Hi! I’m Cate and my horse is Queenie, my social media handle is @queeniethebeanie. I am a disabled horse rider and owner and I’m here to talk about what it’s like to be a disabled rider along with some tips!
While I have been in the horse world for almost my entire life, my health got worse somewhat recently and it really affected my riding. About a year ago I used to throw up and would be completely wiped after just a 5 minute ride. With practice and finding tools to help I am able to ride for longer with less symptoms.
My first tip is to find good friends. Friends you can ride with, friends who support you and lift your saddle when you can’t. Being able to joke around and have fun even when things are really tough is so so helpful. I’m always only ever a message away if you’re in need of some laughs!
Finding tools that work for you is so important. I use a bit hanger instead of a traditional bridle because it’s easier for me to put on than buckles. A Magna halter is a great option for people with dexterity problems it has a large tab to pull a secure magnet to do up a halter. I have halters with cheek clips to make them easier to do up if my hands are shaky. Rubber bands to keep your feet in the stirrups can be super handy! I use a Velcro seat cover that helps me stay balanced and keeps me secure if I black out. I find that following a lot of para riders has helped me find good tools!
If you’re a beginner rider, I recommend linking in with a good RDA centre. Some RDA centres do absolutely incredible work and are volunteer run which keeps prices affordable. Plus you don’t need to buy a horse straight away if you’re not sure if it’s something you can handle. Many RDA’s will also have opportunities for disabled people to volunteer within their capacity so you can learn about how to care for horses. If you’re not sure on which RDA near you will suit you best don’t be afraid to visit a couple!
If you’re a more experienced rider, find a club that has para classes. Being able to compete is such a morale booster! When you have chronic illness or disability there is sometimes a grieving process, this is totally normal. Being able to keep some things somewhat normal is so so important in this process, both mentally and physically. Most barrel racing clubs are totally fine with disabled riders as well as long as you disclose it.
If you are looking to own a horse finding agistment has an extra layer of difficulty when you have access needs. A short walk up a hill or over rocks becomes almost impossible for some people. Don’t lose hope, keep hunting for somewhere that works for you. Agistment is never a one size fits all situation. Sometimes you will need to move your horse and find somewhere else that suits you and your horse better and there is nothing wrong with that. While it does make it more complicated it is still absolutely possible!
I’m about to do a video series on things I train my horse to do, but I can briefly touch on this here too. While everyone’s scenario is different these are some of the things I teach my horse. Almost everything has a vocal cue, transitions, stops, spins, side pass etc. This helps with my fatigue and also makes her nice and sensitive.
I also taught her to stop if I lose my stirrups or get off balance. She also knows if I collapse near her to stand completely still until I am up again. There are many little things you can teach your horse to make you feel a bit safer when you’re around them.
Overall, owning a horse in general is tough. It can be even tougher with a disability or chronic illness. I hope these tips help you in you journey through the equestrian world! If you have a chronic illness or disability you can absolutely still own and or ride horses!
written by - Cate Jeffries