After my accident back in 1995, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ride again. I had broken my back and was paralysed from the chest downwards.
Before the accident I lived and breathed racing and thoroughbreds. Nothing gave me a greater thrill than schooling young point to pointers or ‘chasers over fences.
When I came out of hospital three months after the accident I felt that I no longer knew my body. My head, arms and shoulders we’re fit and strong but below my chest I could only feel a strange and unsettling burning.
Secretly, I desperately needed to know how it would feel to sit on a horse. Without telling anyone, I asked a local racehorse trainer if I could have a sit on his daughter’s 12hh pony and walk around the gallops. The first thing I realised was that, without the use of my core stomach muscles to keep me vertical, I would have to lean forward and hold onto the neck. The second thing was that a saddle and stirrups were pointless and the third thing was that this idea had not been very well thought through.
I died a silent death as the reality dawned on me. I could barely even sit on a horse’s back, let alone ride in any meaningful way. I sold my own two horses and over the next few years gradually came to terms with a different way of life and took up new interests. As the years went by, my body felt less alien but it also became very stiff and almost wheelchair shaped.
It occurred to me that riding would be the ideal therapy to help with my physical problems and I even made a few enquiries. I was chatting with Lynne Munro, an experienced physiotherapist, she immediately identified my dilemma and suggested I contact Jane Barker and just have a go.
I turned up at Jane’s with low expectations and a familiar sense that I would be disappointed, that even after 18 years I would still be yearning to be riding a spirited racehorse as opposed to passively sitting on a pony. However, I instantly identified in Jane and her helper Holly, two practical people who totally ‘got’ what I was looking for, not least, as little fuss as possible. Then I saw Stubbs, who made me smile, just 14.2hh, with his flaxen mane and tail and pretty, blonde eyelashes, framing huge, brown, kind eyes. I gave him a pat and breathed in his gorgeous grassy pony smell.
He was placed in a hollow where I could place my wheelchair alongside him and, with some help, transfer from my chair onto Stubbs. Job done.
Oh my Goodness I hadn’t expected this. I felt enormously tall and on top of the world. I looked around and it seemed like everything was below me. I was so upright, with my legs dangling next to Stubbs’ sides.
The rhythm of Stubbs’ swinging gait, the sensation of his legs walking beneath me filled me with indescribable joy. I remembered how, when I first started going around in my wheelchair, I missed that rhythm of walking. Holding onto the handles in front of me enabled me to balance and stay upright with nothing else to support me and I felt free and just very happy indeed.
I love dear Stubbs for being so noble, generous and trustworthy. I am sincerely grateful to everyone at Perry, for without them I would not get my weekly “Happy Fix”.