a very expensive hobby and I was already doing modern-jazz dancing. So I decided to put horse-riding aside and focus on dancing. I kept thinking about it from time to time but the handicap progressed and became more and more present. Because of this, I finally drop this horse-riding idea. I though I was not able to do it. As it was already difficult for me just to stay balance while standing I could not figure how I would have been able to stay balance while riding a horse.
In last July I met Anne during our first helpX in New Zealand. She is passionate about horse-riding and asked me if I would like to go for a ride. At first I was quite surprised but then she told me she didn’t think my handicap would be an issue. In addition she knows people working in a riding school who are used to teach disabled people. I could not miss on the opportunity! After all I was about to do horse-riding! We called Lorraine, a woman working at Whakatane riding school, and she offered us to come the following day for a free ride. I just couldn’t wait!
So the next day we went to Whakatane. Anne lend me her riding gears and introduced me to Lorraine. She is a really kind person. She was gentle to me and took the necessary time to explain me everything I needed to know. The most important was for me to let my body follows the horse movements.
Next, Anne and Lorraine helped me to climb on the horse. First I get on a sort of stage to be at the same height as the horse in order to get on it more easily. There is a slope going to the upper plateform so it was easy to access it. Once I was there Anne and Lorraine helped me to move my legs to put them in a correct position on each side of the horse.
At the beginning I was impressed and a bit stressed. This is quite an imposing and powerful animal! Also I was afraid not to be able to keep my balance and fall. Consequently my body was a bit rigid, but as we went along I took confidence, my muscles relaxed and the ride became really enjoyable. Lorraine trained me, made me practice some beginner exercises.
I ride for about 45 minutes total but I did not notice the time. I felt glad and touched. It made me feel good to have more self-confidence again. Once again I realised we often are our own limit. I thought I was unable to ride a horse but at the end I had a really good time and a had a free physiotherapy session stretching my adductor muscles!
In New Zealand some organisations try to make disabled people life easier. Regarding horse-riding the best thing to do is to get in touch with “New Zealand Riding for the disabled“.Their goal is to allow every person with an physical or mental handicap to enjoy horse-riding in a safe way and even to take therapeutic benefits from it. Indeed horse-riding can help to stimulate nerves, stretch muscles, increase balance and movements coordination, improve social skills and even solve some concentration and self-confidence issues. There are so many reasons to try it!