Desire and Determination

In this issue you will read about riding for the disabled. Horses are magnificent, and as riders we are already aware that the benefits of horseback riding are many. Horses not only contribute to mankind by sharing a workload for the rancher and farmer and by performing in athletic competition, but also as companions, teachers, motivators, and healers. As you will see in this issue in Special Features, horses provide for us plentifully.

When I first read the story of Kerrill Hardy (see For the Rider in this issue), I was reminded of a young neighbor of mine who had the same kind of desire and determination as the two sisters who founded HORSES, but his victory, in comparison, was on a much smaller scale.

Several years ago my friend and I rode to the house of the two young brothers who were to go along with us on a trail ride. Donnie was in the yard, mounted and ready to go; James was at the roadside with his horse and . well. some interesting gear.

James' mother yelled out the screen door, "James, come on in, the doctor said you can't ride, remember?" According to Donnie, James had strained his back and was supposed to be resting.

But you had to know James. James could not be 'told'; he had to figure things out for himself. And that 's exactly what he did. With ingenuity and determination, he rigged up a harness and cart for his horse. "If I can't ride, I'll drive," he decided. He was determined to go on this trail ride. I chuckled silently to myself, "Aww, that is so cute," while at the same time feeling sorry for him that all the effort put into this was surely to be wasted.

James had found a hand truck - a two-wheeled, metal framework for moving around heavy boxes, refrigerators, and the like - and had tied a piece of cardboard to it to make a 'padded' back and a seat. It appeared to be no problem to James that he would have to hold his legs up the whole way since the base of it was large enough for only his rear end. Not to mention the fact that a hand truck has solid rubber wheels, no shock absorbers, and a very rigid framework . I didn't want to look.

James had been told by his doctor that he must not ride for a few days. Had that pediatrician known the benefits of therapeutic riding, he might not have said that. Also, had he known James better, he might not have said that. I sure wished his mother would just tell James "NO", but James wouldn't take no for an answer. His mother stood and waited patiently, knowing that James would have to figure out for himself that this was not going to work. I said, "James, that's not going to work." James insisted that it would. "That'll be worse on your back than riding," I said. "James, we'll go again another day, rest up today," my friend said. Donnie said, "Forget it James, it'll never work. Mom, tell him."

But James had planned this out very thoroughly. He had lengthened the reins so he could steer from behind his trustworthy horse. He had creatively fashioned a harness out of a thick, orange extension cord by strategically tying knots where needed. The hand-truck cart was also tied to the extension-cord harness so James could ride facing forward. This was the downfall of the project - it had to remain at a certain tilt and straightness for it to function. As James and his horse attempted to pull out onto the stone road, I wondered what makes some people so determined. I watched with amazement, and his mother watched with an open mouth - amazed that he had actually gone two feet - and ready to yell sharply to stop, yet knowing the moment was not yet right to try to stop him. (any minute, now.)

On the rough ground the cart bounced and teeter-tottered sending jolts up through his body that would have made a good spine hurt. What a patient, sweet, tolerant horse, I thought, as the cord visibly jerked on her as well. My friend and I stayed mounted and watched. His brother protested, "Mom, tell him No!" His mother cringed and as she began to yell, she halted. The horse had stopped. James yelled "Git up", and the mare looked around at James and all the gear attached to her. He used the cord to slap her rump to move. She took one cooperative step and started to turn onto the road. The cord harness slipped at a knot and began to go crooked. As the weight of the crooked cart tugged on it, the harness became more crooked, turning the cart sideways. The horse finally had something to say to James - she reared up and came down with her body turned sideways, looking questioningly at James, with all the cording strung across her back and slipping its knots. And that was the end of that.

James' trail ride lasted only 10 feet, but it was enough to satisfy him and to convince him to stay home. His mother smiled with relief. All in a day's lessons...

It is this desire to be with horses, this relationship with the magnificent, cooperative beast that is a fundamental concept in therapeutic riding. People (and horses) will attempt to go above and beyond their perceived limits when there is desire and determination.

When you read about Kerrill Hardy, you will see just where her desire led.