I wonder what you thought of when you read my title. What could be the link between this forest, the horse and the wheelchair? ‘Forest’ and ‘horse’ could mean horseriding in the forest, but you can’t put a wheelchair on top of a horse, can you?
I’m very eager to tell you about my hobby and I hope many more people will be able to do this. I hope everyone will understand what I’m saying, since I don’t know the correct terms in English and not many people know about this sport (and it’s language) either. If you have any questions, please ask. I’d be happy to answer them 🙂
When I was younger I did horseriding. But my body became more disabled and ill over time and eventually I had to quit. I tried changing things before, so I could still do it. After a year I started again. I just couldn’t miss it, the connection with the horses and nature that is (I’m not particularly fond of the snobby people that often happen to own a horse). But I had to quit again. It was too bad for my body. I couldn’t walk for at least a week after I rode a horse for like 30 minutes and didn’t do any hard things (even though canter was my favourite gait, I couldn’t do that anymore amongst many other things). I knew I tried everything. There sometimes were ‘special lessons’ for disabled people, but they didn’t fit for me. It was still too much for my back, my pelvis, my hands etc. And at the same time I couldn’t learn anymore, because it was mainly for people with an intellectual disability and always absolute beginner’s level. You have to imagine that I would have to walk the distance, from the entrance of the riding hall to my horse, with crutches and had to get up while holding them, it really was a sight so see.
[Image of a person on a horse, while standing on the beach in the sunset.]
Photo of someone horse riding.
I came in contact with a wonderful foundation, who taught me a new sport with horses: Driving horses. I already wanted to learn this, but I was too ‘disabled’ to do it the ‘normal way’ and I couldn’t afford it. Thanks to their expertise and supplies, I could still learn it and I even have my “horse driver’s license”. The exam had to be adapted for me (to keep the level standards the same, they actually made mine more difficult. Shows again how ignorant people can be about disabilities and adaptations). The exam organisation didn’t want to let disabled people be ‘real horse drivers’ actually. But eventually we could persuade them. I’m very grateful for one person in particular, since he actually made it all happen (including persuading the exam organisation to give me a fair chance). He arranges volunteers who want to drive the horses of the foundation with me. I always need 2 people with me who also have their license. They need to make the horse ready and put my wheelchair on the carriage. We have a special carriage for that. I also have special reigns, so I won’t have to hold them with my hands.
[Image of three people with helmets in a four-wheel-carriage with four black horses in front of it. The horses are galloping through water.]
Someone horse driving with four horses (he’s doing a marathon actually). I’ve only driven with up to two horses so far.
It makes me very happy that I can still visit the forest like this. Since I can’t just walk through a forest and with a normal wheelchair it’s too hard for the person who has to push. And I can still be in touch with horses. It really helps me relax. Another nice touch is that I apparently also help the horses relax. How wonderful that I can help them, while they’re helping me 🙂 I used to train horses so the could be used for lessons and especially had a thing for zappy ones or horses with a bad past, so I’m glad I can still do that a bit. I don’t have the strength another person has, but can still work with them as a team. It’s wonderful and some instructors even pointed me out as an example for others. Which I preferred he wouldn’t have done, because I was really embarrassed! People often hold the reigns too tight, afraid to lose control. I work from an entire different angle. I want to give the horse the least ‘signals/commands’ as possible. The lightest ones, which usually involves a sweet voice. If necessary you can always give more. I adapt my style to the horse’s needs and personality. But I think this is all normal and standard and nothing special actually.
[Image of two people in a two-wheel-carriage with a black-and-white horse in front of it. The horse is walking on the street.]
Another photo of people driving a horse.
I’m sorry for all my jibber-jabber, I just really love working with animals. Thanks to 10 layers of clothing and the person I mentioned before, I can even drive in the winter (if it isn’t too dangerous). It’s lovely to see the forest during all seasons. Sometimes I might even see wild animals (deer, pigs, birds of prey, rabbits).
I really hope more people will create possibilities like this. I’ve looked everywhere but driving horses for disabled people is very rare, which is very sad. You might find some rides, but then the disabled person is only sitting in the carriage and not actually the driver. This sport gives more possibilities, because people who can’t ride them, might be able to still drive them!
Do you have an ‘uncommon’ hobby or sport that you enjoy?