Ash joined our family aged 5. My children were then 20, 18 and 14 and they regularly rode and helped out with a friend’s horses. When Ash was about 8 he began regularly riding Tiny, our friend’s pony.
Ash briefly joined a riding school and rode in a beginners group that my daughter taught, but we would never trust him to another teacher! Over time, Ash was able to ride more frequently and start doing some more care work for the horses, and he also began to show interest in sharing his sister’s horses.
As the year progressed we faced the fact that, by July, Ash would have finished college and could easily become even more reluctant to leave home and do ‘stuff’. We were also keen to find opportunities to help him keep fit and active. We thought that horse riding could be just the thing! However, at this point, we didn’t have access to a suitable horse for him to ride. So, we began discussing the possibility of him owning his own horse.
Amazingly, the other small yard on the farm became available to rent. We immediately asked the owners if they would hold it for us until I could speak to the finance department, as Ash’s finances are managed under a deputyship arrangement by the Court of Protection. Happily, we were given permission for Ash to pay the monthly rent and we began horse hunting. It took a few weeks of searching…. but when they met Tony they knew he was ‘The One’! Tony took a little training, but thanks to my daughters he learned quickly and is a great horse.
Ash has responsibility for looking after Tony, with support. He knows how to do all the jobs there: he can feed (though not the making of the feeds as the horses have different mixes and supplements); he can fill water buckets; as well as push and empty wheel barrows. Ashley knows that, before he rides, Tony must be brushed and have his hooves cleaned. Ash starts off, then will just need his work double checking. Ashley knows where all the tack is and can collect and return it to its place in the tack room. We do get him poo picking but his manual dexterity means he actually spreads the poo further… but he has a go!
Ash loves Tony and is so proud that he belongs to him. He rides out in convoy and is able to be independent because Tony is reliable. Currently, Ash usually rides only once a week (neighbours kindly help with taking Tony out on other days) but the plan will be to increase this once he finishes college.
During half term Ash and Tony entered a beginner’s jumping round at some local stables. Ash knows the riding school, but Tony had never been there before. Tony behaved perfectly, as did Ash. It was an open competition, but Ash was the only entrant with a disability. Nik stood in the ring with him just to point out which jump to go to next as Ash doesn’t read letters or numbers. They knocked down most of the jumps, but it was such a brilliant experience and he wants to go again in the Christmas holidays!