I volunteer at a wonderful therapeutic riding center in upstate New York twice a week. Therapeutic riding offers kids and adults who have cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities the opportunity to strengthen their muscles, follow instructions, and bond with a beautiful animal. Sadly, most of these programs are not covered by insurance, but that’s another discussion entirely. (for when Barclay and I decide to become political and alienate some of our beloved readers!)
This week I was tasked with spotting a child who is severely disabled with the aid of another volunteer on a trail ride. Since daylight savings is around the corner and darkness will be descending upon us way too early, this was to be the last trail ride for the season. (the class takes place late in the day)
The child sits in a chair much like a throne on top of the horse strapped in so she doesn’t fall, but able to use her hands for steering and holding the reins, as well as her leg muscles as much as she possibly can. I had seen this rider enjoy her time in the arena looking happy and proud of her accomplishments. (how wonderful is that for anyone, but particularly a child with a serious handicap)
To set the stage and allow you our reader to visualize what happened next, picture this. There are about 6 kids of varying abilities on horses being spotted by volunteers in case their quick response time is needed or the horse needs a little reminding of what he or she is supposed to be doing. The child at the back of the line is a confident rider and decides to move up rather than being at the back of the line. That particular day there aren’t enough volunteers so she is on her own, but she is a more experienced rider. Horse A (I am using fictitious names to protect the innocent!) gets a wee bit too close to Horse B and is in his space. Horse B (I’m the spotter for Horse B) bucks and the child falls to the ground while I am kneed by the hind quarter of a 300 lb animal who is pissed off! I attempt to block the child’s fall to the ground, but due to my lack of upper body strength I can’t hold her back. It happens so fast and in the blink of an eye a pleasant trail ride turns into an accident. Thank God I am the only one injured (a black and blue and an egg sized lump on my upper thigh which looks like cellulite) The rider is a bit shaken, but not a tear in sight. I marvel at this trooper, who after a few minutes of catching her breath is ready to be positioned back in her chair and continue riding. What was an uneventful afternoon trail ride has taught me to expect anything that comes your way, keep those reflexes sharp, and don’t invade a horse’s personal space.
. Always be on your guard. Expect the unexpected. Never underestimate what volunteering your time means to someone else.
I was beginning to think my time at the riding center was routine and that no one cared if I showed up or not. Yesterday, made me see how one person can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Enjoy the ride
xox Barclay and Joy