Life Lessons I Learned, as A Child, From The Experience of Owning A Horse.
This past weekend I attended a local horse show and had the privilege of watching a young student of mine participate in his first show of the season. He chose to compete in some classes that he had never previously entered.
As I was standing by the fence watching everything, I was overwhelmed by a sense of thankfulness and blessing to God for bringing the right people, circumstances and knowledge into my life at such a young age. From the beginning of my horsemanship journey, many frustrations were avoided because I had the tools, knowledge and support to work through the “trouble” areas.
This particular weekend, I witnessed many frustrated and some very emotional, children and youth as they struggled with their horses. I was saddened to see that although they were trying so hard, at times, it was still a battle to successfully have conversations with their horses regarding relatively basic tasks and maneuvers.
Please don’t get me wrong, these children and young people were doing the best they could with the information they had. And I highly respect each one for going into the spotlight as they did. It’s not easy that’s for sure.
Learning Complex Concepts while Keeping Alive the True Joy of Play, Riding and Relationship
I am passionate about many aspects of horses and horsemanship. One aspect that touches my heart is teaching children and seeing them succeed mentally, emotionally, and physically. I continually find myself amazed by their ability and desire to learn. Children learn so fast and easily grasp concepts that are complex, all the while keeping the true joy of playing, riding and cultivating an equine/human relationship alive.
I believe though that somewhere along the line there is a element that isn’t being taught. Why are we content to live with horses that push, bolt, take over, and are unresponsive to our children? It doesn’t have to be this way! These are inappropriate behaviours! Yes, owning horses is going to involve some tough days. These creatures are living animals with minds of their own and have a high sense of self preservation. But horses and children can have remarkable partnerships where they learn valuable life lessons together and from each other.
Learning From My Horsemanship Journey
How do I know this? Through owning a horse of my own, from a very young age. I bought my first horse at the age of 11, after saving up the money myself. From then until now, I continued to cover the majority of his expenses, while over time adding three more horses to my herd.
I learned a great deal of responsibility in terms of what it took to provide for something so big… and alive. It wasn’t like a book, computer or instrument that you could put down and leave for days without giving it any thought. Animals have needs, daily.
Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me many important life lessons, of which I will share seven.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me to be financially responsible. At a young age, I had to develop a budget and I learned that sticking to it was important.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me that life isn’t all about me. On the days when I was sick, the weather was less then desirable, I didn’t “feel” like it, I had other things to do, or what ever the reason may have been, I still had to go out and feed my horse(s). They were dependent on me for everything. I had chosen to own Prince, and eventually the three others. With that choice came great privilege and great responsibility. Of course, my parents were there to fill in if I really couldn’t do something and they were the greatest support to me. But they didn’t enable me to receive all the benefits without the work.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me about leadership. I can say that without a doubt I am the confident woman I am today because of what I had to learn to be my horse’s leader. Prince was a strong willed, very self confident, opinionated horse that saw no need for humans in his life. He wasn’t the easiest horse to convince either. In the previous 6 years before I entered his life, he learned that people didn’t want him for anything else other then for the purpose of being ridden from point A to point B. His input wasn’t needed or wanted.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me patience.… and a lot of it. I learned quickly that I couldn’t do things on my own timeline or agenda, just when ever I wanted to do things, because Prince would object. He needed to be prepared and he had to view me as his trusted leader before he was going to follow me anywhere.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me perseverance. If I had given up at the first sign of resistance I wouldn’t have made it past the second day. Prince had a lot of opposition reflex in him from his previous owners and needed me to not give up on him before he was able to make some amazing changes.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me that relationships are a two way street. This took me a while to learn and it really didn’t sink in until a few years ago when I was in Florida. I was asking a lot of Prince as I was preparing to film some assessments. We had been focusing so intently that it demotivated my horse, and Prince began to give less and less effort. I was reminded of the fact that a relationship (horse or human) is like a bank account. You withdraw and you make deposits. I was taking out a lot and not putting many deposits in…. and it was showing. Once I started doing some things with Prince that didn’t really benefit my goals, but gave him pleasure (like walks to graze, horse treats, etc.), he started putting more effort into the activities that I required (like flying lead changes at a canter). It pays to put effort into others, to meet their needs before asking for our need to be met.
- Horse ownership taught (and teaches) me that it is okay to make mistakes… this particular area is one that I will always be working on in myself. Thankfully I have been blessed with a very patient horse who is an amazing teacher…. and allows me to make so many mistakes and still sticks around!
The list could continue to go on as I have only briefly touched on all these areas and not even mentioned half of the ways that starting my horsemanship journey as a young girl has changed, stretched, and brought me to where I am today. But I will stop here.
The benefits to playing with and riding a horse are numerable. The benefits to riding, developing, and becoming a horseman or horsewoman… goes beyond what is expressible. As a woman who, as a child, had a horse, I can honestly say that it has shaped me immensely. This is why I am passionate about teaching children and young people horsemanship. It is way more than riding. It is about personal growth, development, relationships, and life skills. We learn mental, emotional and physical fitness that touches all areas of our lives. These areas of fitness are tested day after day.
Let’s be proactive in teaching the world’s future leaders, teachers, parents… adults… lessons that can be learned through horse ownership, and not only in playing with and riding a horse but also in truly becoming the leader their horses are seeking and needing them to be and become for them.
Let’s talk. What lessons have you learned (or are learning) “for free” by being a horse owner? Are you passing your love for horsemanship on to the next generation of this world’s future adults?
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