I got my first pony when I was 5. Her name was Buttercup. At 5, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of horsemanship at the start, but we did a whole bunch of galloping! It’s no wonder she would hide in the trees when I tried to catch her! She lived at my grandparents and I rode her when I visited. I did, however, groom her and give her tons of baths over the years as I got old enough to handle her on my own. I also had my first accident and broken bone with her, but it wasn’t her fault.

Buttercup circa 1991

Although I was already obsessed with horses as a kid, Buttercup and the subsequent horses – Sesna, Big John, Rio, and now Mistic, Path and Cinnamon have all been learning experiences over the years. While they have taught me how to care for horses, barn management and the typical hands-on skills. They have also been vital in developing who I am as a person.

So what exactly do horses teach kids?

Trust – Building trust is a mutual relationship. As a rider, you have to trust that this 1200 pound animal isn’t going to take off with you. The horse has to trust that you are going to make the right decisions and not put them in dangerous or scary positions. Once you have this trust developed, the options of what you can do are unlimited.

Courage – From getting on the horse to trotting on the lunge line for the first time, you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone to improve your skills.

Perseverance – You’re not going to become a great rider overnight and sometimes it takes many months to achieve a goal. The perseverance comes from continually working on your goal no matter the roadblocks you come across.

Responsibility – Even if you don’t own a horse of your own, riding horses comes with responsibility. You have to diligently groom before and after a ride, bathe when necessary, keep your tack clean and in good shape. With ownership comes cleaning stalls, feeding, farrier, etc. There’s always work to be done at a barn, no matter how small it is.

Self-Reliance – Horseback riding is an individual sport. Sometimes you have to practice outside of lessons and sometimes you have training issues that you have to figure out on your own. You have to rely on yourself and your own intuition to figure out solutions to problems and your horse will always rely on you.

Respect – This goes back to the trust. If your horse doesn’t trust you, they won’t respect you either. You have to be able to stand your ground and demand respect in many cases. At the same time, they are large animals with a mind of their own and you have to respect them too.

Love – You have to truly love horses and the sport to have success. You have to be compassionate and empathetic as well.

These are just a few of the key aspects of what horses teach kids. The entire act of being with and working with horses has many more emotional and physical benefits as well.

But you know what the best thing is about horses?

They don’t care if you have a disease, a learning disability, or other “issues.” They don’t judge and they are great listeners.

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