How long have you been riding with CRDA?
I have been riding for 11 years
What do you enjoy most about riding?
Riding gives me an incredible sense of freedom. It’s one of the few times when I am able to get out of my wheelchair. I don’t feel inhibited or confined. It’s one of few times where my wheelchair isn’t the focus and that feels great!
What disability do you have? And how does this affect your life?
I have cerebral palsy, Which affects my physical mobility, both legs and my left arm are affected this mean that I have to use a wheelchair all the time as I am unable to walk. I have support from a PA every day to enable me to live independently. I also have an assistance dog, he assists me with many everyday tasks, including opening/closing doors, picking things up off the floor and undressing me. Part of my disability means that I get a lot of stiffness and muscle spasms. Horse riding massively reduces my pain levels and enables me to keep mobile and so allows me to remain as independent as possible.
You work for EDF, how long have you worked there and what do you do?
I started work at EDF in September 2014 through an internship program called steps into work set up by the National Star College. I finished my internship in July and was lucky enough to be offered a job as a paid member of staff which I started in August. I work as a PMO and portfolio assistant, supporting managers with their projects and completing various admin tasks.
How has riding at Cotswold RDA helped you? Have the benefits been physical (fitness, strength, increase in ability to do things)? Psychological (increase in confidence, better ability to make friends, build relationships) or a bit of everything?
Horseriding has helped me in so many ways in all aspects of my life, as I explained earlier it does help me to remain mobile and independent but it also helps to keep me fit and build muscle strength in my arms and my core which has helped greatly with my posture. I also find that horseriding has helped psychologically too, this has increased my self belief and confidence keeping me motivated to try harder and achieve more. When I first started riding back in 2004 I would have never believed that I could achieve all that I have so far. Being able to ride a horse completely independently is a huge achievement for me and something I never thought I’d be able to do and I am determined to learn more.
Did it help you to get your job or to do your job better in any way?
I would say yes as riding has given me a real sense of self-worth and confidence, when signing up for my internship I made sure that I was able to fit my work hours around my riding lessons as I see my riding as equally important in my life. I need to stay fit, healthy (psychologically as well as physically) and mobile to enable me to succeed in my job role. I’m also very proud to tell people that I ride with the RDA, many people wouldn’t expect somebody in a wheelchair to be able to ride a horse.
Has it helped you in other areas of your life?
As explained above, yes absolutely. Riding is hugely important, it has given me confidence and helps me maintain my mobility and independence which in turn enables me to live the life I want.
Does the fact that you can only ride in the term time have any impact on you?
Yes, riding consistently is really crucial for somebody with my type of disability because with the regular exercise and movement my body becomes very stiff and my pain levels are increased greatly and every day tasks become a lot more difficult and take a lot longer because I’m so stiff and in pain. It also means that when I do begin riding again I have to spend a good month or so getting my legs and arms used to riding a horse again which is very painful and frustrating as I feel like I go backwards for a time until my body gets used to riding again. Psychologically it affects me too I definitely feel less motivated not as positive. I feel it’s really important to keep busy I hate being bored and loss of routine is difficult too. I also really enjoy the contact with the ponies and unfortunately its just not possible for me to to ride at a mainstream riding school and as there is no way to get me on or off the horse.
What made you want to jump out of a plane to support Cotswold RDA?
I wanted to do a skydive for RDA as I feel they have helped me massively over the years, I thought this would be a great way to repay them. What they do is amazing, especially when you consider that the majority of people helping there are volunteers, without such kindness RDA wouldn’t be possible for any of us, I wanted to show I appreciate what all members of RDA do. The skydive itself was amazing! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I would definitely do it again if I had the chance. I really enjoyed the challenge.
Would you recommend riding to other disabled people? And why?
I would definitely recommend RDA to people like myself, there’s something in it for everyone no matter what your disability or riding abilities. That’s another great thing about RDA they are able to cater for such a wide rage of disabilities and adapt accordingly to ensure everyone has a positive experience.Becky Andrews