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Saturday 18 July 2009

Quality of life

Picco, by SB, 2006

My quality of life was enhanced for many years when I was between three and twelve years old. I had my Grand-dad's cart-horse for a horsey friend, and I longed to actually sit on a “proper” horse.

Rides on the "huge" wooden cart, while shifting manure from the sheds after the Irish cattle left for market, were probably more exciting at four years old than actually having a riding lesson, but I wouldn’t know as there was never any money for such luxuries and I did not yearn for them. I loved Tom-Tom the carthorse and the rides amongst the smelly manure. More up my street really than a pony club. On the cart I was all on my own with my dreams, but nevertheless “riding lessons” were my dream. It was a lovely dream to have because I shared it with someone special.

If the holiday-money went far enough I got a ride on an old nag on the promenade at Great Yarmouth.
Sometimes I had a go on the trudging donkeys on the beach at Hunstanton. More often than not this happened on a day trip with my more well-off Grandma!

How was the quality of my life improved?

By the smell of manure and by my dreams.

And by the promise that my Uncle always gave me that, if he won the pools, he would buy a pony and I would get my riding lessons.

Each Thursday the quality of life is improved for those four children from our integrative Kindergarten who are picked on rotation out of fifteen to go riding on Friday. One disabled child and three not-disabled children.

The quality of work in both our Conductive Group and Kindergarten improves too, due to the children’s anticipation of the horsey moments.
  • It is not only the riding that they await with joy that brings quality to their lives, but also the trip in the bus and their peaceful two hours away from the rest of the noisy and boisterous group.
  • It is the time spent with Mum or Dad the evening before searching for an apple or a carrot to take in their pocket as a treat.
  • It is the joy they have when showing us all the polished apple or crispy carrot that they chose, before they hop into the early-morning bus to the stables.
  • On arrival at the stables it is the meeting of different people, the many CV's ( young men 'doing' their National Service, or rather not doing it!), always happy, friendly young people who the children adore.
  • It is the straw to romp in and fall over in, without getting hurt, it is the soft and rough horsey hair and the funny smells.
  • It is the ride in the woods, the pouring rain running down cheeks and into the corners of smiling mouths.
  • It is helping to carry heavy objects to the stables, leather saddles and harnesses and brushes and combs.
  • It is putting hands in a bag of floury oats.

I am sure that there are many more pleasures to do with riding that add to the quality of life for these children, all of these children, not only those with a physical disability.

And let us not forget...

  • The ride home together on the motorway. For many five year olds this is probably one of the best quality-of-life enhancers ever. All those bridges and exits and slip-roads and signs.
  • Not to mention the hundreds of huge foreign trucks that on a Friday are all trying to reach their destinations before the weekend driving ban.

The list could could go on, and on...

How do we measure all this? Who would want too?

It is that thing called life!

Such things are not something that happens at a particular point to be measured. It is not something that happens in isolation.

They are part of a domino effect that goes on for years. Until the day we die.

My quality of life is still enhanced by the memory of my Uncle, of our big grins, of the pools coupon in front of him and our secret dreams about the big win that never came. Dreaming of the pony that I never had and of the riding lessons that I finally got on a farm outside Budapest, at the age of thirty-five.

Now that is a lot of years of measuring and waiting to see all of the improvements in my quality of life that didn’t end there.

Those riding lessons as an adult, that came about because of my dreams as a five-year-old, enhance my life to this day. Not because of any physical improvement but through the associations that I have, the memories of who I was with and those whole mornings' activity.

The experiences that I had, and the images that are there for me to recall and use, will be there to be used for ever. They will always enhance my life and improve its quality in so many immeasurable ways.

  • The long haul in the early hours of Sunday on public transport, right across that huge city from the Buda Hills to the outskirts of Pest.
  • The rumbling tram, the smelly buses, the lovely blue underground trains.
  • The suburbs of small one-story houses with huge gardens.
  • The ride in the family Traubant
  • The peace and quiet of the countryside after a week in the busy metropolis
  • The Hungarian friend and her children for company and Sunday lunch in their home too.
  • Then the long ride home, the exhaustion and the deep sleep.

If that big pools win had come and I had got my pony and riding lessons, who knows whether our quality of life would have been improved as much as it was by our Vorfreude (anticipation).

Maybe I would never have taken those riding lessons in Hungary with all their knock-on pleasures.

Cosy moments

I have no idea whether riding is any more physically beneficial to a child with cerebral palsy than sticking the child's feet in a bucket of hot water and sage.

I believe that it is the time that another person spends, sitting and playing with the child with the feet in the sage bucket, that is the quality-of-life enhancer. Just as it is the riding lesson’s associated activities that bring most benefits to our Kindergarten children.

I too would feel "better", I too would feel more relaxed to begin my work if, after an early start to the day and the long ride to a “Petö session” I were to have twenty minutes' attention from my mum or from a conductor, and got lovely warm cosy feet in the process.

  • Horses - who needs them?
  • Plinths - who needs them?
  • Sage baths - who needs them?

Not me, not conductive upbringing. If they are a means to an end, OK lets have them, but I for one can substitute one for the other or for something else any day.

What we need is whatever it takes to have dreams, to create memories, and to increase motivation and the will to be busy. Whatever it takes to have a fulfilling life.

Whatever it takes to create a happy soul.


Andrew Sutton -

Andrew's posting inspired this posting of mine:

Picco -

The painting heading this posting was painted by one of my teenage clients with cerebral palsy. Picco is the horse that he rides, that he enters tornaments on, and also paints.

The paintings he sells in exhibitions, at which he makes opening speeches to his guests. The guests he has invited by hand-made, hand-delivered invitation cards, which means several long walks through the country-side getting to all those letter boxes. On these walks he observes and photographs things that inspire yet more paintings.

The knock-on domino effect in action.

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