Every parent hopes their child will grow up happy, healthy and as a good human being. The methodology by which this is achieved, however, can be tricky! Hours can be spent reading about child psychology, for a parent to gain the knowledge to give their child the best chance at success and happiness.
Let me suggest an easier way! Get them on a horse!
I always joke with parents I meet that they should never introduce their children to riding, because they will never have any money or free time ever again! This is probably true, and there is no denying that ponies are hard work, expensive and potentially all-consuming for a family, but the benefits of growing up around horses are overwhelming, and a monetary value cannot be placed upon this. Some of the skills and traits that are encouraged by riding and being responsible for an animal are indispensable life skills, that children can learn with the horse as their teacher (ie with no parental involvement).
Horses are a huge commitment. They require tending to twice a day, both before and after school. Looking after a horse is not a choice, because it is totally dependent on the owner for food, shelter and ultimately for its’ survival. Young people that grow up around horses learn the importance of responsibility, hard work and dedication, which are important values that will serve them well in life, and even in their career.
Health and Fitness
Riding and mucking out is physically demanding and involves spending hours in the fresh air, being active and running around with friends. Many children help out at their local riding school all day at weekends, and run round leading the younger children, helping them with their riding too. This is fantastic for their fitness and wellbeing, and sets them up for a healthy future. It also equates to free childcare if they are at the stables all day! Horses provide young people an invaluable distraction from going out drinking, smoking and getting themselves into trouble. They will be far too tired at the end of a day at the stables to get up to any mischief!
Empathy and communication
Research has shown that animals show people how to be empathetic, and it is for this reason that horses are often used in human psychological therapies. Horses, as a large herd animal, require a great deal of empathy in order for the handler to stay safe and train them. They are a herd animal, thrive on company and communicate using very subtle visual cues. In order to truly communicate with a horse, a young person must demonstrate empathy towards the horse and understand life from his perspective. They must be consistent and patient in their behaviour, and the horse will reward the child with trust.
Horses don’t care what background you are from, what you look like or what make your jodphurs are! They only respond to love, consistency and effective communication. Humans (teenagers in particular), do not always respond to such traits, and spending time with horses can help young people reground and understand their worth.
Horses test our resilience – daily! As a live animal, they often have injuries, sickness, and (like children), misbehave! We have good days and bad days with our horses. If a horse misbehaves, the young person has to keep quietly persevering, for several weeks and months to train the horse correctly. This requires resilience and patience – and a good dollop of determination too.
Friendships made in early life when riding often endure into adulthood, because they are built on a common interest and involve memories of fun and laughter. My oldest friends and I grew up riding together, and we never run out of things to say because we have those many treasured and happy years that we shared together. Out of the good times and tough times we have had with our horses, the glue that binds children together is strong enough to last the test of time.
A horse is a huge prey animal, and managing to handle and ride a horse is a big confidence boost for children. Riding a horse well is a real skill, art and a science. For this reason, they never stop learning. This is why people still ride into their sixties and beyond, because continuous learning never gets old! Every time a young person rides they will have achieved something, which is a great boost to confidence and self-esteem, which infiltrates all areas of life. People with high self-esteem are less likely to develop eating disorders, take drugs and self-harm. Horses can help mould a young person’s personality and act as a therapist as well as their friend.
In short – horses are magic! Introduce your child to horses and let them do the parenting for you!
at my horsey girlfriend's wedding
‹ Back to Home page
Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.
Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy
Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.