Thursday, March 26, 2009

The First of Many Crossroads

by Mary Paine

Hi Everybody,

The last time I posted I was in a mild (OK, maybe not so mild) panic over reaching the deadline on my current work in progress, a contemporary fantasy titled The Grimoire. I'm happy to report that despite a bout of positional vertigo, the manuscript is moving forward again. I have three new scenes completed and a rewrite of a chapter, but the pace still isn't fast enough. I'm hoping by the next post (assuming my vertigo is tapering off) I can claim at least three additional chapters completed. Keep your fingers crossed for me as the deadline to have the manuscript ready for the conference I'm attending is the third week in May!

I may be at a professional crossroads, but my daughter is at one as well. I'm hoping the members of our Equestrian Ink family will weigh in on this one. It's a problem shared by many people in the horse world. My daughter is now seven and completely horse crazy. She has firm plans to become a veterinarian and though many kids change career plans by the time they reach adulthood, in this case I believe she's serious. Her unwavering dedication to animals has sustained itself since she was a toddler. I bought her an enormous dollhouse and she named her toy horses 'The Doll House Friends' and they took over the house!

She's done very well at walk trot, but recently, although she still loves animals with all her heart, she's expressed an interest in new areas of sports. She wants to try softball, tae kwon doe, soccer, and cheerleading. What she hasn't yet figured out is that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. To let her try all the new areas she wants to explore she will have to take a break from riding.

I've had friends share several different opinions with me on this. Some say that it might be best to wait until she's older and stronger with more leg to advance in her riding anyway so this is the best time to explore other options. Some friends have questioned whether she's too young to begin jumping, although I've seen many children her age in short-stirrup cross rails classes through the years. The mom in me pictures her going head over heels, literally, so I'm leaning toward waiting on cantering and jumping, but I might be overprotective.

I know some parents continue their children riding every year, but limit the hours riding or the number of shows attended to make sure there is balance with other activities. I've talked with parents who have a different opinion on the matter. The say if horses is what the kids love, then the kids have to realize the hours involved and that they may need to forgo other activities.

Personally, I'm in a quandary on this one & hoping for some more of the good advice Equestrian Ink authors and readers have been gracious in sharing in the past.

Happy Riding, Everyone!



HorsesAndTurbos said...

My daughter (now 19) at her age tried soccer (ended up with the girls all swooshing their hair and seeing who had the kewlist jewelry/clothes/shoes. That was for one season (whew!). Cheerleading was older...and when my daughter found out the other kids were snots, she hated it. That lasted one season and part of the following year (that also included competitive cheer). Gymnastics was longest - a few years - but once she started growing and lost her center of gravity (and found out they didn't have much for middle-school aged kids), she was done with that. She also did track in high school two seasons. Hmmm...piano a year (which was too bad, both of my kids have the talent, not the ambition).

I think they need to try these sports, but I also think parents push the kids too hard and force them to go years doing something they find they are really not interested in. What's nice about her age group is that they have shorter practices/games/etc. Except for the kids of the coaches, most of the kids are there just for the experience.

Sadly at that time I did not have a horse, and she likes horses, but they are not a priority for her.


Gayle Carline said...

Altho it sounds harsh to put horses on hold, I think you should let her try a few other sports. When my son was 7, he played soccer, basketball, roller hockey, and guitar. The sports were each seasonal, thru the city rec department, and only met once a week. The guitar was also once a week, and we left nightly practice completely up to him.

At 16, my son now plays high school soccer, rec league basketball, and is planning to major in music at Cal State Long Beach (if he gets accepted).

It's okay, Mom. She'll find her passion.

mugwump said...

I'd let her go play. If it's on the horse, playing soccer or hiding in her room with her girlfriends, it doesn't matter, she's only seven.
My daughter grew up with horses because it was my job and I kept her with me.
But most of her time was spent just laying by the creek talking with her friends, playing in the woods or climbing the hay stack.It wasn't all about horses.
I made sure she played soccer, played in the band, ran track, whatever.
Right now she's playing her guitar and practicing her song for the "battle of the bands" at her high school.She tapered off her riding the last few years, but she went to a cutting clinic with me this week-end.It was great.
If horses are in her life forever they'll be there whether she skips some riding or not. It doesn't fade.

Unknown said...

I don't have kids, but I have taught many, many kids.

Correct me if I'm wrong, your daughter does not have her own pony, she has lessons?

In which case, I'd say, limit it to a lesson a week. Or a saturday afternoon / one evening at the barn. Something like that. There's a whole world out there, and it's good for kids to see that there are other options. It's easy to get buried in horses, and it can limit your social world, which I know from personal experience.

One tactic I know worked for a friend was to say:(Depending on budget, etc) You have three options for 'activities'. You can have any three, but only three. Pick the ones you want.

Re safety.
I'm happy for kids to start learning to canter / jump, but mostly in the context of doing fun stuff. So, mounted games, vaulting, cavaletti. I feel at her age, the learning should be more about osmosis, learning by doing, experimenting - there's time enough for serious lessons later.
I'd also encourage time spent out of the saddle - learning to enjoy being around horses without riding. I always allowed parents to show up early or stay late, so kidlet could learn to tack up / groom, or to help wash off. If your barn doesn't encourage that kind of thing...

As far as how you feel - go with your gut. If you're anxious, she may be too, which is never good. On the other hand, I had one parent who was a nail biting wreck, but her little girl became a JA showjumper. She used to cover her eyes for every fence. I asked her once why she did it, if it bothered her so much to see her kid ride, and she said: "I'm terrified, but (kids name) isn't. I'm not going to hold her back because I'm scared." Her mom being petrified didn't bother her at all.
Personal choice - gotta do what works for you both.

Mary Paine said...

Thanks, everyone for the wonderful advice. I feel much better about encouraging her to branch out and try some new things.

She did a Thursday evening trial class of Tae Kwon Doe and loved it. The only downside is teaching her not to practice on her 3 year old brothers!

I know her love for horses will never fade, but I'm excited about seeing her spread her wings. Off we go to new horizons! Maybe she'll wind up with a list of activities she loves!


Anonymous said...

Mary, I'm one of those who isn't a big fan of formal riding lessons for little kids. My son is eight, and can lope his horse--no problem. Of course, this is his own horse, and I trust the horse, so its a slightly different dynamic. But I allowed this to evolve. I did not teach my kid to lope his horse. I helped him as he taught himself. I had no schedule and no goals. We just rode together and his skills increased. When he was ready to get that lazy horse into the lope, he did. Like Janet's daughter, much of my son's happy life with horses is climbing the haystack and visiting with the horses in the barnyard. Since the horses live with us, this is easy. If I were you, and I wanted to further my daughter's interest, I'd try to lease an old gentle horse at your stable (and these days said lease might well just be the price of his feed and care). That way you could visit and just mess around with the horse and have fun.

But I would sure follow your daughter's lead. If she wants to try other things, support her as much as you can. My problem is the opposite. My little boy longs to be loping his horse, but Henry is recovering from colic surgery and can only be walked. My son has riden (and loped) my horse successfully, but I have to keep a much closer eye on that twosome. So, we're a little frustrated here. If my kid wanted to try some other event, though, I would support that completely.

Mary Paine said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks. My breath catches in my throat at the thought of my little girl doing more than a walk/trot right now so I'm going to take your advice and follow her lead into some other activities. If she still wants to ride after she gets involved with everything else and sees the time involved, an occasional lesson on a gentle old soul seems made to order.

Her new Tae Kwon Doe outfit arrived and she's so happy! She wanted to watch Kung Fu Panda while wearing it! She's sending me the message that she wants to branch out & I'm listening. She also told me she wants to go to the Jonas Brothers' Concert & I managed to get two tickets. My only fear now is that after an afternoon with thousands of screaming fans I might not be able to hear anything (grin), but I'll have a happy little girl!