Saturday, December 24, 2011

What a Kid with a Horse Learns About Life

This was up on Eventing Nation not too long ago, and I loved it so much I wanted to share it here. It is how my Dad felt about getting me a horse as a kid, and why he started in on me about making sure our daughter had a horse (he started in on me when she was a baby).

If there are any parents out there contemplating buying a horse for your kid(s), then read this.

Happy Holidays!


A Father's Explanation of Why He Had Horses for His Children

My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future.

As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined woman she would soon be. I started thinking about some of the girls we knew in our town who were already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no-where, seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem.

The parents of these same girls have asked me why I "waste" the money on horses so my daughter can ride. I'm told she will grow out of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try to pin the current generation's "slacker" label on my child. I don't think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her life.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has compassion. She knows that we must take special care of the very young and the very old. We must make sure those without voices to speak of their pain are still cared for.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned responsibility for others than herself. She learned that regardless of the weather you must still care for those you have the stewardship of. There are no "days off" just because you don't feel like being a horse owner that day. She learned that for every hour of fun you have there are days of hard slogging work you must do first.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned not to be afraid of getting dirty and that appearances don't matter to most of the breathing things in the world we live in. Horses do not care about designer clothes, jewelry, pretty hairdos or anything else we put on our bodies to try to impress others. What a horse cares about are your abilities to work within his natural world, he doesn't care if you're wearing $80.00 jeans while you do it. -

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned about sex and how it can both enrich and complicate lives. She learned that it only takes one time to produce a baby, and the only way to ensure babies aren't produced is not to breed. She learned how babies are planned, made, born and, sadly, sometimes die before reaching their potential. She learned how sleepless nights and trying to out-smart a crafty old broodmare could result in getting to see, as non-horse owning people rarely do, the birth of a true miracle.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she understands the value of money. Every dollar can be translated into bales of hay, bags of feed or farrier visits. Purchasing non-necessities during lean times can mean the difference between feed and good care, or neglect and starvation. She has learned to judge the level of her care against the care she sees provided by others and to make sure her standards never lower, and only increase as her knowledge grows.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to learn on her own. She has had teachers that cannot speak, nor write, nor communicate beyond body language and reactions. She has had to learn to "read" her surroundings for both safe and unsafe objects, to look for hazards where others might only see a pretty meadow. She has learned to judge people as she judges horses. She looks beyond appearances and trappings to see what is within.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned sportsmanship to a high degree. Everyone that competes fairly is a winner. Trophies and ribbons may prove someone a winner, but they do not prove someone is a horseman. She has also learned that some people will do anything to win, regard- less of who it hurts. She knows that those who will cheat in the show ring will also cheat in every other aspect of their life and are not to be trusted.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has self-esteem and an engaging personality. She can talk to anyone she meets with confidence, because she has to express herself to her horse with more than words. She knows the satisfaction of controlling and teaching a 1000 pound animal that will yield willingly to her gentle touch and ignore the more forceful and inept handling of those stronger than she is. She holds herself with poise and professionalism in the company of those far older than herself.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to plan ahead. She knows that choices made today can effect what happens five years down the road. She knows that you cannot care for and protect your investments without savings to fall back on. She knows the value of land and buildings. And that caring for your vehicle can mean the difference between easy travel or being stranded on the side of the road with a four horse trailer on a hot day. When I look at what she has learned and what it will help her become, I can honestly say that I haven't "wasted" a penny on providing her with horses. I only wish that all children had the same opportunities to learn these lessons from horses before setting out on the road to adulthood.


TBDancer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Crum said...

Merry Xmas, Michele! I love this piece, too. I would add one thing. A child with a horse needs adequate supervision by an experienced horseman. The downside of not doing this can be huge. My cousins and I were left pretty much unsupervised with the ranch horses when we were young teenagers, and we simply did not know enough for this responsibility. We kids did not get badly hurt (though that sure could have happened, and would have been a horrible tragedy), but some good horses did. We knocked a hip down on one of the nicest horses I ever knew by letting him charge out through a narrow gate. We had no idea of the risk. My cousin overfed another good horse and he died of colic. This could have been prevented if we were supervised by an experienced person and taught well--as it was, by the time I was eighteen I'd learned enough to be competent with horses. But at a sad cost.

My son has a horse and has learned a lot. But my eleven year old child is not this horse's caregiver--I am. I would like to spare every child the grief I still feel when I think of those poor horses we harmed because of our well meaning ignorance. I wish so much that we had been taught well and carefully supervised and those wrecks did not happen. So, please, parents who get your child a horse, be sure to take responsibility yourself that the child is supported by a competent person in an adequate way. Its really important.

TBDancer said...

Sorry for deleting the post. I need to learn to edit before I post anything ;o)

My comment was, I too had read this before and am glad you posted it again. It is all the importance of learning life lessons before we are too old to appreciate them.

Merry Christmas!

A.K. Alexander said...

I agree,Laura, responsible horse ownership and care giving needs to be taught by a responsible parent. :)

Redneck Geologist said...

Another thing that I feel that I learned was body language. As horsepeople, we watch body languate, whether we are aware of it or not. This transfers to our dealings with human. People say that I am a good judge of character but I say I just can read body language. What do you think? Do you feel the same way?

Laura Crum said...

RG--Yes, I do feel that I read body language better than most folks, and I attribute it to all the time I've spent with animals. I can tell with both people and animals what the underlying feelings are pretty quickly, in real life, anyway. But...(see my post "Virtual Horse Friends" and the previous one "Is This a Good Thing") this is one skill that the internet renders invalid. So in the very medium we are currently using to discuss our ability to "read" people and animals, the skill is of no use. Ironic, no?

I do agree that the ability to read body language and very subtle non-verbal signals is one of the greatest gifts that horses, and all animals, can give us.

Alison said...

Sorry to add a not-so-positive spin, but two girls in our rural neighborhood grew up with horses, and neither turned out well. Both rebelled and went off the deep end despite their parents putting forth much effort into their interest in horses. I doubt it had anything to do with horses, but it did seem to backfire. Now one family has a beautiful barn and ring that cost mucho bucks and it was used for about two years. My daughter was not interested in horses (despite my love) but soccer kept her attention. It just depends on the child.
I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.

Redneck Geologist said...

So true about the internet, Laura. And you are right, Alison, some kids will just rebel no matter what you do.

Laura Crum said...

I'd like to add that (in my parent's view, anyway), I was a very rebellious teenager. But...horses did save me from the worst excesses. I'm not sure my parents ever understood, but I turned to horses rather than drugs and promiscuity to get me through the hard times, and horses were always my fall back when things got rough. Thus my rebellion amounted to a little beer at high school parties and an unwillingness to focus on good grades. Without the comfort and direction I took from horses, I know it would have been very different.