Sunday, 12 June 2011

You Can Lead a Horse to Water But .....

Cameron has been horseriding with Riding for the Disabled for thirteen years. He started when he was two and a half years old and I believe that RDA was instrumental in developing Cameron's muscles so he was able to take his first independent walk at three years of age.

Over the years the coaches and volunteers have always asked Cameron to thank his horse at the end of his riding session and sometimes this has resulted in the poor horse being thumped on whatever part of the body Cameron can reach. At times he has been encouraged to give his horse a snack or friendly pat on the nose. Cameron has always been initially enthusiastic and then as soon as his hand is close to the horses nose he pulls away and no amount of encouragement or brute force will get Cameron's hand near the horses nose. 

I was talking when Cameron finished his riding session yesterday. (I'm the President - I was busy doing President stuff) My Little Angel called my attention to the fact Cameron was about to dismount. I quickly walked out into the mounting arena. A lot of riders dismount and walk out of the arena independently but Cameron needs one of us to collect him at the horse and escort him out of the arena otherwise he gets himself lost and gets in the way.

By the time I got to Cameron yesterday he was already off his horse and was thanking his horse with a rather hard thump. I was trying to soften his blows to poor Shadow when Cameron suddenly discovered Shadow's tail. He touched the tail and looked at his brand new discovery. His face lit up and he pulled the tail around to show me and his leader. I'm sure he then told me the tail was - HAIR. I looked at him questioning my hearing. "Yes Cameron, it is hair." I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Eventually I had to rescue Shadow's tail because Cameron was walking off with it in his firm grasp.

Shadow has been Cameron's horse since RDA Brigadoon began and they are very suited to each other. Both of them can be fairly laid back in nature and prefer to take the easier option - sit back and observe. I always feel safe with Cameron on Shadow, I know he is looking after my boy and giving him the stable base he needs.

After I had rescued Shadow's tail from Cameron he quickly moved around to Shadow's head and reached for the reins. He obviously wanted to lead Shadow out of the arena like the volunteers were doing with the other horses. His leader offered Cameron the lead rope and let him lead his horse. Shadow was so good because Cameron wasn't at an ideal angle and wasn't as gentle as he needed to be but he was incredibly pleased with himself. He knew what he was doing and he didn't want to stop.

I suggested we tie Shadow up on the fence but Cameron had another idea, he was taking Shadow back to the stalls. That was a good plan except that Shadow was needed for the next session and the riders were already standing at the ramp waiting for their horses.

His leader suggested that maybe Shadow would like a drink of water and we managed to redirect Cameron towards the water trough. Well, as we all know, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink and of course - Shadow didn't want a drink. Cameron wasn't worried, if Shadow wouldn't lean down and drink then he would bring the water to Shadow. Cameron leant down, whilst still holding the leading rope, and scooped a handful of water up. He gave the water to Shadow. He ran his wet hand up and down Shadows nose, from eyes to nostrils, until he felt he needed more water then down he would go again for a refill. Shadow stood there very patiently although getting rather wet and cold. It really wasn't a day for a bath and he didn't look very thrilled.

I could not believe what I was seeing. Cameron was giving Shadow a drink, his way. Cameron was touching his horses nose. It took me a while to comprehend what was happening. I struggled to explain why this was so significant. I yelled out for My Marvellous Man to grab the camera and come quick. I'm sure people were wondering why I was excited, Cameron wasn't doing anything particularly unusual - but he was.

As Cameron's arm went deeper and deeper into the water we decided it might be time to stop him. He was tempted away with another walk and then he was happy to hand the lead rope over.

Even as I am writing this I am questioning my memory but it really did happen. Cameron touched his horses nose independently and without fear. He did it with such joy and excitement. It doesn't seem plausible that someone could ride horses for thirteen horses and still be scared of them but love riding.

The brain is an amazing thing. I wonder what Cameron's brain was thinking for all those years and what made Cameron's fear melt away so suddenly yesterday and when did Cameron's fine motor skills get so good that he can scoop water with one hand whilst holding something in the other hand.

Apparently during the class Shadow gave Cameron another first. Shadow had decided he was going to jump over a log on the ground. I missed it. I wish I'd seen it, I'm sure Cameron's face must have been a picture.

It is so exciting to see Cameron discovering his world and building new skills.


  1. I look forward to reading your blogs and when I read one like todays with Cameron doing these new and wonderful things I feel excited for you all.

  2. Thanks Glenys. It was special.

  3. That's a lovely story, Jane, and I love the photos xx

  4. Lump in throat. Times like this are so incredible! I'm glad you were able to see the changes in progress.

  5. Thanks Daisy, I am so glad I got to see what happened and be part of it.