Horses and growth: how three horses have changed my life

G’day, everyone and welcome to another week and another blog post! If you are new here, welcome, I am Rhi an Aussie living in Queensland Australia and have Ullrich Muscular Dystrophy. If you aren’t new, welcome back!!

If you have been following me and this blog for a while, you would know I love horses and do equine-assisted Learning/Therapy every Monday morning. It’s crazy to think that I have been attending these sessions for almost 2 years!

For me, this is a space that has enabled me to undergo a massive mental rewiring so to speak, and I will use every opportunity to talk about how excellent these programs are!

Each horse I have worked with has presented its learning lessons, and enabled me to grow and understand myself and start to heal those parts of myself that were too ugly to deal with alone.

So I thought it would be fun to talk about what each horse I worked with has taught me in terms of embracing my disability.

I have had the pleasure of working closely with 3 different horses. And when I mean different, I truly mean different in every way possible!

Each one is unique in their breed, temperament and ultimately the relationship you form with them. Some are quick to come over for pats and others need to work up to trusting you. Some need to you tell them what to do, and others just want you to ask them if they can do something. Some require a lot of internal energy to get them to move, and others a simple straighten of the spine sends then into a trot.

Horse 1: facing your inner demons

Me standing next to my mobility scooter in a green grassed paddock with a black and white Clydesdale horse standing in front of me

This horse was the OG. Okay well maybe not the very first horse I interacted with on the ground, but the first one I worked closely with for some time.

He was the horse that started some serious inner work for me.

I had honestly thought that I was in a pretty alright place, however, this gorgeous black Clydesdale Mix Gelding had a way to really open me up and showing me the parts of myself that I had thought I healed, and other things that I was trying to bury.

Safe to say, this horse allowed me to start breaking down some walls and start healing.

I know I have spoken about this horse a few times now on this blog, however, talking about him again, I think just shows how much this horse means to me.

He challenged me to be assertive and to essentially not take no for an answer. He requires a little extra energy when lunging him, which requires more willpower from me. That was something that I hadn’t tapped into yet.

He showed me parts of myself that i thought I had accepted and some parts that I knew needed to be worked on, but I was too scared to. He even brought up some major deep-rooted triggers that definitely needed to be worked on!

When I started working with him, I was going through something pretty heavy in my personal life, and just a simple act of this horse turning his back on me triggered a lot within me.

Looking back now, he wasn’t turning his back on me to say, ‘I don’t want to deal with you’; he was mirroring what I felt was happening on the outside and what I inadvertently was doing to myself. I was turning my back on what was true to me.

There is something about having a 500kg animal staring at you with such love, patience and understanding that can reduce you to tears, but start realising so much about yourself all at the same time

Those revelations also lead to some incredible opportunities for growth. It started necessary conversations between my mum and me about how I felt about growing up disabled, which ultimately triggered an unrelenting newfound confidence in my disability.

It was and still is a safe space to start letting my guard down, without having to feel like I need to prove myself, and begin to work on letting some light into those darker grittier parts of myself.

Whenever I see him or work with him now, there is a bond that can only be created by going from hell and back. Each time we see each other, there is almost like a telepathic communication that simply says ‘I see you, old friend’. That feeling is something that I can’t describe. It is truly incredible.

That horse broke me, and started to fix me all at the same time.

Horse 2: Help, Fun, Trust.

me sitting in my scooter with a black horse standing right next to me. I am giving the horse a kiss on the nose.

The second horse I worked with will also have a very dear place in my heart forever. I started working with him when I was starting to put the pieces back together on myself and begin to level up in my self-confidence.

I have also spoken about him on here, but the lessons i think it’s safe to say what we have taught each other, is something I am so grateful for.

The moment I met this horse, the connection was immediate. We were both healing, and wanted to trust someone without needing to speak. And that is precisely what happened.

He also allowed me to learn just to let go and have fun. Before this horse, I was very hard on myself when it came to getting things right, and with the insecurities of my disability, I felt like I needed to ace things straight away. So I never honestly threw caution to the Wind.

The first session with this horse (after getting the trust started with each other) we simply just played a game of chase/ follow. In every session since then that is what we have done.. With a little lunging included and plenty of cuddles, of course! It is honestly the highlight of my week.

I feel he and I share the same emotional scaring and are two wounded beings on the path of recovery. And I truly think he and I are healing each other each time we see each other.

He went from a horse that wasn’t so sure if he could trust me, to now falling asleep with his head in my hands pretty much. He has started to teach me how to trust and at the same time, have fun.

He has made me enjoy using my mobility scooter more in working with him than at any other time since owning a scooter! He has even left his mark on my basket. So every time I see those tooth marks, I think of him.

He is my miracle horse.

Horse 3: I am Woman.

Me and a grey horse in a green grass paddock. I am sitting in my scooter looking at the horse and the horse is looking at the camera.

This last horse I have only worked with twice. She is so sure of herself, and carries herself with such poise, elegance and a touch of a diva. She commands respect. She knows her boundaries and will tell you if you have crossed them.

Yet, she is so gentle in taking food from your hands, and is incredibly protective over you.

Immediately after my second session with her, mum and I were talking in the car, and I said to her, the first horse comforted me when I was broken and taught me how to start healing; the second taught me how to trust, all while letting go and enjoying life without a plan… and the third? she is teaching me how to be a woman.

Often as a disabled person, you can quickly feel as though you are still a child. From the way, people speak to you, unemployment, and internal triggers. It all lends itself to feeling confused of your place in life, and a lack of self-belief and confidence, to name a few. The perfect recipe for carrying so much emotional baggage and holding yourself prisoner inside your head and body.

Each of these horses has taught me so much and have healed me in ways I never thought a horse could do. They continue to teach me something new every single day.

They are teaching me to Live abled my way and re-establishing what that means, and I am loving every second of it, including the more tricky moments. I have never felt so free and inquisitive in my life. For that I am truly Grateful.

I strongly encourage everyone, disabled or otherwise, to spend time with horses. Not a pat through a fence… I really spend time with them. You never know what they can teach you. Remember, just because you are disabled doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands dirty with horses; you would be surprised at just how much they are aware of what is going on.

Till next week, keep Living Abled your way.


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