I find disability an interesting challenge as a horse drawn vehicle designer. But I find ponies, mules, horses and donkeys interesting for the same reason, if you don’t design to fit what’s there, your designs won’t work.

As I get older, my interest in disability gets progressively more selfish, my back is decidedly iffy, knees were not one of the “great designers” strong points, and mine are particularly poor examples of the genre. I won’t bore you with a full list of joints and their failings, but like my school reports, “could do better” features heavily.

Disability is like Art, everyone has an opinion, nobody can really define what it is, and there is an awful lot of bullshit talked about the subject. I am going to add my little heap.

The obvious sign of disability is a wheelchair, but friends in wheelchairs can do things, and travel at speeds, that on my legs, I can’t begin to match. And deafness, one of the nastier disabilities, gets no wheelchair. The wheelchair can be a useful signal, “I can’t walk” while the deaf person appears stupid, and frequently relapses into a self imposed prison. An old fashioned speaking trumpet might be as effective as some hearing aids, regardless of any improvement it might or might not make to the sound quality, by making people aware of the problem, and maybe encouraging them to think about deafness.

So a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle only targets a tiny proportion of the disabled, and does nothing for the deaf, or the blind, or for mental health issues, or for epilepsy.

More complex issues involve Autism, clearly labelled as a disability, but try telling Temple Grandin she is disabled. Try telling me she has a mental health issue! I consider her work with animal behaviour to be among the most significant in the 21st Century, and 20th century, (see calendar for the meaning of these terms). Time magazine lists her in the 100 most significant people.

And a number of people claim that my rejection of Equestrian tradition, what I call Thinking Outside the Horsebox, is proof of, to put it mildly, mental instability. If enough people tell you something, you tend to suspect there may be a grain of truth, but this does not mean there IS a grain of truth.

Endless people tell me that whips are necessary with horses, ponies, donkeys, mules etc. I have driven a pony from Brecon to Birmingham, and again from Exeter to London, and round Hyde Park, solo, from a wheelchair, to PROVE that a whip is NOT BLOODY NECESSARY.

My incessant banging on about whips may be proof of insanity, but that doesn’t make whips necessary. It just shows my form of insanity is a desire to stop people carrying whips which I have PROVED are unnecessary. And the Equestrian Establishment suffer from a different form of insanity, the belief that they need whips, which is sad, and that they have a duty to force people to carry whips, which is perverse.

Is the Equestrian Establishment obsession with whips a mental health issue?

When I was accused of having mental health issues, I went to see a shrink. Being me, I went to see an old friend and drinking buddy who has written more than enough books on mental health to be considered an authority on the subject, and who has known me for 20 plus years.

Since he knew my alcohol intake, by most standards excessive, I gave up the Demon Drink a couple of months before meeting him. This cut out the easy option of suggesting I was pissed as usual, and after a couple of hours he suggested that although I wasn’t by any standards “nuts” or with any named and treatable condition, I did have the problem that puts more people in mental hospital than any other, I disagree with the Establishment.

He also suggested that if I even thought of going to the law on the issue, I would be better off to go down to the Off Licence and get the necessary supplies to drink myself to death, on the grounds it would be cheaper, kinder and just as effective.

What I find weirdest about giving up alcohol, is the degree to which it worries people. Fighting the Establishment is one thing, doing it cold sober, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no illegal or legal drugs. This is a complete non subject and scares all those who knew me as a drinker, probably more than any other factor.

So I will continue, in my own mad way to work on disability issues. Where I am unusual, is that the Bannedwaggon is built backwards, it is a wheelchair enabled vehicle to start with. You can remove the wheelchair and turn it into something else, for many disabilities, a wheelchair in the vehicle will be massively limiting, and a total pain in the neck. So don’t use the wheelchair, add a bucket seat, or use the dinghy hull option, or the replica kneeler Norton option, or whatever takes your fancy, but the Bannedwaggon takes wheelchairs, the deaf, the blind, autistics, drunks, ex drunks, drug addicts and anybody who isn’t carrying a bloody whip.

Yes I do discriminate, against those who would use a whip on an animal. I have done it for years. If I can give up, so can you. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to give up alcohol, or your drug of choice, just no whips, bits, spurs, blinkers, cruppers, horseshoes, foxhunting, bearing reins…….

Good God. I am clearly mad and think am Anna Sewell, who was disabled, and wrote Black Beauty and who hated whips and bits and horseshoes and bearing reins, and foxhunting.

Funny how everyone remembers Black Beauty, and nobody remembers the things that Anna Sewell fought for. She was right, but what relevance is that?


One Response to Disability

  1. PiePony says:

    Flippantly I understand from this classic article why you are on the wagon rather than the chariot. Very brave, very honest, very humbling to me as a reader.
    I am also committed to barefoot, bitless, whipless, spurless in all things equine.
    Susie xx

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