Riding is such a lovely activity! I was really looking forward to this part of my weekend, especially after the rowing racing was cancelled. I like being with the others, and with the horses, and it's such a supportive atmosphere that I feel confident and comfortable even if my body isn't working properly. On the horse, I can ride with one hand and he doesn't mind. If I tried to row with one hand the boat would just tip me in! Also, it's easier for the instructors and volunteers to help us out than it is for anyone outside the boat to help you in a scull. I find that the riding challenges me without making me feel frustrated and helpless when my body won't work the way I want it to - instead, it's easier to find ways around difficulties.
Another thing about riding which is quite nice is that you actually have to make an effort to look good, which I don't spend much time on either whilst rowing or in everyday life. However, in honour of the occasion my mum plaited my hair - this might sound small but it's something I can't manage myself because of my awkward hands, so it definitely felt a bit special!
|Fancy (ish) hair - next time there will be ribbons ;)|
|Me with Victor and our support team!|
|Finishing circles, getting back to the middle line, before coming from the four corners to converge as a 'box' in the middle.|
We began by just walking quietly around the edge so that the horses could get used to all the pairs of eyes on them. It definitely helped that they'd grown familiar with the environment the previous night, and to be honest they seemed pretty unfazed by the crowd. Once we had been introduced, and the horses were suitably relaxed, it was time to start and put all the hard work into fruition!
We began with a salute...
Cambridge News - fame at last!
|Us in all our glory!|
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to go and meet Sophie and her beautiful horse, Janeiro 6. Sophie was very friendly and we chatted about our mutual interests of Royal Holloway and horses - she even posed for a picture with me (*star-struck*).
|Janeiro getting involved too... sweet horse!|
|Beautiful but slightly suspicious horse...|
The RDA is fantastic at getting people involved and at making them feel that they are achieving things - something which, in my opinion, is lacking in adaptive rowing. The RDA's motto is 'it's what you CAN do that counts', and I think this says a lot. Adaptive rowing can be seen as something to help people recover from serious illness or injury, or as a means of dealing with a lifelong condition, but ultimately you receive no reward of your achievements from anyone unless you win a race. Under the current level of classification, the most disabled inevitably lose out under such a system. I don't think it's a problem with the para-rowing community, but just that all but the very biggest regattas (the national or international ones) you win nothing for coming second. This means that if you do win something you can feel rightly proud, but to be honest I feel no more proud of the prizes I've won for rowing than I do of the medal and rosette I was awarded by the RDA for taking part in a non-competitive event. To me, both types of award represent a triumph over disability rather than over other disabled people. I will treasure my RDA medal and rosette and can't wait to earn more: and I specifically mean earn more and not win more; winning is all well and good, but you don't have to beat everybody else to be deserving of recognition.
|Earned - by all four of us (and four quadrupeds...but they don't have anywhere suitable to keep such things).|