Guest Blogger: Embracing Adventure
|Megan and her personal horse, Ginger.|
Disclaimer: This is my personal experience. It is not intended as advice or recommendation.
I swing onto Della’s broad, soft back and reach for the reins. I hadn’t planned to ride today. But my instructor surprised me, and I take it in stride.
We ride bareback a few laps in the roofed arena, then move to a sunny, smaller arena. My instructor takes away my reins to test my balance. At first I feel a little vulnerable. But after practice and a break, I am sitting relaxed and balanced.
Not bad for someone with bad proprioception, a weak upper body, and spinal fusion. And did I mention I’m legally blind and hearing-impaired?
Yet I ride horses and enjoy other outdoor activities. I hold a college degree in English. I read, draw, and write. I don’t let my disabilities keep me from enjoying life.
Here’s what makes these feats possible.
Focusing on abilities first
When I want to pursue an activity, I assume it is possible. Then I look for ways to make it possible.
For example, I love horses. But my balance is bad, and jarring hurts my back. So I focus on groundwork, basic dressage, and trail riding.
I love to draw. But I’m legally blind, and my hands are weak. So I put my paper on a slant, hold my pencil differently, lean close, and use my arm to help my hand.
Sometimes, I have to adapt an activity or change my goals. And some activities are too demanding or unsafe. In the latter case, I move on and find something else. But it’s okay, as long as I’m challenging myself and enjoying what I do.
If I only pursued activities I assumed would be easy, my life would be very poor. So I start by finding things I want to do, and then build on what I can do.
Growing up, I lived as though it was other people’s job to tell me what I couldn’t do, and my job to prove them wrong. Then I went to college and decided it was my job to limit myself. Now, I’m trying to learn the balance between boldness and safety.
Safety precautions free me to enjoy what I love. For outdoor activities, precautions can include helmets, human assistants, supportive harnesses, etc. For reading and writing, it can mean using large print or magnification software, or taking breaks to avoid strain. For any activity, it means avoiding overexertion and minimizing injury risk.
It also means I have to decide whether an activity’s benefits outweigh its risks. This is a serious decision, and different people may have different answers. Sometimes my answer varies depending on my current health or priorities. For example, since my back surgery, I no longer assume I will ever ride faster than a trot.
Finally, I accept that safety precautions fail. My favorite example? Just two years ago, my usually stoic lesson horse dumped me. A helmet + 4 people + a short, stoic lesson horse travelling at modest speed = badly bruised shoulders and lots of pain. By God’s grace, I was able to walk away from that fall and get back on.
Did my precautions work 100%? No. But if I’d had no helmet, no people, and a tall flighty horse, I could have suffered concussions, broken bones, and damage to my back or organs. So I take those precautions – so I can enjoy my ride.
TeamworkEven with passion and precautions, most of my adventures would be impossible without teamwork. The family, friends, teachers, therapists, assistants, and others who’ve supported me are a big reason for my accomplishments.
They tack my horses and escort me while I ride. They help me walk or push my wheelchair. They set up my equipment and bring me what I need. They help me exercise and understand my body. They make sure I can access information that I can’t hear or see.
They care for me, pray for me, and look out for my well-being. They accept me as a person, not a health condition. They encourage me and challenge me to keep embracing adventure.
Without them, there would be no horses, no college, no drawing, no reading, no writing…and very little living.
So, to all those who are and have been on my team – thank you.
Megan Bean is an American freelance writer, blogger, and longtime horseperson. She blogs at Voice of Rinnah.