Tonight was the second evening (out of six total in Session 2 of the summer classes at the therapeutic riding center) that I was assigned to work with Ceeray the ex-racehorse and his adult rider. We were blessed with nice weather—only in the low 80s, which is very cool for Kentucky in July—and everyone seemed relaxed!
As usual, the horses were already groomed and ready to be tacked up, but this time I was assigned by the instructor to be the near-side sidewalker, which means I stay with the rider while the leader and other sidewalker saddle up the horse. I am also responsible for accompanying the rider to the mounting block. Mounting is always a little tricky, but my horse and rider (as well as the instructor, leader and other sidewalker) worked hard to make it go off without a hitch. Tonight in class we did quite a bit of practice with turning. While it may sound simple—you just turn the horse, right? Wrong… It’s actually very complicated to turn correctly.
In a nutshell, the goal is to turn without looking like you’re trying to turn. This is accomplished by using your seat, legs and hands, if that makes any sense? As any rider who has worked in a ring or shown competitively knows, it’s a task that is often difficult for new riders, not to mention for those who have physical limitations like the individuals we help at the center. I was once again impressed by how well the riders did and by their tenacity and desire to do it without our help as much as they possibly could.
While the riders are always sincerely grateful that we are there to help, most of them seem to love rising to the challenge of doing things on their own as much as possible. In fact, I get the distinct feeling that some of them would like nothing more than to be turned loose to gallop solo across one of the rolling hills that surrounds the farm! And who could blame them? It’s one of the most wonderful feelings in the world to be up on a horse you know well, gliding across a dewy meadow on a secret trail the two of you just discovered. As I helped my rider dismount tonight, I was saddened by the thought that she (as someone who really strives for independence) might never get to have that experience, due to her physical limitations.
It’s something we don’t talk about in class much, but it really hit me tonight that the reality for these riders is that they are at the center because they can’t do many of the things we take for granted. As I drove home, I often feel lucky to have all that I do, but most of all I was suddenly overwhelmingly grateful to have my health.