Horsing around

Last night Joshua returned to Riding for the Disabled, the first session since October as they stop classes over the winter. It is always a rush on a Monday riding night as he gets home from school around 4pm and has to chill out with The Show, eat his tea and get changed into his scruffs for riding. Joshua is often grumpy about heading out again after he has got in from school, as he wants to chill in his armchair. So that is exactly why it is a good thing to go horse-riding once a fortnight.

The stables are half an hour’s drive away, just long enough for Joshua to grab 40 more winks. So he was rather wobbly on his legs when we arrived and a bit bleary-eyed. But as ever, he received a friendly welcome, with the usual comments about how much he has grown since they saw him last and how long his legs are! Joshua objects to the riding hat – the same as he resists his epilepsy helmet – but in the same way, he accepts it once it is secured on his head. It takes four people to help Joshua onto his tall horse, Digby, as he has to be placed in the right place and suddenly he looks very leggy again.

Joshua sits surprisingly straight once he is on the horse – given that his posture ordinarily is not great or straight – But he sits up tall in the saddle. He refuses to hold the reins , but he will hold the hand of the lady walking alongside him and he occasionally holds onto the saddle too. Joshua looks very relaxed in the saddle, he is not phased at all but neither does he beam with pleasure. As he walks round , with two other riders and a lot of RDA staff, he looks rather serious but relaxed. I stood by the fence waving and taking photographs each time he came around, and he gave me very , aloof, disparaging looks as though I was being an embarrassing mum and he were a typical sulky teenager.

They have a 30 minute session and then they dismount, making room for the next rider. Often Joshua shows his excitement for the ride once he has got off, but not yeterday, he steadily walked down the slope, supported by Dad, and headed for the car where he immediately fell asleep, he was exhausted. Because Joshua does not always show that he loves riding, I have wondered in the past about whether or not we should put us and him through it every two weeks on a Monday night – it would be easier, after all, to let him stay at home in his armchair and watch the Show like most other nights after a hard day at school.

But we continue to go for several reasons : Joshua does not have many after-school activities that are so well resourced for his disability, and they are totally geared up for him. The volunteers who run RDA are all really friendly and we have a giggle while we are there. It is a form of physical exercise and again, Joshua these days does not get much of that outside of school. It is  a great skill to have, if only he could master holding reins over time – there are several adults who have been going to RDA all of their lives. Joshua loves animals and enjoys being outside, so there is a clear fit there with his interests. Occasionally Joshua has shown real pleasure for riding, not just that he tolerates it, and for those moments alone, it is worthwhile.

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