Bradbury House, at The Meath
Isobel at home with her friends Ella & Amy
Out and about with her housemates in Godalming
Isobel & Fahye Lady
Riding with New Yatt RDA
Hooray for Hickstead!
Isobel has lived at Bradbury House since it first opened 6 years ago. The exciting, state of the art new build home had just opened, and new residents were arriving.
I was struck by how at ease and settled many of the new residents appeared to be in their shiny new home. I soon discovered that, like many of her close peers at Bradbury House, Isobel had moved from Young Epilepsy to The Meath for her adult placement. Isobel and many of her peers at Bradbury House had grown up together, lived together and learnt how to support each other. Living with complex epilepsy and disabilities had made for some extremely close and lifelong friendships. She told me “I have some really good friends at Bradbury House, we enjoy things like movie nights and playing games together.”
Over the past six years, it has been clear to see that Isobel has cemented herself into the very heart of The Meath community, she is an active participant in Meath life and takes up the wide and varied opportunities provided by The Meath. Sybella Wilson, Head of Occupational Therapy supported Isobel to meet with me and explain how she feels The Meath supports her to achieve her own goals in life.
Sybella works closely to support Isobel and has noticed that she tries hard not to let her epilepsy get in the way of her enjoyment of life. “Isobel’s epilepsy affects her mostly at night but sometimes she has cluster activity, unfortunately it can take up to a couple of weeks for Isobel to fully recover. Therefore, understandably she can find life difficult at this time. However, once she has rested and has recovered, she is active and busy. Issy would agree that sometimes her anxiety levels can increase, and she finds this hard, she has learnt a number of ways to deal with this and works hard to overcome this.”
Isobel’s anxiety seemed to be one of the key things that she needs to work on and manage on an ongoing basis. I wondered what Isobel did to best manage her anxiety. Keen to share her story with me but also anxious about the prospect she began the interview by enthusiastically bursting out “I think I should just tell you about my horse riding now!”
It seemed that my question had been answered. I knew that horse riding featured heavily in Isobel’s life but had not appreciated that her riding and time spent with horses was so integral to her wellbeing and ability to reduce and manage her anxiety. She told me “I love all animals but horses and dogs especially.”
Sybella mentioned that recently Isobel has been fascinated by the Tokyo Olympics and was closely following the UK Horse riding team who achieved a gold medal. Rider Benjamin Maher MBE and horse ‘Explosion’ particularly impressed her, as she admires what she describes as “the very close and special relationship between rider and horse that they achieved. That’s what I get when I ride. Bonding with your horse is important. I really like the fact that I can bond with horses. The more you build a connection the more the horse trusts you.”
Not having any experience of horse riding myself, I was struck by both Isobel’s assertion and her poignant ability to pinpoint and articulate why horse riding is so important and beneficial to her. I was also impressed by her self-awareness, clearly, she appreciates that she poses a particular flair and talent for bonding with horses as well as riding and quite rightly, she gains a sense on achievement and pride from this.
Isobel explained that horses are old friends to her and have been an important feature in her life for many years. “I grew up in Oxfordshire and I went to some nearby stables where I’d ride a variety of different horses, I’d get given a different one every week. It really got me into horses. All horses are special, but my favourite ever was ‘Fahye Lady’, she was a Connemara pony.”
Isobel then progressed with her local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group where she had her first taste of competitions. She went on to win the New Yatt RDA Cup for Dressage. Once at Young Epilepsy Isobel continued her horse riding and since moving to The Meath she has been supported to attend RDA at Cranleigh. Regular RDA sessions are hugely important to Isobel and she was proud to reveal that she went to Hickstead with Cranleigh RDA, supported by The Meath and won 1st Prize in her Dressage competition. While Isobel and her horses have made some great achievements in competitions and boast some lovely rosettes, her drive seems to come, first and foremost, from her deep love of horses and considerable ability to bond with them.
As with so many of the people we support, I was impressed by Isobel’s determination to achieve the things she wanted to in life but I couldn’t help but be aware of some of the obvious barriers that Isobel must have to contend with, as a rider who has epilepsy. It occurred to me that the level of trust she is able to gain from her horse, must be mirrored in her. All horse riders will find this mutual trust important, but surely trusting your horse when you experience seizures must be very hard to achieve. I put this to Isobel and she very proudly told me, “I once had a seizure on a horse named Pollyanna and because we were so close, she knew what to do. She stood still and her ears went up just before I had a seizure. The RDA assistant came over to help.”
Isobel also enjoys other pursuits and takes part in other regular Skills Centre activities and sessions with other external providers, such as Art House Unlimited. Her sessions at Art House often indulge her passion for dogs and she is proud to have created a popular dog design which is featured on their giftware. Another highlight of her busy week is singing with The Meath Choir. The Meath Choir has been running for four years and is one of the many activities led by ‘Backstage’, The Meath Skill Centre’s creative and expressive art group. Isobel explained that she loves singing because “it’s a great way to express emotions.”
Struck by Isobel’s self-awareness, Sybella commented to Isobel that she was really pleased that Isobel had been able to recognise and articulate how singing enabled her to feel and express emotions. Sybella explained that “often verbalising expression is challenging for Isobel”.
Whether bonding with horses through riding, creating art works or singing in the choir, Isobel is able to use her sessions to express herself and make better sense of her emotions than she can often achieve through dialogue. Hearing Isobel’s thoughts on the positive impact of our day services, combined with the dedicated work of our residential services and healthcare team, left me with a huge sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction in knowing that every day matters. Every day at The Meath, the people we support really do benefit from the broad range of personalised holistic services on offer. Pleasingly for Isobel, The Meath recently had a visit from a PAT Dog, taking instantly to visiting PAT Dog Dave she exclaimed “I really want dog therapy!”. Many of the people we support at The Meath love animals and Isobel will be thrilled to hear that Dave will be joining us in the future for regular visits!