I have always been animal crazy. We have always had dogs and cats — even a few hamsters and once I was the caretaker of my 5th grade’s two rats.
But the moment I was introduced to horses, something stirred inside me and there was no turning back.
I rode in hot weather and freezing cold. I rode old horses and young. I even rode troubled horses and took a few beatings (but that is a subject for another day) .
I shoveled endless amounts of poop, loaded the loft with hay on the hottest days of the year, dragged water buckets from the house to a barn that had no water and got up before dawn to get to horse shows – all while I was a child. And I still do it to this very day.
Many have asked why – why continue with the labor and expense of such a sport? ‘Wouldn’t it be easier to not have horses?’ some suggest, and my favorite line, “Think of all the money you would have if you didn’t have horses!”
Of course, they are correct. It would be easier to have no horses and I would have more money if I didn’t choose this sport. The only way to explain it is to suggest, I didn’t choose the sport — IT chose me.
As a child, I skated, swam, did gymnastics and team sports. Nothing appealed to me until I found riding.
It is an exhilarating feeling to climb atop one of these incredible animals and gallop across the countryside or soar through the air over a perfect jump. It is perhaps the closest a human can actually feel to flying. To bury your face in the soft, sweet-smelling fur of a horse or hear the welcoming nicker as you enter the barn, is so rewarding, that all the hard work and expense simply pales in comparison. Perhaps the only people who can truly understand this, are other horse people.
Now, as a coach, I introduce others to the fascinating world of horses. And it is apparent, that a select few are, like me, horse crazy. They eat, sleep and dream all things ‘horsey.’ If every school project and book report has the same subject – that could be a sign. If your child has model horses with a barn made out of cardboard, and a jar full of coins labeled ‘dream horse,’ then it is almost a certainty. You have a horse crazy kid on your hands.
If this is the case, my advice to you is, don’t fight it. It won’t go away with denial or disapproval. Instead, nurture their love for horses. Take them for pony rides and if they are old enough, trail rides. If your budget allows it, sign them up for riding lessons at a reputable stable. Allow your horse crazy child to grow their passion for horses and develop their skills as a rider. The bond between these kids and a horse is a powerful, positive force that will see them through the challenges of adolescence and support them through the struggles of the teenage years.
Today’s youth are battling bigger obstacles than ever before, from obesity and apathy to addiction and pregnancy. A sport that combines the responsibility of an animal, with the discipline, exercise and effort of riding, may be just what the world needs!