I love to tell people that I horseback ride and then watch their facial expressions.
Most people don’t believe me, so that’s why I love watching their facial expressions.
When they ask how or why, I explain that it actually makes tons of sense for disabled kids to ride. It opens so many doors for us.
We can go faster than we’ve ever been able to go on our own two feet, our confidence shoots through the roof because riding often becomes something we can totally do on our own and we finally get an outlet to be athletic.
Once they understand where I'm coming from, they almost always follow up with something like this: “Isn’t it scary? What if you fall off?”
I’m not going to say that there’s never been a time where I was a little terrified. But I do say that when one of those rare times happens and you are heading towards the ground, a lot of times, it’s happening so fast that you don’t actually realize you’re falling. Most times you don’t have time to be scared.
Most people just see the size of horses and falling is their immediate thought. Which I somewhat understand. But what you don’t always automatically see is the incredible bond these guys are able to create with their favorite humans.
Even though I’ve been riding since I was five, I don’t think I even completely understood the incredible nature of it until I turned 14 and met my guy.
And when you meet your perfect teammate, trust me. Falling is the last thing on your mind.
Horseback riding is something I am so passionate about and I don’t think enough people understand the power of it, especially for kids like me. So, I wanted to get on here and share Concho’s and my story – in hopes that it can help people see past just the sheer size of horses and see that there’s so much more to them.
When you give a kid who’s struggling reins, their whole world can change in the best way possible.
This is my dude, Concho.
When I was fourteen, my parents surprised me with the biggest and best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.
Even though I had only met Concho once before that night, I was completely over the moon. I just remember not being able to stop smiling and saying like five million times: “What? What do you mean he’s mine? He’s mine??”
Growing up, I always used my walker around horses just so I had better balance. I have never encountered a horse that was afraid of my walker, but some just didn’t know what to do with it. That presented challenges when leading them with a lead rope and sometimes it just didn’t work.
So, when I got Concho, I remember that being one of my first thoughts: am I going to be able to lead my own horse on the ground?
I clipped a rope on him for the first time, fully expecting it to be a disaster. I expected him to either not move, go too fast and far ahead of me or just get really confused by my set of wheels.
But none of that happened.
As I started to walk forward, he came in perfectly by my walker’s side. He walked my exact pace, kept his head down at my level and wasn’t even phased by the bright green walker around me.
That was the first indicator for me that God had totally and perfectly put us in each other’s paths.
In an instant, Concho’s world became mine and mine became his. He instantly understood me and it seemed like he immediately decided he was going to take care of me.
I soon learned that in a lot of situations, I didn’t need a lead rope. If I was walking in front or beside him, my best bud would just follow.
I remember days in high school when I was too tired to ride so I would go with him in the arena and just hang out with him. A day I’ll never forget is one of those days. Once we were in the arena, I decided to ditch my walker and just walk around.
From my first step, he was literally right behind me.
At one point, the uneven dirt tripped me up and I ended up on my butt. Sitting there laughing at myself, I looked up to see him above me looking down. I smiled, but then watch him disappear.
“Hey! Where are you going?”
Still sitting, I swung around to face the other way to see where he was going.
What I saw next is an image that is still burned into my brain.
I saw Concho, staring right back at me, standing right next to my walker. As if to say: “What the heck were you thinking? You need this.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes and started to laugh. He didn’t move, staring me down. I pulled up on the fence and got back to my wheels and my dude.
I listened to him and we finished out laps in my walker.
So, I started to think that he understood way more about me than he got credit for. But after another summer afternoon, I was completely convinced that this horse loved and understood me.
It convinced me that what the two of us have isn’t normal, but in the best way.
It was mid-afternoon at the barn and I was riding in the arena. Nobody else was around, because we had just finished an afternoon with a ton of kids and there was lots of clean up.
I don’t know what spooked him, but something did. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so when he jumped, I ate it.
I landed on my side and expected him to run off. But when I rolled to my back, I looked up and saw him above me. Breathing heavy, trying to regain himself.
I sat up and called for help because I didn’t know how I was going to get up. But the wind was knocked out of me from the fall, so I don’t think I yelled loud enough for anyone back in the barn to actually hear me.
Realizing that, I sighed. I was sore and had nothing to pull up on to stand – we fell in the middle of the arena and I didn’t want to crawl to the fence. It felt like it was a mile away. I wiped a combo of tears and dirt off of me and looked at Conch who, to my surprise, still hadn’t moved.
I remember telling him: “Bud, we’ve got to figure this one out.”
I pushed myself to stand on my knees and thought I could maybe somehow pull up on Concho. It’s almost like he read my mind, I swear. I remember kneeling in front of him and he lowered his head. I knee walked to the side of him and grabbed onto the girth. I then gently looped my other hand through the side of his bridle. I brought my right leg up and prepared to push up.
But all the sudden, pushing up became easier than it ever had been. I soon was on my feet and was really confused. I then realized that my fingers will still looped in his bridle.
Concho had pulled his head up to help lift me up to my feet.
I couldn’t believe it. Truly. First off, I had never had a horse not run off when I hit the ground and I know I had never had a horse help me up before.
I stood there, hugged his head and started crying. Because in that moment, I realized with him as my sidekick, I was in for the greatest adventure. No matter what, he has my back and he understands me in crazy ways.
When everyone at the barn soon came down to check on us and realized I wasn’t on his back, there was a little panic and confusion as to how I had gotten up to my feet.
I told them what happened and expected them to not believe me.
But they believed me and weren’t the least bit surprised.
Everyone knew already that Concho and I were literally the perfect pair.
This is my dude, Concho.
He’s my right-hand man, my #1 teammate, the biggest blessing in my life.
To anyone who knows someone or is themselves disabled and looking for an escape from their limitations: I encourage you to look into horseback.
It has brought me the greatest freedoms. And because of it, I have an 800 pound best friend.