What happened to me this week was just pure amazing! Not only was it a kind and thoughtful thing to suggest but it just demonstrated the level of confidence and trust my Hacking RI and our Riding School owner have in me as a rider. They will probably never truly understand how much that one suggestion will ever mean to me.
It is, of course, the time of year we reflect and I took time to write this blog as I feel I need to reflect so much on my progress as a rider. This time last year, I was preparing to give up and quit and never dreamed in a million years that what happened yesterday could even be a reality for me.
On Thursday, I am meant to have my lesson. My poor riding school instructor has had one thing after another happen recently and so I was totally understanding when she had to cancel. I just text and asked if I could ride Saturday as it was of course the weekend before Christmas. She text me back later that day saying, I could go up Saturday or Sunday but if I wanted to do a two hour hack with my hacking RI, I could do that on Saturday afternoon.
Unless you have a disability, I think it’s hard to appreciate ow many times you get told you cannot do something because of your disability. As someone without any sight, I’ve been told it so much in my lifetime that when good things are given to me in opportunities, I can barely believe they are true. I honestly thought she had text the wrong person. No way in this world, was she going to trust me, a totally blind rider out on a hack, with nobody there but someone else on a horse. I’d be responsible for the horse I was on and my own safety with the guidance of my hacking RI. As it all turned out, when I asked if it was Ok with my hacking RI, I learnt it was her idea.
I guess in so many ways, this makes sense. She’s worked with me the longest and has always taken on our journey with zest and positive directions. She understands that I need guidance but knows my capabilities. I honestly wanted to cry when I knew for sure yesterday morning that I’d be out on a two hour hack, off the familiar ground we are so used to with someone I like and trust, just enjoying the horses and the landscape.
I live in a rather quiet town surrounded by farms and countryside. We’re lucky and I really got to appreciate the beauty of where I live from on top of a horse yesterday. Something I never thought could ever happen.
I arrived to learn I’d be riding Bella. This made so much sense to me. Sure, it was unlikely I’d get a canter and I was somewhat pessimistic of riding her after our last 30 minute ride out with my hacking RI where I just wanted to quit. But Bella and I have come a long way since then and although under no illusions about getting amazing canters, I thought it’d be an amazing experience and one that not even Miss Diva would hinder.
It was drizzly and we had lots of surface water running down the farm. I had Bella going quite nicely and even rode alongside my instructor up the familiar farm lane we use on 30 minute hacks. Bella was fun. She looked like she had some energy and did trot lovely. Canters were just not happening but that wasn’t phasing me. The fact she was trotting lovely and had energy was a bonus. I’m still learning Miss Diva’s many buttons and the canter one will come in time.
There were places she was stubborn but again, with some work I got her going and kept her going.
She did spook as well. Something I know Bella can do with dogs and this dog ran out of no where. I lost both stirrups but kept in my saddle and in control and calmed the pretty bay.
We had to go through a field with a lose horse so my RI said to keep Bella steady, like that would really ever be an issue with her, and keep her going. I did. And we got through unscathed.
We had to cross a main road twice and had to trot it on the way and that was not fun as she was being a little stubborn at that point but got across fine.
My hacking RI’s directions were great and there were no points we panicked. It was fun and she seemed to enjoy the ride as much as I was doing. She said she’d been hankering for a long ride for a while and I was honoured she suggested I ride out with her.
I thought I handled directing Bella rather well yesterday. Even navigating, with the good vocal directions of my RI to weave between parked cars and even having to enter a gateway so a car could come past. Bella kept so calm for this ride. She was a true diamond.
Coming back across the main road, I kept her forward and she followed the horse in front closely and very beautifully. I was told to keep her as close as I could as the cars had no consideration for horse riders. One driver got so close to my hacking RI, we were laughing and contemplating ways we could demonstrate to drivers to be careful when driving near me. I do my best but if you get a driver who is just ignoring the high way code, it could be more dangerous for us both. I know some would believe I just shouldn’t be riding on roads at all, and I can understand their concerns in a way, but most hacks require crossing some roads at some point somewhere and just a little consideration could go a long way. I suggested a vest with bright writing saying, caution, blind rider on board but then we decided that no one would ever believe if they had that little consideration for horse riders that they drove so close to believe a blind person would really be riding a horse without having someone sighted leading them.
Once across that road, we road up a long lane with a brook running to our left. It was so pretty sounding to me. Horses hooves clopping along and water running down the side of us.
There were little brooks we past that were gushing with water. Even a lane that seemed to be a shallow stream where we had to really lean back not only to help the horses down but because there were trees sticking out. Bella carried me beautifully and I always felt safe.
Once going back, we could canter up the back hill. But first we had to get across a boggy field. Bella was not for it and after being in the saddle for more than an hour and a half, my legs were just not up to the challenge of squeezing her so much. She did a full body shake and I lost my reins and my calves cramped. So I’m trying to move a stubborn mare while cramping and trying to get my rein contact back. I tapped her with her reins, she threw a strop and with that energy I gave a squeeze and moved her on. If I learnt anything yesterday besides how rude drivers are, I truly learnt that perseverance works with Miss Bella and you cannot let her win. I didn’t. We got there and I kept her forward and she was really listening to me again.
The back hill, which I’ve cantered up on Shadow was there and I just hoped she’d trot. I squeezed and got a few strides of canter. That was a big whoohoo moment but I knew I hadn’t got the strength by then to try again so kept her in trot, with myself up off her back to make it an easier climb. She gave up half way and apparently this is what Bella does and we just walked to the top. I was pleased with that.
I walked her on a long rein for a few and then we headed back to the yard in the falling dark and mist. It was a brilliant day and one I hope to repeat in the new year.
The reason I wasn’t put on Shadow, was simply, it was my first time and they wanted me to get a feel of a long ride, off familiar ground on a horse that would slow rather than speed up. But I’ll be honest, I really want to ride Shadow on that ride. On better ground and I know that horse would fly for me. They obviously are doing what is best but my hacking RI said she’d be happy to let me ride Shadow next time perhaps. Hope our RSO would agree. They thought his speed and excitement might scare me a bit on the longer ride but I’m not sure he would scare me. I would love to ride that gorgeous horse on that hack one day. Bella was a great starting point and I think in her own little way, she was taking care of me too. I just need to prove to Miss Bella that I’m capable. The humans believe I am, now time to tell my real teacher I am ready and willing.
I’m so lucky to have found these people who are so willing and trusting to allow me to grow into the rider I want to be. Here’s to 2013 and more long hacks, more schooling and major progress with all the horses I know and definitely love.
Getting off at the yard was a true painful experience. Earlier on in the ride, we’d had to shorten my left stirrup as it was too long. Wow, that killed when I got off. And generally walking was an issue. I was struggling even this morning and yet, I still rode my lovely Shadow today.
It really was an early Christmas present and I’m so grateful! Bring on the new year!