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What It's Like to Ride a Horse as a Blind Person

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There are times when I have mentioned I ride horses to both the sighted and the blind and get the “why would you do that?”

My answer is and will always be because it’s fun.

But the truth is, there is far more to it. Riding a horse means another pair of eyes can help me. In some ways this can be great — few horses will walk into something. But in other ways it can be one big mess.

Sometimes a horse will do something you neither asked for nor needed. And growing up with OK vision, I naturally want to check with my eyes to see why. The fact is now I can’t do so because even with the little I can see, I know I am not getting the full picture.

Other times it’s my fault — like when I ask the horse to go right or left when there is no space to do so or another horse is in the way.

With all the odd things (and frustration) that come with horseback riding, I would never totally give it up.

When it goes right, there’s nothing like it. It’s somewhere between flying and working a guide dog (though my only experience with the latter has been a demo dog).

I do need a horse who knows his job well, which can be hard to come by, and the ones who do are worth their weight in gold. I also need someone on the ground who is willing to listen to me. I need someone who fully understands my capabilities. I need someone who is going to forget what they think I should be or need. Not everyone who is blind is the same. Someone with the same vision as me could be totally different. It is a hard thing to explain, and it is a even harder thing for people to understand.

I live in the space many people with a disability live in — I am somewhere in between a non-disabled person and what people assume a disabled person is. I can’t force people to change how they see a person with a disability, how they see someone who is blind, nor even how they see me. I can explain things, I show things that explain it, and I show them with my actions.

One of the first things you are likely to realize when learning to ride a horse is you can’t ”force” a horse to do anything. They outweigh you, but then you learn over time, asking and telling the right way gets them to do what you want. In some ways dealing with people is like working with a horse. If you try and force them to think your way, they are going to dig in their heels and use their weight to keep you from changing their mindset. They may even push back. But, like with horses, with people you can neither be passive nor fight. You have to give the information to them the right way.

And sometimes you simply have to walk away, let things simmer — and try again another time.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: July 17, 2016
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