This weekend was the first dressage show of the season. I almost didn't go for a million reasons- I wasn't ready, 2nd level was too hard, finances are tight, etc.,. My husband, kindly, told me I was being a ninny and to go and have fun. So I packed up and went :). And that's all I say about me. Because the rest of this post is about Nell.
Nell is a 12 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy. Her parents enrolled her in Therapeutic riding. I cannot say for sure about their motivation but I assume that they wanted her to have fun like any other 12 year old. They found a place and enrolled her. Where I come into the story is that I am on the Board of the association that runs the shows. Nell's mother contacted us to see if we would consider a para-equestrian class because Nell wanted to show. The answer was 'of course'. Much discussion ensued- of which I had no part - and in the end it was determined that this would be a demonstration rather then an official class. However, the ride would be judged and ribbons awarded. The day of the show I was walking my horse out after our class and my horse was riveted by this young girl with a walker. He had never seen a walker before so we went closer. When I got closer Nell noticed us and I told her that I was just showing Irish the walker. She sat down for a while to let him see and then got up and walked back and forth so he could learn that it was safe. I chatted with her and her mother for a bit and then went and put Irish away.
Nell's ride was at the end of the day. We shortened the ring to 20x40. I went to speak to the mom and asked it was okay if I stayed to the side and took pictures. I promised no flash. She said fine and then said 'she won't let us in the ring'. I looked at her puzzled and she explained "Nell. She wants to do the test all by herself- no caller and no walkers beside her". She was as white as a sheet. Every mother knows that look. It's the fear of letting our child be at risk with the desire to let them make their own choices. I put my arm around her and said 'it will be fine'. And it was. Nell did her ride with no help. After she did not want to get off. At this point I get to tell you about Capone. Capone is a horse of unknown lineage (he looks draft x Morgan to me) that cost $450. He was purchased for the riding school. He took Nell around this strange dressage ring that's inside a hockey rink (yes a hockey rink) like a pro. After her test Nell tried to get Capone to trot. With a little help from the coach he trotted about 4 strides. Nell lost her balance and he stopped. She got her balance and he walked on. Worth his weight in gold he is. So here are some photos from Nell's test:
This is courage. It takes physical and mental courage to ride. It truly does. I cannot imagine what it takes for Nell to ride. But she likely doesn't think of it at all. She's a 12 year old girl who is horse crazy. Capone is her friend. I also want to salute Nell's parents for having the courage to let her ride. It puts my whines into perspective, that's for sure!