… are not only the Lower Saxonians, but also Shirley. The intense low-pressure-system Christian had made more than enough wind on Monday. I was curious on how Shirley would react. The only possible answer is: quite cool. I believe the humans were far more frightened of the clacking sounds than Shirley. Besides the extreme weather conditions the lesson should become really remarkable in quite a few aspects.
Not only that it was the first lesson in the afternoon, meaning that it was the first regular 30-minute-lesson and therefore would be 10 minutes longer than all others before, during this lesson we witnessed several premiers. After we walked a few steps, Shirley stopped. The reason was obvious: She had to poop. I can only hope that I made it easy and comfortable for you. I understood. You are allowed to poop and you may pee as well if you have to. After Shirley had finished her business, challenges began for me. By chance, several cones were standing in a straight line in the arena. So, why not ride slalom through the cones: A great exercise in coordination and balance. However, I was surprised how different the exercise felt, if nobody is sitting behind you. Nevertheless, it felt great. Since everything worked out great, the next challenge may come: Same exercise, change of hands. The first cone felt really strange but everything else felt fine: Back to normal walk again. The walk felt incredibly soft and even. It felt like Shirley wanted to rock me right into another world. And so it happened that I didn’t even realize that one of the two persons had taken his hand away from me just a couple of inches. It felt extraordinary.
The “moment of the day” happened just before I dismounted the horse. Shirley turned around her head and her beautiful eyes of different color looked straight at me. There was nothing but warmth and gentleness in her eyes. Shirley, did anybody ever tell you that you are an angel on hoofs? I know, it’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last, but I really wish to say “Thank You”. Thank you, Shirley for your patience, for the gentleness and safety with which you are carrying me through the world. Thank you, my riding therapist, for your unbelievable trust in my body and your never ending motivation, thank you, my best friend, that you wiped out the last bit of a doubt and made clear what a chance I had with Shirley. You all are great and I hope that it will stay that way for a long, long time.
After I had my first 30-minute-riding-lesson last week and the fun had turned into pleasure and joy towards the end of the lesson, I hoped that I could regularly ride in the afternoon. Unfortunately my assistance got sick this week. Luckily, I was able to switch back to my old 20-minute-appointment for that week.
At first, I thought “what a pity” but what followed was a lesson that I probably will remember for a long time. After we had a “safety lap” in the beginning, I all of a sudden wished for nothing more than touching Shirley’s skin while walking, something I had never done before. It seemed that the wish just popped up in my head. I just felt so safe and so at home on her back this morning that I sort of had to do it. The first try to release my hand from the handle failed. It just felt wobbly and insecure, so I decided to touch Shirley during an extra hold. However, the wish to touch Shirley while walking remained. So, after we had another safety lap, I wanted to give it a second try. This time, I released the hand from the handle more carefully, so I could get used to the feeling. This time it worked. Touching Shirley and feeling her warmth while she walked was an unbelievable feeling. This feeling is one of the reasons why horses mean so much to me. Horses are willing to give so much. Since fondling Shirley during walk had worked so well, my riding therapist asked my, if I could imagine to stretch both arms aside while we continue to ride. I had done this exercise with my previous horse, but on Shirley I had to think about it for a second. However, I realized that it was possible this morning and so I released hands. First one hand, then both. My feelings in this moment are hard to describe. The first four steps (as long as all of Shirley’s feet had touched the ground) there was an incredible uncertainty, changing into amazement about myself, the last third of a long rail, was the moment of perfect luck. Not only that I had achieved something what may be considered as impossible in life on the ground: I was sitting on a moving horseback without any great hold on any side. There was also an intense feeling of freedom, I was allowed to be carried around and I knew that Shirley would take care of the rest. I sort of “fell into Shirley” and it was the moment, then I knew the trust I put into Shirley was well deserved. I almost can’t believe that I found the new stable and met Shirley. It was probably one of the happiest moments during the last year.
Today was the great day. This week, for the first time, I was riding on another day and in the afternoon instead in the morning. With somehow “just the right amount of stage-anxiety”, I was driving towards the stable and Shirley. As I wished, we were driving very early. So, I happened to see the rest of the lesson of the patient before me. He was also riding on Shirley.
Observing Shirley calmed me a little bit, but the closer the big moment came, the more nervous I got. After I had taken the seat on Shirley’s back, and we had walked the first few steps, something happened: Something I knew from my previous horse and that is so intense making a description almost impossible. I will –nevertheless- give it an insufficient try.
We barely had past the first corner on the long loop way around the stables, I suddenly felt an incredible security. Shirleys walk- soft and even – and her pricked ears did the rest. Taking into account that there was so much that could have distracted us. The ghosts waiting in the trees, the branches that could stripe the rider, and the uneven ground. Instead, Shirley’s soft walk relaxed me, the view over the wide ranging meadows made me unbelievably happy and Shirley gave me more than the necessary security.
Do you know the feeling that, the whole world could collapse around you and nothing would happen to you? This was exactly the feeling I had during this ride and maybe it was just this feeling that allowed me to greet a young, nice, female rider coming along the way.
After enjoying my summer holiday (though Shirleys part was way to small in my opinion) it happend: One night, I made a wrong move and suffered really bad back pain. Seven weeks of doctor’s appointments and a really interesting combination of pain killers followed. I did not even think about moving to much, driving or horseback riding. I finally overcame this desaster and returned to Shirley on September 10th.Surprisingly, instead of being insecure after a break of several weeks, Shirley’s walk felt like comming home. Although we remained in the indoor arena, for the first time ever, I almost immediately found Shirley’s rhythm and did not experience any difficulty continuing to breathe calmly and regularely during ride.
The lesson went so well, that my riding-therapist asked me, if I would be willing to switch the appointment, so that I could have 10 more minutes, half an hour in total of riding. Of course I was willing…
After I got over the “shock” of riding outside for the first time in ages, I got more. After the successful premiere, the completely skipped the “warm up lap” in the indoor arena and just turned around to go outside again.
This time, we were not heading to the jumping area like last week, this week I was supposed to ride the path circlng the area of my stable and the local riding club. Many different materials to walk on, realising a few uneven steps, everything was new and exciting.
It may not have been my most relexed session on horseback but I remamber the feeling when I looked over the pastures and saw all these grasing horses, It was so great. It felt just like being clse to thr moment of perfect harmony between Shirley, nature and myself. It felt incredibly peaceful and enriching.Just the perfect last bit of riding before I left for summer holiday.
My apologies for beeing silent that long, exspeciall in regard to my experiences with Shirley. Now that I know, I might have some followers, I promise to post more regularely. Since my last post, so many great things concerning Shirley have happened, that I almost don’t know where to start. Maybe here:
The lesson after my last post remained unspectecular and without any noteworthy events. However, the week after that, my world was completely shaking. It was a beautiful morning in early summer, with almost cloudless blue skys. After we completeted our first round in walk, my new therapist simply said: And now we are going outside using the jumping area (without obstacles). Before I even realised what was going on, we had left the indoor riding arena, heading outaside.
I was so overwhealmed, that I simply didn’t know what to think first. I was sitting alone on horseback and now riding outside, something I had’t done for 20 or more years. It almost felt, like the colours were more intense, all my senses had been sharpenened. I will probably never forget how blue the sky look from the top of a horse.
Last Saturday, October 12 2013 one of my dreams came true. I participated in a professional photo-workshop conducted by professional horse-photographer Linda Peinemann at German Horse Museum Verden. I read about the workshop in the local newspaper and actually did not expect that my request for participation would be granted. The Workshop was on outdoor horse and dog photography (portrait and during activity). Not necessarily the perfect conditions for wheelchair-users, but temptation was huge.
What I witnessed was maybe one of the most positive experiences in the past. Immediately after I registered for the class, Ina Maieli and her colleagues at German Horse Museum contacted me to answer all questions and eliminate all uncertainties. Starting with a very detailed description of the outdoor-surroundings, to the course fee for my personal assistant, all questions were answered very friendly.
After both parties agreed on actually taking this “adventure”, I started to the German Horse Museum. Right at the entrance I met photographer Linda Peinemann and the class turned out to be great. After a theoretical introduction on how exposure time and aperture interact with each other and what effect it has on the shot (illustrated with identical photos), it was time to get hands on camera for the first time. Dog Photography with raising difficulty level. At first, dog owners remained part of the portrait, good shots almost guaranteed, although it took a while to get there. Then, dog portrait without owner, getting harder, and finally dogs during play. Hard to get a good shot. We always were supposed to try different exposure times and apertures. After a few “warm up shots” results improved.
After the lunch break and another theoretical introduction on the special challenges of horse-photography, Linda gave away some slight tricks of the professionals to perfectly hit the right moment. She showed some really great photos with incredible detail. Then it was the perfect time to get outdoor again. With the help of participants; I actually managed to be part of the complete workshop. The second part of the practical workshop was structured similar to the first on dog photography. I was so happy that I almost forgot everything else happening around me.
A very warm thank you to all participating animal-owners and Models. With patience and always with a smile, they allowed every participant to get the necessary time to get the “perfect” shot. Results have hopefully been worth the effort.
I want to thank all participants in the class for a really memorable and unforgettable day. Photographer Linda Peinemann, I want to thank for the great and individual tips. I also wish to thank her and all employers of the German Horse Museum for their kindness and their willingness and courage to dare the adventure of wheelchair photography. In my opinion, it was more than worth it and I would be really pleased if I may continue to learn.
Working with all of you has really been a pleasure.