I remember taking Jude to some wonderful horse riding lessons when he was about 5. He had sessions with the lovely people from Riding for the Disabled, a charity that mostly uses volunteers, offering disabled children the opportunity to learn to ride a horse without any judgement, with better equipment to suit the variety of disabilities and all the patience they require in order to succeed at their own independent level.
They hold stables around the country so if you think it would suit you or your child then check out their website.
Anyway, Jude loved his time at the stables and really looked forward to his weekly rides on Kiwi the pony. They’d work inside a large sawdusted arena for a while and then if the weather was dry, the volunteers would take the children out and around the nearby fields and woods. It was fabulous and you felt totally at ease because all the volunteers were from working stables themselves and had vast amounts of experience of working with all sorts of children.
Sadly, after about 5 lessons, Jude started to show signs of an allergy and I remember the last one was particularly bad as his eyes became puffy and he was rasping quite badly. We never went back 🙁
BUT fast forward 5 years and today Jude stepped foot in a stable yard once more!
Elsa pony rides occasionally at a family stables and I don’t normally take Jude along because a) he’s a pain in the butt and b) of his allergies. Today, I wanted to test out my issues on both accounts so we all went along to see lovely our Sue and her boys so Elsa could ride her beloved Basil.
Elsa adores Basil, talks about him regularly and I think in her own little world considers him her own pony!
Jude surprised me massively today. It was one of those situations I dream about but rarely experience. He was well behaved!!
I mean really well behaved. He played happily in the yard when the other children were brushing the pony, clearing the field and taking turns at having a ride. Jude was asked several times if he would like a go at the various tasks but always said no and even took himself off to the car to have a ten minute chill out, listening to the radio on his own before getting back out to join us again when he felt ready.
It helped that there were ride on toys he could play with. This is his familiar when out in the garden, what he loves best. He spent ages driving (ok propelling with his feet) a tractor that unusually to find, wasn’t too small for him. Jude wandered up to the ponies who they were either in their stable or reined up for a feed and groom and chatted away, laughing when they did funny things.
Here is Jude saying hello to Basil. He literally said “hello Basil, what are you doing?” Even animals don’t get away from his standard questioning!
It was only near the end of our time at the stables when I could sense Jude was getting a bit tetchy because it was his turn to have a pony ride and he kept doing his want to/don’t want to thing I mention regularly. Basically Jude will say he wants something, then when you say “ok let’s go” he says he doesn’t want to anymore but then freaks out and says he does want to (repeat over and over whilst Jude gets increasingly wound up).
Anyway, he wanted to have a go but didn’t want to, if you know what I mean, so I knew then it was time to go home. His fantastically happy mood was deteriorating into a fuddle of stress and confusion and there is never any going back from this situation.
Despite this potentially explosive end to our morning, the experiment worked. Jude was great, I didn’t even really have to keep an eye on him as he was chatting really considerately and socially to everyone, wandering around commenting on the ponies and just happily playing alongside everyone. AND no allergy. I’m so excited as he is starting horse riding lessons with school when he goes back in September and I was so afraid he’d have to be left out if he was unable to cope due to a negative reaction.
He made me proud today so well done Jude. We talked about horse riding at bed time and I asked why he hadn’t wanted to have a go and his answer was that he was afraid of falling off. It’s amazing how communicative Jude is in bed, you can get real, honest answers out of him and I actually enjoy our little nighttime chats. How sad though that he felt that anxious about failing at something. Jude has always been very all or nothing, he hates to try new things and I’ve always been convinced it’s because of his lack of confidence; this example just confirms it further in my mind.
We’ll go back to the stables again soon and perhaps I will get Jude to have a go with less people around.