Doctors at Johns Hopkins performed the
surgery that allowed Godoy to walk with
his heels as well as his toes touching the
ground, increasing his stability.
As Godoy prepares to ride, Del Boy is
nearby in a stall adjoining the dirt-floor
arena. A volunteer, Ellen Pearl, 77, who
lives in Gaithersburg, is cleaning, brushing and saddling the horse—preparing
him to join Godoy in the arena. Pearl, a
former stockbroker, has been riding and
loving horses since she was a small girl at
summer camp. She’s ridden horses with
fox hunters in Maryland and cowboys in
Wyoming. She’s galloped down a beach
in Ireland. Pearl can still recall the name
and personality quirks of every horse she
ever rode. Neither her love of horses nor
her confident knack for interacting with
them has dimmed with the decades.
Pearl identifies with Del Boy. ;ey are
filly and colt no more. Both have come
to Great and Small to walk its peaceful
paddocks, and to be useful.
When Pearl leads Del Boy into the
arena, the Connemara pony looks pris-
tine. As Del Boy prances past the open
double doors of the dim arena building he
is bathed in sunlight. His white, perfectly-
trimmed tail—fleetingly backlit—glows.
Godoy’s legs don’t have enough strength
and range of motion for him to safely step
up into one stirrup and hoist himself into
the saddle. So he stands waiting for Del Boy
on one of two raised mounting platforms
that are built out of plywood and spaced
just a few feet apart. Pearl leads Del Boy to
stand, perfectly still, between the two plat-
forms. Godoy’s therapeutic riding instruc-
tor helps him ease into the saddle as a sec-
ond helper, standing nearby on the other
platform, rests her hand on Godoy’s back
to steady him. Godoy takes the reins.
“Walk on, Del Boy,” he says.
Riders direct trained horses through a
combination of voice commands, moving
the reins in their hands—left or right, back-
ward or forward—and using their legs to
apply pressure to the sides of their mount.
Press your left leg into a horse’s left side
and the animal knows to turn right. Press
your right leg into a horse’s right side and
it knows to go left. Apply pressure to the
horse with both legs at once and the horse
knows to go forward or go faster.
After eight years of riding at Great and
Small, Godoy knows exactly what to do.
But his physical limitations sometimes
prevent him from giving his mount per-
fectly clear physical directions. Del Boy
is smart and intuitive. He has come to
know Godoy’s every shift in the saddle
and movement of the reins the way an
expert ballroom dancer reads the move-
ments of their regular partner.
“Del Boy is wonderful at this job,” Ne;
says. “He is both extremely tolerant and
at the same time expert at judging when
the rider is being purposeful with their
body. He will respond to someone who
is trying to give the right cues. He does
a really good job of deciding whether the
rider’s input was intentional.”
The riding instructor tells Pearl to
unclip the lead from Del Boy’s bridle. For
now, at least, Godoy and Del Boy trot
freely around the arena; Pearl jogs alongside them just in case she is needed. But
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