This reflection about the RDA is less about what I do lesson by lesson and more about the deeper implications behind working at RDA and what it means not only for me, but also for the riders that we work with. This reflection is about the global value and the ethical implications that I face while working in this service, and how it impacts me.
LO 6 GLOBAL VALUE (Engaging with issues of global importance)
The largest global issue of working at Riding for the Disabled Association Singapore is working with groups that are outside of the “normal” sphere of society. In current society, there are a lot of issues with Ableism and the way that disabled people don’t have the same opportunities that able-bodied people have. This also means that there isn’t a big connection between the two groups in society, and the groups don’t get the opportunity to interact with one another and work together. As society changes and improves, we’re finding more and more people that face different sorts of disabilities and we’re working to be more open and supportive. Doing this indirectly though is much different from directly working with a group, and that really tests how principled you can be. You have to be able to go from saying “I don’t have that discrimination” to actually displaying that you don’t have that discrimination. So far, I’ve learned a little more about down syndrome (which is the disability that my rider has) but also about cerebral palsy (the disability of another rider I worked with). I know the scientific background of down syndrome, but it’s difficult to actually compare the diagrams in science to a real person. I’ve learned more about how to work with mental disabilities versus physical disabilities, and different ways of interacting depending on what is needed. I think us working with the riders helps them as well. I think that we both don’t know much about each other. I don’t know what they do in their day to day life, I don’t really know what they go through, or what their family goes through. Riding may be the best part of their week, as it was for me, and I hope to help them through. Last week, when I was waiting with my rider for our turn to mount our horse, the rider before us went to mount their horse, and they had the largest smile on their face. I hadn’t ever seen that from this particular rider and it was really heartwarming.
I think that we’ve been taught very little about disabilities. I think that people with disabilities are labelled by their disabilities and not by who they are, and that we can’t see past that. I feel that we’ve been taught to classify them in a different category because they are not as able-bodied/minded as we consider ourselves to be. I’m hoping that participating in this activity forces me to change whatever prejudices are internalized into my mindset and behavior. I’m hoping that I actually act as an openminded person instead of just wanting or thinking that I am one. I’m hoping to learn more about disabilities so that it isn’t a foreign topic and that it’s a comfortable idea to work with.
LO 7 ETHICS (Considering the ethical implications of actions)
The largest ethical issue that I face in RDA is the issue of safety, which can split into a few different subsets. The primary subset is the physical safety of the rider. As a side walker, you are responsible for supporting the rider and keeping up with the horse so that the rider doesn’t fall to either side. This puts an enormous responsibility of safety directly into your hands, linked with your actions. You need to make sure that the rider is steady and that to the best of your ability, there are no falls or accidents. Additionally, you have to make sure that you’re aware of the rider and the horse at all times, and do your best to tailor yourself to each rider. Some riders need more support than others, and some riders want to do things alone. The biggest question for me is how much support do I give? I really worry about the strength and capabilities of myself and my rider, and I’m scared that they could get injured if I overestimate the amount of help they
One of the sessions when I was working with a rider with cerebral palsy, I was extremely hesitant to let go. The instructor kept telling me to only support their ankle instead of their ankle and back and I was very conflicted over this. I wanted to listen to the instructor, as they would obviously know best, but I didn’t want to let go because I thought he would be more likely to fall. Although I did in the end listen to the instructor, I still felt nervous for a period of time after changing my positioning. It was a battle between what would be good for the rider and what I feared could happen.
The second subset is the safety of the rider outside of RDA. We keep information about the rider and their personal details in the RDA facility, and we also do not talk about the riders and their disabilities outside of the people working in our service group. It’s why we blur the photos that we take and is also why, as a personal choice, I do not use pronouns or names, instead say they/their when talking about a rider.