My ‘Blue Monday’ did not go quite to plan : firstly, we were on our way home when I received a call to tell me that the new potential respite provision were no longer coming to assess Joshua. Due to Covid-19, they had a staffing crisis and could not spare two senior staff to come to our house. So the meeting was postponed for over a week, much to our frustration. We had just two hours notice of the cancelled meeting, as she had not got my correct mobile phone number to let me know sooner. But it meant that Joshua was able to stop at Donalds for lunch, as we were no longer rushing to get home, so he was more than happy with that outcome.
We were home for just under two hours when I needed to get Joshua’s boots back on as we were heading out to RDA – Riding for the Disabled. As it was dry and mild, yet windy, I drove us in our two seater sports car, to make another journey in the car fun, so I took the roof down. Joshua laughed out loud to drive the 45 minutes through the country lanes to RDA. He was really excited to arrive at the stables and to see all the ladies who assist again after 5 months, he was grinning and giving everyone a thumbs up. He had to wear a riding hat, which he barely tolerates, but he knows that he cannot ride without one. There was then a period of hanging around, while the other two riders mounted their horses. Just three ride at the same time, our half hour slot was 5.30, and Joshua’s horse, Whitney, was the last to be brought to the mounting block. She was not sure about allowing Joshua on her back ,so took while to settle. I then left about 5 ladies to get Joshua into the saddle, as I would have been in the way and there were already plenty of them on top of the mounting block.
Joshua has never, in all of the years of horse-riding, held onto the reins, he occasionally grabs the front of the saddle, but mostly does not hold on at all. There has been an issue in the past with Joshua’s large NHS boots, which do not fit easily into a stirrup, and as they gazed at his large footwear, the ladies in charge agreed that he should leave his feet loose, rather than having them partly inside stirrups. Previously in the summer, he had worn Converse pumps or his Dad’s trainers, but he can then not safely walk to the horse from the car park, so I have resisted that solution this year. They have one lady leading the horse and one either side of him, supporting his legs. But as Whitney walked to the yard from the stables, Joshua did not look sturdy or safe. I queried it with one of the ladies in charge, who said that once he got comfortable back in the saddle, he would straighten up.
But I am not sure that he ever felt truly safe, as he had a very serious expression as he rode around the arena and I tried to photograph him. After about 20 minutes, they stopped in front of the gate to adjust something on the horse and Joshua thought that he was getting off, I saw that from his gestures. He was therefore very cross when they set off walking around the perimeter again. He shouted ‘No..stop!’ angrily but none of the three ladies walking with him, listened to what he was saying. I was concerned and so when the lady in charge asked how his ride had been as she approached, I told her that Joshua had had enough and now wanted to dismount. She heeded what I was saying and called over a colleague and he was lowered to the ground, sliding down the side of the horse. Joshua seemed pretty relieved to get his feet back on firm ground, as we walked back to the car. As I buckled him in, I held his hands and they were very cold , which might have been part of the problem too, as it was very windy at these stables.
I will return in a fortnight to give him another chance, as he had loved it previously, but if we get the same reaction then , I will give them notice and let someone else have Joshua’s place, as I know they have a waiting list for places. RDA is all run by volunteers and the horses are super-calm and patient, which is important as they have to be able to cope with unpredictable behaviour. But Joshua clearly communicated that he was unhappy and that he wanted to get off the horse, yet he was ignored until I intervened. All of the volunteers need to be more alert and perceptive as to what the young people are saying to them. Joshua did not used to communicate in a meaningful way, but now that he is doing more of that, he needs an audience that will listen to him and take the appropriate action.