Voting with his Feet

Joshua does not have many means of objecting in his life and he used several of his best strategies last night at Riding for the Disabled. We have not been for months, with hospital and then Mum dying and then more latterly, Joshua has been unwell or too tired to go. So I hoped that after a lie in and a lazy day with Yorkshire Grandma, that he would be able to make it last night. It was the hottest day of the year here yesterday, touching 28 degrees, which is unheard of in these parts. So he was unimpressed changing into his jogging bottoms from his shorts in the first place. Then I came home from work and bustled him out of the door almost immediately.

He enjoyed the 20 minute drive there, with the windows down and loud music blasting out, so he was happy in the car. So he was unimpressed when we drew up at the stables, so he began to kick the car, reluctant to get out. So we sat waiting our turn, until his kicking became too vigorous.But he has become more impatient than he once was and the class before his was still riding, so he tried to kick me instead, then he went back to sit in the car. He was pretty hot and bothered.

When it came to his turn to mount his horse, he was again reluctant to get out of the car but was bundled onto the waiting horse. We explained that in the time since he had ridden last, he had become more likely to kick out and that he would not like standing still. As the riders began to move around the yard, every time Joshua passed the mounting block, he tried to stand up in his stirrups, he was clearly trying to get off. But on the rest of the ride, he was smiling and waving and looked as though he was having fun. Joshua sits really straight in horseback, much straighter than in a chair, so it is really good for his posture I am sure.

Riding has now finished for the summer and will re-start up again in September, so we need to decide whether or not to continue after so many years riding : he made it pretty clear last night that he did not want to ride, even though he seemed to enjoy it once he was on horseback. There is a waiting list of children who would perhaps get more out of their half hour of riding than Joshua seems to be doing, but it is the only extra curricular activity that he does outside of school and I feel as though it is good for him.

We have some thinking time, but he definitely voted with his feet last night.

Voting with his Feet

I was excited yesterday because Joshua’s Riding for the Disabled sessions began last night, truly confirming that summer had arrived. It ends every October as it is an outdoor area where they ride and so the dark nights and cold weather prevent it from running through the Winter months. He really enjoyed the last sessions last year, laughing, waving and showing off, so I was optimistic for RDA’s return. My only reservation was that he was not kicking last Autumn, and so I was not sure how that might work when riding a horse.

I had asked Yorkshire Grandma to make sure that he was fed and wrapped up warm ready to leave the house at 6 pm. I was home from work at 5.40, so had time for a quick cup of tea then get on our way as the stables are 20 minutes away. Unfortunately when I got home, Joshua was fast asleep on the settee and even the dog commotion of my arrival home had not disturbed him, so we knew he was in deep sleep. Ordinarily I never wake him . if I can avoid it, as it can lead to seizures. But it was too short notice to cancel and I left him as near 6 pm as I dared, before I roused him and put his boots on. He gave me a smile on waking but he was pretty cross when immediately I began to put his splints and boots on. He still tried to sleep on the car journey to the stables, but could not get comfortable.  I think I would have been pretty cross too if my sleep had been disturbed and I had been bundled into a car when all I wanted to do was sleep.

We stayed in the car once we arrived ,while the class before us finished off as it had turned wintry cold. But Joshua began to get restless and started to kick at the car to get out. Once outside he was stir crazy and wanted to get onto his horse, Digby. so he was leading me a dance while the previous class dismounted and then two smaller children got onto their horses first. At one point he was twisting and pulling against me that, I am not really sure how, but  I lost my balance and we both fell flat onto our backs on the ground. I landed on my elbows which are now sore and grazed, but Joshua lay on his back waiting for me to pull him up again, with a surprised look on his face. I jumped up, dusted myself down, then helped to heave him up too, when thankfully his Dad arrived and then it was time to get onto Digby.

Joshua was keen enough to walk up the ramp and to get into the saddle, but as with cars and supermarket trolleys, he now cannot bear to be still – which was not a problem last Autumn. So he was impatient while they were adjusting his stirrup length but luckily they set off and he looked happier to be moving. He went round the yard a couple of times and gave us a big wave when he passed us, although he was not smiling, he looked rather agitated. When he passed the mounting block, he made an effort to get off the horse and as his session wore on, he became more determined. In the end we intervened before the end of his lesson, and asked to get him off before he hurt himself or one of his patient assistants. He was frozen when he got off the horse and he gladly headed for the warm car.

I was disappointed as I had been looking forward to the only after-school, physical activity that he does, but I should have, with hindsight, left him asleep. He really did everything within his power to tell me that he did not want to go riding last night, but as it was the first one, I ignored his communication and ploughed on, then regretted it later. I plan to take him one more time at the end of the month, and then will see if it was simply because he was tired and cold that he objected. If he still makes a fuss then we will pull out, as they have a long waiting list of potential riders and so we should allow someone else have our place if it does not make him happy any more. He has been riding for several years now, maybe 7 or 8, so it would be the end of an era, but perhaps this is not an activity that adult Joshua wishes to partake in and he certainly voted very effectively with his feet last night and I have bruises to prove it.

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.