All that for just a horse?
One of the first things people say to me when I tell them I have a horse is “Wow, you have a horse! Isn’t that really expensive?” Well, the answer, as we all know, is YES! It is flipping expensive to own a horse and ‘non-horsey’ people look at me like I’m crazy when they realise the extent of the commitment, not only cost-wise but also in time. My husband knows how much my horse means to me, although he can’t quite understand it, and he still looks at me in alarm when I suggest that I would like to buy a pony for our children to learn to ride on!
So why do we do it? Horses mean early mornings, late evenings, costly bills from all directions, missed time with family and friends, messy homes, unfinished DIY projects and all sorts of other seemingly negative impacts on our lives. For me, the positives of owning a horse far outweigh any negatives. It’s like a drug, once horses are in your blood, it’s impossible to shake them!
For me personally, there’s this unexplainable need to be with these animals that I love. I’ve been obsessed with horses since I was tiny and asked for a pony every single birthday and Christmas without fail as a child, much to my ‘non-horsey’ parents’ exasperation! I was the kid who would excitedly shout “look horses” at the top of my voice as we drove past a field of equines. My poor parents finally gave in and let me start riding lessons when I was 7 years old, probably hoping that I would outgrow my obsession. Unfortunately for them, I’ve never looked back!
However, I think that both my parents would agree that horses have brought such positivity to my life and have taught me so much. My Mum especially, absolutely loves the horses and was always there to support me at shows and events. She used to go to the field to hay and feed them in the winter whilst I was at school and traipsed all over the place to watch me ride.
So, to all those parents out there with pony-mad children – here is our little round-up of the benefits of letting horses into your lives in terms of the experiences they can provide and the things they can teach your little ones!
Fun & Fitness – Firstly, the whole point of a hobby is that it’s fun and enjoyable! Otherwise, what’s the point? Horses are a source of endless fun, from galloping on the beach to relaxing hacks through the countryside to Pony Club camp to shows and competitions, there is an aspect of the equestrian world for everyone to embrace and enjoy. Also, it is a great way for your child to socialise, to get outdoors, get active and keep fit. Riding is a great all over body workout, as is much of the horse care and stable management.
Dedication & Determination – Learning to ride is not always easy and can be frustrating at times. If you want to be a successful rider, you need to learn to grit your teeth and make it through any difficulties in order to move up to the next level. Even if it’s something as simple as learning to rise to the trot or cantering in the school independently, your child will need to persevere, put the practice time in and listen to their instructor if they are going to progress. Riding isn’t something that you just pick up and do one day, it takes years of practice and there is always something new to learn. Riding teaches children that if they put the required time and effort in, they will reap the rewards. It teaches them to stick at it and to focus on their goals.
Responsibility – Caring for a horse is a big responsibility. These trusting creatures rely on their human carers to ensure they are fed and watered, that they receive appropriate mental and physical stimulation, that they see a farrier regularly and a vet when necessary. There is a lot to learn about horse care and stable management and it’s so satisfying to know that your horse looks and feels well because you have cared for them in the best way. If you can teach a child to put another’s needs before their own and to think about their horse’s well being at all times, it stands them in good stead for their future life.
Confidence – Horses are big and they have minds of their own. You have to be confident when handling them or they will walk all over you. The confidence a child can gain from being able to control such a large creature, both in and out of the saddle, is immeasurable and is a fantastic life lesson.
Patience & Calmness – It is said that all good things come to those who wait, and never is that saying more true than when it is applied to horses. Training a good rider takes a long time and you have to put the time in to ensure your riding improves. Similarly, training a horse is a lengthy process, but is so satisfying when you can see results starting to happen. If you lose your patience and rush, you will often need to go back a step to rebuild confidence. You have to be very calm when spending time around horses. In the wild, they are prey animals and so are easily frightened. They respond well to quiet, calm handling and spending time with them teaches you to keep a cool, practical head at all times.
Kindness & Compassion – Horses are a very good judge of character and they will remember anyone who treats them badly, as well as those who treat them well and will respond much better to the latter. To get the best from a horse, you need to be able to look at the world through their eyes and understand why they react to certain situations in the way that they do. This is such an important lesson for all walks of life.
Relaxation – Life these days seems to get more and more hectic, with pressure from all sorts of areas. Horses are a great way to escape from school pressures and exam worries. It also tears them away from the screens that so many children seem to be glued to these days. There is no better way to unwind than to go for a lovely hack in the beautiful English countryside.
Passion – Horses are a total passion, they are a way of life. If you child has something that they are passionate about, then fuel that fire in any way you can. It will keep them focused, it will keep them driven and most of all, it will keep them out of trouble!
So if you think you have room in your lives and budget for horses, in whatever capacity, then we say go for it – get involved and enjoy! There is so much positivity that being involved with horses can bring to your life, and let’s face it, we only live once!