Horse Crazy Kids: A Parental Guide
So your child is head over heels. You thought you had time before something like this happened. You figure you can hold off the infatuation until he or she hits puberty, when the distractions of movies, music, and fashion kick in. On top of that, you know nothing about horses. Every time the subject comes up, you have a steady stream of quotes that rapid-fire out of your mouth.
“We don’t need another mouth to feed.”
“We can’t afford it.”
“This is just a phase.”
While the first two quotes can be true, the last one isn’t always what happens. I’m living proof that not all children grow out of their horse crazy stage. I know what you’re thinking because I had the same conversations with my parents when I was young.
Look on the bright side. If your child loves horses, this is your chance to use it to your advantage.
Passion & Compassion
Your child finding his or her passion early is a gift. This helps them create their identity. Horses are an expensive hobby, but as a passion, they are incredible, door-opening treasures that can bring an entire family together and teach lessons that have nothing to do with riding.
Horses can foster the greatest lessons in compassion and empathy for children. Your child will learn that every living thing is connected – after all, horses need food, shelter, and love, too. These lessons are hard to learn, and discovering differences while still caring for someone or something else is a fantastic positive point for relationships between horses and children.
Responsibility & Education
Feeding. Grooming. Mucking the stall. Cleaning tack. Riding. Routine veterinarian and farrier care…
Chores around the house are one thing, but it takes on a new element when it’s something you have to do in order to love (or take care of) something. Responsibility for a living thing is something all children can take pride in. It’s not just keeping something alive; taking care of something and seeing results is an easy way for them to correlate action with results.
Did you know your child could get a college scholarship for riding horses? Horse scholarships are everywhere, through breed registries or through the universities’ athletics programs. I was a student athlete at Georgia Southern University because I rode horses. My friend went to college to study equine management and is currently working for a top Thoroughbred racehorse trainer in California, Doug O’Neill (big congratulations to Jack Sisterson, who just took a job as the legendary Calumet Farm’s private trainer at Keeneland). I have several friends who are successful horse farm owners, trainers, and riders. You can see some of them for yourself on the links page of this site.
Horses are big responsibilities. They aren’t cheap. Your child needs to be certain that this is his or her true passion, and that he or she won’t give this up after you’ve paid everything for lessons and attire.
To foster this love, think outside of the box. If your child wants lessons, see if a nearby barn can work out a deal for your child to work for those lessons. You’d be surprised how often they do this, and they’re usually happy to help foster the next generation of riders and owners. If you can afford the lessons but don’t have a horse, see if the barn has a horse for lease.
If you’re nowhere near a barn, don’t worry. You can still attend horse shows near you. Most of them are free. A quick Facebook event search will let you know if there are any, or you can check your state’s breed registries sites, like the Georgia Arabian Horse Association.
At the end of the day, being outside and at the stables is still better than being inside in front of a computer, television, or tablet.
My oldest daughter riding her first pony at Hillside Farms in Greenville, SC.