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“You & Yours”

I used to listen to this Radio 4 programme about three times a week when I worked in photographic prop shop (textiles only). For some reason (and I was in my twenties) I preferred this station to any other. I like music, but not all day long, and I can’t stand the public ranting across the airwaves with their opinions.

You and Yours was hardly the highlight of the day. I think I thought it was some kind of consumer show, which I still believe it is, but it is somehow very serious and worthy and a little bit dull. The World at One with Nick Clarke (now sadly deceased) was like an auditory trip in comparison.

Yesterday I caught a bit in the car. In the same reverential tones as always, they reported on leisure activities for the disabled and I was suddenly transported. They talked to someone from Riding for the Disabled and I was reminded strongly of the transformational qualities that horses can play in our lives. I once helped out at a Riding for the Disabled club at Lee Valley in East London and I have never forgotten sharing in the enjoyment the riders so clearly felt on horseback.

The programme talked to an instructor with 35 years experience and the reporter asked her how the profoundly disabled cope with no strength in their limbs. The instructor had an answer that blew the question out of the water. She replied that she had, last June, taken on a new 5 year old pupil who had lost her legs and arms to meningitis. This young girl was now walking, trotting and steering independently. The instructor said that the dynamics of riding are more subtle than we imagine. It does not necessarily require extravagant flapping and kicking, instead we can do so much with our seat and core muscles and that the horses (not all but many) seem to understand and respond positively to a rider with disabilities. In fact, some tricky equine customers are equally transformed by their disabled riders.

I am not saying that the playing field is level in terms of competition; dressage for instance is graded by disability of the riders from 1-5 so those with a milder disability, say 2, will only compete against other riders deemed 2. I am certain though that those riders who come to riding with a disability are as rewarded, if not more so really, than those of us whose interest and relationship with horses is more mundane.