I first went horse riding when I was a young man when I attended Valance School in Westerham, Kent. After my wife passed away last year, my GP put me in touch with the Bexley Learning Disability Team to help support me.
I have been going to the Sunshine Club in Eltham for many years but it is closing down next year so I wanted to meet new people and join other activities.
I spoke to my Learning Disability Team and they sent Kelley to come see me to talk about what I want to do.
Kelley Popovich (Occupational Therapy Technical Instructor –Bexley Learning Disability Team)
I visited Roy at home to see what kinds of activities and hobbies he was interested in and to get to know him better. After discussing different options for activities in our first few appointments, Roy said that he was interested in going on holidays and cruises, swimming, rowing, archery and horse riding. I could see how excited Roy was when he was talking about trying horse riding again. I assessed the risks with Roy about how he would manage to get on/ off the horse as he was still wearing an arm splint because of a fracture earlier in the year and also took into consideration his other physical disabilities. I then researched on the internet Riding for the Disabled to determine if they had the right facilities and then called a few places before I found a local Equestrian Centre which was close to Roy’s home.
The night before I went horse riding, I did not sleep well because I was very excited about the next day. Kelley met me at home and we went to the Equestrian Centre together in a cab for my first lesson. She helped me complete the horse riding forms then the Equestrian Centre staff helped to find a helmet to fit me.
I was next introduced to my horse “Blue” and then equine staff members held onto my bad leg and helped me get on the horse. We then went for a 30 minute ride on the farm and then on the busy dual carriageway Maidstone Road. We went under a road sign and I was told to “duck” so I wouldn’t hit my head. We then went back on the farm and I rode the horse down a steep hill. The equine staff members told me to “lean back” on the horse. I wasn’t scared though because I rode horses down hills when I was at school.
After I got off the horse, I felt happy and proud of myself because I haven’t ridden a horse in 44 years. The Equestrian Centre staff asked me if I would like to have another lesson and I said “Yes” then I arranged to come by myself for the next Monday afternoon.
I have now been going horse riding for 5 weeks. I have been enjoying my lessons and also have been taking carrots along to feed the horses. Last week I even got to brush down the horses which I thought was fun. I had pain in my hip this week due to my Cerebral Palsy and I found it difficult to walk. I had to postpone my lesson until later in the week but I still enjoyed myself despite being in pain. Overall, I feel happier in myself and about life and also have enjoyed going out more. I plan to go horse riding more in the future and would recommend horse riding to everyone!!
Occupational Therapy Technical Instructor
Bexley Learning Disability Team
Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust