Horse riding is an activity open to many disabled people, who not only find it enjoyable but an aid to boosting self confidence. Horse riding can take many forms from riders who want to compete in tournaments, to those wanting a more relaxing horse riding holiday in the UK or abroad
Depending on their disability some people may find it difficult to ride a horse in a sitting astride position. In these instances riding side-saddle is a practical option. Before mounting a horse it is important to answer a few questions. These can include:
- Has the person had their disability since birth or as the result of an accident?
- Has the person ever ridden a horse before becoming disabled?
- Has the person ever ridden side-saddle before and if so what was their experience?
- What type of disability does the person have?
Many horse riders who ride side-saddle find the experience confidence building and many riders who are unable to ride astride a horse are able to ride independently. It can be a good idea to use a mechanical horse,especially if the rider has never been on a horse before, in the first instance so that they can get the feel of riding on equipment that, unlike the real thing, will not make any sudden and unexpected moves.
For people who suffer with severe mobility problems there is the option of carriage driving, which has an additional benefit of allowing someone to sit with you, offering assistance if need be. Any horse rider has to bear a number of things in mind when riding to ensure their own safety as well as that of the horse. These include making sure that you always wear a riding helmet which conforms to the latest safety standards, wear proper riding boots that have a heel and instep to stop your feet slipping through the stirrup and ensure the horse you are allocated matches your riding ability.
It is also worth checking that your instructor is a fully qualified professional, as not only is it potentially dangerous to go with someone who is not fully qualified,it could detract from your enjoyment of the holiday.
Unlike many holidays, horse riding holidays are not bound by seasons so remember that to go horse riding on a warm summer day may not be the most pleasant experience for you or your horse. A cooler day may help you avoid having to endure a sweaty ride and your horse will probably thank you.
It is also a good idea to learn some basic horse body language. The tail is often an indicator of how a horse is feeling and a held out tail can be a signal that the horse is alert and about to take flight. A tail held under could signify that horse is frightened and about to kick out
Founded in 1969 the Riding for the Disabled Association is a federation of member groups which are dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through the provision of opportunities for riding and carriage driving. Their website is at riding for the disabled.