My name is Kirsty, and, at the age of two, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. My CP is very mild, as it only really affects my balance and muscle movement in my legs, but nonetheless, I find it a bit trickier to perform tasks that others my age would find rather easy, for example; riding a horse.
I have never really been a “sporty person”, but, through my Mum’s love of horses, I’ve been in the saddle for as long as I can remember. I’ve developed a real passion for horses and horse riding over the years, as, most will hopefully agree with me on this, I believe that it is not just a sport, but a way of life.
I really feel at one with the horses I ride, and the characteristics of certain horses makes riding even more enjoyable. I had been attending a mainstream riding school from around the age of nine, however, in around 2014 I joined the RDA in Glasgow. The horses were a lot bigger than those I had previously ridden, but incredibly well trained, and I was offered much more support than I had previously experienced.
The atmosphere at the centre is one of the first things that really stands out. The volunteers are immensely welcoming and understanding, and the instructors are
well equipped with the knowledge they need to ensure everyone who rides gets the most out of their lessons.
When I began participating in lessons, my instructor suggested that I try using a sheep skin to sit on (instead of a saddle), which would aid in loosening my hips and leg muscles, and give me the stretch I needed, as my muscles were incredibly tight, and I
suffered some pain in my hips when sitting on some of the wider horses. After using a sheep skin for a while, my instructor then decided I had made enough progress to transfer back into a saddle. I couldn’t be more thrilled, as, it is little achievements such as this that keep me motivated in riding horses. Even though I had upgraded to sitting in a saddle, I was still surrounded by sidewalkers – my next goal was to be rid of them! Three years on and my hips and leg muscles have significantly loosened, I’m still in the saddle, and I am aiming to achieve my next goal of riding without a leader!
I am always striving to make progress as often as I can, and my instructor is one of the key factors in me achieving my equine dreams. I find that I really struggle in kicking my horse on, as my legs are rather weak, so my instructor suggested that I should try out
a riding crop, which has made such a difference to my riding ability. It now means that I can control my horse almost completely on my own, and only require a leader to walk beside me during lessons.
I would have to say that my favourite aspect of riding at the RDA is taking my horse outside (only during the summer months, mind you!). We usually take a ride round the centre’s serene trail the Tulliallan, in which we are able to experience riding in a new, and rather exciting environment – compared to the indoor arena! And, I absolutely adore feeling at one with nature.
Overall, my experience at RDA Glasgow has been a progressive one; in mind and in body. My physiotherapist has seen a clear improvement in the muscles in my legs, and, personally, I feel that I have grown in confidence, both as a rider and as a person. My riding ability also continues to improve, and I constantly strive to become a more and more advanced rider – as I feel that those who are satisfied can never truly reach their full potential.