A forest, a horse and a wheelchair – a perfect match

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.

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[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.

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[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.

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[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?

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“Your life is so good”/”you’re so lucky”

I’m sure a lot of people who are in need of care and live in the ‘rich countries/western world’ heard phrases like “your life is so good”. When people ask you about your issues and the things you can and can’t do, they always seem to feel this need. This need to tell you how grateful you should be, because your life is so good.

It makes me feel as if they think that I’m greedy instead of “needy”. As if I don’t think about other people who have it worse than me. About other countries where they don’t have any accessibility at all. I do, constantly. I can really sympathise with others and try to help everyone. But that doesn’t mean there still needs to be a lot of improvement done here, in our countries.

I think it’s because of a miscomprehesension a lot of people have. People who never came in touch with ‘disabilities’. I think this, because I hear this a lot and see it a lot. People think that all these things that I have are luxurious. There lies the big problem. It’s luxurious for them, but a neccessity for me. Why would it be luxurious to have a wheelchair and someone pushing you? They can just walk over the street too, right? Why is it luxurious that I need someone to clean my house and cook my food? I can’t do it myself and you would like to eat something too, right? Help isn’t luxurious. Yes, it is nice to receive it. Just because it is a necessity, doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful. But still, it is a necessity for me.
I can’t live on my own. I would die if I didn’t receive care or medication or treatment etc. Or I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all, which I already have to experience often. I don’t get all the help that I need and that actually disables my life so much more than my disabilities. But people don’t want to hear about that either. That the (health) care system isn’t good, that doctors can’t help/treat you or are mean, that people just don’t have time and just don’t understand that I really can’t do it myself. They don’t have that issue, so apparently it’s just unthinkable that others can have certain issues.

I just don’t understand this urge people have. To tell people who have it less good than they have, that they have it so well. All I can think of is this: “yeah, my life is good, can you imagine how good yours is? (Since you don’t have all these issues you encounter every day and don’t need any help)”. But they don’t think about that. I’m ‘lucky’. I never understood that either. Why is someone who got in a car crash and is paralysed, but still alive ‘lucky’? Aren’t we the lucky onces, because we didn’t get in a car crash?

I don’t understand why people need to compare. I don’t need to be told how good my life is. Or how many things there are in life that I can still do (even though in an adapted way). I know that, I live like that and think about it every day. That doesn’t mean that my problems, the things I can’t do and can’t adapt (well enough) aren’t there anymore. They ‘deserve attention’ too. I totally understand the positive outlook we all need to have. But really, claiming that the other stuff doesn’t exist or is no issue at all, isn’t positive (at least for me).

Yes, we need to focus on good things. But, we also need to pay attention to the things we can’t do. So that we can look for solutions and keep in mind that we shouldn’t go over our limits (too much). Thank you for listening and I’m sorry for my rant. I just feel like these kind of things need to be out there too. Because these are true too, these are things you encounter as well.

Life ain’t easy. A life of someone with a chronic illness and/or (mental or physical) issues that invade your life, isn’t either. And I have absolutely no need to make anyone’s life even harder or diminish someone’s issues. We all matter. And:

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[Image with the text: Remind yourself that it’s okay not to be perfect.]

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Facts about the bat

Do you like bats? Or do you immediately think about rabies and Dracula?

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[Photo of a bat with one of his wings wrapped around his body and his tiny claw touching its face. Its head is tilted to one side].

At my parent’s home, we often see them flying around the garden (in spring/summer) at twilight. Which is logical, because they hibernate (they usually start when the temperature of evenings drops to 10 degrees Celsius). They are incredibly fast and rather small, but they’ve a very recognizable flying pattern. We’re happy when we see them flying over, because they are great against mosquitos. Below a few facts about the bat, to help against the negative stigma they have.

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[Photo of four baby bats lying next to each other, wrapped in towels with only their heads sticking out]

  • They are the only mammals who can actually fly
  • They use echolocation (but you probbaly already knew this). However, their eyes are also good for looking around at twilight.
  • To stay alive they have to eat an amount of insects equal to 25-50% of their body weight.
  • On a warm evening a single bat can eat around 3000 insects (mosquitos, moths etc.).
  • Sometimes they wake up during their hibernation to catch some insects. However, this costs so much energy that they can’t do this too often, or they won’t make it till the end of the winter.
  • In Europe all bat species eat insects. In tropical countries they may also eat fruit, nectar, fish or meat.
  • Only 2% of all the bat species around the entire world eat blood, meat or fish.
  • The vampire bat is known for having blood as their only food source and lives in South America (they usually get this from sleeping cattle).
  • The bodies of bats are adapted to hanging upside-down. It doesn’t cost them any muscle power.
  • There are over 1000 different bat species.
  • Last but not least, they won’t fly into your lovely hair-do (but they can come close).

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[Photo of a bat holding a bottle containing milk with his wings and drinking of it. With his hind legs he’s holding a stuffed koala bear to his body.]
How convenient! Now he can drink and cuddle at the same time.


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Petition: Shut down the page of the “men’s right activists” who want to legalize rape

Today I came across this petition. I recently learned about these “men’s rights activists” and it makes me sick. The things he says are horrible and I couldn’t read his blog. I had to protect myself from him as a multiple rape victim/survivor. Not reading his ‘diary’ doesn’t mean that I’m turning a blind eye and I keep up-to-date with news articles. I hope everyone will sign this petition, not just women but also men. It is against the policy of Facebook and against human rights.

You can find the petition here.

“You may have heard recently about Roosh Valizadeh — the men’s rights activist who argues that rape should be legalised. Roosh recently planned several meetups for likeminded men in communities around the globe. Thankfully, the gatherings have since been cancelled due in large part to the widespread backlash from women’s rights proponents. But the work is far from done and the danger still remains.

Roosh V currently has nearly 20,000 members on his Facebook page, which he uses to spread his message of hate towards women. Using Facebook as his platform, Roosh V encourages thousands of men to objectify, hate, and even abuse women.

Facebook’s community standards are clear — “Content that attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease is not allowed.”

Well, last year Roosh V posted this to his blog: “I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.” This hate speech is a direct attack on women, and should be recognised as such by Facebook.

When the international community came together against the men’s rights gatherings, we proved that the abuse can be stopped. Now we need to make our voices heard once more to remove Roosh’s pro-rape, anti-women Facebook presence before it spreads any further.

Our voices count. Sign the petition to urge Mark Zuckerberg to shut down this hate-filled community.”