The Reins

When I was a little girl, I used to dream of having my own horse. I wanted to go on trail rides, I wanted to jump and gallop. I wanted to brush my horse, feed it and yes…even clean out its stall.

My parents were hesitant about my adament pestering for horse riding lessons. Horse riding takes a notable amount of leg strength. They worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. They worried that it would cause more issues. Plus, it’s an expensive hobby that none of my sisters’ got to do.

I did have a few friends who had horses and experience with them. My friend Paige had a birthday party at a stable once, and we all got to ride the horses around the stadium. It was so much fun. I remember meeting a gorgeous white horse with a gray tail and mane. She felt like velvet under my fingers. My other friend Erin let me ride her horse too. Both times, someone held the reins.



I used to think, when I have kids…I won’t bubble them. I’ll do everything I can to make sure they at least get to try out their dreams. I’ll do everything I can to make sure that they stick to it if they love it.

Now that I’m a mom of two beautiful little boys who both have the same chronic pain bone disorder I have
…I can see how complicated those wishes are. I can see how and why my parents would want to shelter me from anything that may bring me extra pain. I was already in so much of it. Watching your child be in pain is not easy. You can’t do anything about it. You can’t take it away, you can’t make the medicine work any quicker.

I still vowed that I would let them try. I wouldn’t decide something was too dangerous, too much, without first letting them see for themselves. I worry that enrolling Nolan and Archer in sports will bring more bad pain days, bad pain days that break my heart, but at least they’ll get to do them. Some kids never even get that…and the few memories I have of riding horses even with someone else holding the reins are so precious to me.

It’s difficult, raising children with disabilities. On the one hand…you want to protect them from anything that could hurt them [more]. You’re the parent, you have to decide what’s too dangerous or risky. On the other hand…you don’t want to clip their wings. You don’t want to tell them that they can’t do something when maybe they can. Maybe they’ll enjoy it so much, the extra pain won’t matter.


About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
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10 Responses to The Reins

  1. I think it’s hard for any parent to let go and let their child pursue their own interests. Anything can happen. They could get hurt, physically or emotionally. They might not be good at it. They might get discouraged. Throw in a pain disorder, and it’s even scarier. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through all of this, Jess. I think you’re a great mom, though, and you’re right that those memories are some of the most precious. Letting go is a big part of teaching your boys to be strong. Following in your lead, they’ll learn how to be just as strong as their mom is.

  2. Powerful. I think it’s a balance. You want your kids to be able to experience life but you also want to be able to protect them. I love the analogy of reins though.

  3. Belinda Webb says:

    Hi Jess what sunk into me as I read through your blog wasn’t any moaning and groaning or self pitty about your disability, but your experience of riding a horse and how wonderful and free it felt even though someone else was holding the reins. Memories are what living and life are all about and I bet at that moment in time you had completely forgotten the constant reminder of the pain you suffered. I had a riding accident although I wasn’t actually on my young colt at that time! He had got caught up in some tape which made him panic taking off around our ménage, the problem was my son was also caught up in this tape and I knew if I didn’t get Rhomeo to put the brakes on he would have eventually been dragged around the ménage/arena. So I did what any parent would do I blocked Rhomeos path thinking he’ll put the brakes on leaving enough time for my son Ben to riggle free. No such luck Rhomeo jumped over me, however being a 4 year old warmblood full of muscle I got sucked up and as he passed over I fell to the ground doing quite serious damage to my spine. I was very depressed after that UNTIL I received a phone call from a disabled riding club that without me knowing my occupational therapist had contacted to see if I would like to ride. At the end of our conversation the lady on the phone said to me “you sound like a completely different person than the one I was speaking to at the start of this conversation!” yes she was right and I have never looked back. Riding has actually strengthened my core muscles and whilst I am riding I forget about my pain. The greatest outcome of all is that I am now holding wonderful memories in time and place that all the pain killers in the world could never achieve. Being a mother of six yes I worry, but I would give them the reins and have them enjoy themselves. Every parent worries even if their children are free from disabilities and pain of what maybe. I have just lost my dad and I have never felt clearer about how fragile life is and like the reins you have to grasp it in both hands and go for it. I sense you are a good parent and your two boys are sensible enough to know when to stop! I bet how ever by standing back a little and trusting in them they will have great fun, be thinking of something other than pain and they will when to stop or do a little less. No child although with good intent should be bubble wrapped and feel suffocated. Just like you let them have their memories to be able to look back on. All the best. Belinda x

    • Jess says:

      Thank you Belinda! You are so right. I am sorry for the loss of your dad.

      I definitely want to look into therapeutic riding for the boys and I…couldn’t hurt, right?

      • Belinda Webb says:

        Jess, Thank you it has been a very sad time. Please do so your children will thank you for it and especially riding it improves their core muscles. I was in hospital for 6 months and it was the hospital OT that recommended me to the disabled riding school as the knew it would benefit both physically and mentally and personally the best medicine I received. Contact you OT and get them to recommend them. They also give a well reduced fee and in some cases can be completely free. I am sure there are many schools around strictly for the disabled the staff although qualified are usually volunteers and they are well required for the disabled. Let me know how you get on or contact me if you require any further help my email is Belinda x

      • Belinda Webb says:

        “”I definitely want to look into therapeutic riding for the boys and I…couldn’t hurt, right? “”
        Hi Jess, what you say above sounds like your in conflict with yourself, and I can tell you you want to one one side yet the other part of you is weary and affriad!!. If your boys really want to do this and are keeping on about then you know well that’s there dream and you must let them follow it. If they are not bothered let them find a sport in which they will love and let them do their very best at their pace. The same applies with horses, if they love it let them wade on in. It will give them so much external confidence, especially as more boys that girls are affriad of horses. The good thing about horses, they sense people very quickly and most horses will go out of its way to keep a rider in a saddle believe it or not. I had bought a horse of 17hand 2″ and he used to spook ,napp, a real nut case so I to him back to basics let him know there are humans outs here that can be kind decent and gental. Well my son looked after him every day by talking to him not trying to get on his back etc…. He just wanted to show him he loved him and reassure him “no one gets a beating from where we come from! So time goes by and eventually my son say can we try to ride him again? Of course I said thinking to my self well he either going to be off in free seconds flat or these two have made a bond. Did I worry of course as my son hand only had two lessons up to a trot, and before anyone could say a word this horse did everything in his power to keep him mounted. So I whole heartedly say to you if riding IS what your boys long for give then all the encourage you can as you won’t be the only one looking after them trust me !!xx

      • Jess says:

        Well they are only 5 and 2 so they are coming into their own interests 🙂 they do love to look at and watch horses, this summer we will be visiting family with horses and we will see if they want to ride. My goal is to never force them into anything but to allow the option, so if they enjoy riding and want to I will pursue it for sure. I am also looking into it for myself, as I would LOVE to and my core muscles definitely need strengthening 🙂

      • Belinda Webb says:

        Jess like the old saying goes you can lead a horse to water but you cant make them drink. It’s just one example let them try all things. I was lucky I think I was on a pony before I could walk, but there are so many things to try. One thing I guarenttee is the whilst they enjoy themselves the pain will just fail into the back ground you wait and see x

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