This made the rounds on Facebook in October, but I just saw it today, and thought it was some helpful advice to those of us who are parents and teachers of horse kids.
Dear parents of horse kids:
Over the past 30 years I’ve had hundreds of kids, from 8-18, walk through my barn doors. I’ve seen many come in who are horse crazy from birth, who will sleep in a stall just to be around a horse. I’ve seen kids come through who’s [sic] parents were horse lovers and they want their children to share their passion. Not all kids are created equal. Not all kids have a desire or the talent or the means to make it to the upper levels of competition. There are things every parent needs to consider when their child rides.
1) Not every child has a competitive nature. If your child decides showing isn’t for her, don’t press it. Let them enjoy the horse at a recreational level and be thankful they are at the very least, learning responsibility and staying off the streets. A barn atmosphere is generally one of the safest places for a kid to be.
2) If your child decides to show, know that not every horse will make a show horse and not every child has the talent to be an upper level competitor. Be prepared to move through horses as your kid progresses and be sure never to put your child on more horse than they need. Safety and consistency are way more important than winning in the beginning.
3) Realize that if your child is serious and has dreams of making it to the big shows, their youth career ends at 18. That leaves only 5 short years, if they start at 13, to become a great rider and be mounted on a horse with the talent to take them to the top.
4) Not all kids want to do the event their parents loved. Some kids like to jump, some like to run barrels, some like to go slow and some like reiners. Give them the opportunity to try all the events to see what they truly enjoy.
5) Find a barn with a reputation of bringing kids AND their horses through the levels. Many people are great with beginners, many trainers are great with horses. It takes a special combination to be able to develop both. Don’t be afraid to talk with other parents at shows and feel the atmosphere of the kids when they are together. Know that your child may outgrow a trainer or possibly not enjoy the atmosphere or program as time goes by.
6) Be patient. Great things take time. When you have a good program and a suitable horse, know that winning doesn’t happen over night. It takes hours and weeks and months and years sometimes for a horse/rider team to come together. Not all horses are meant for all riders and sometimes you will have to back up and punt. Have patience.
7) Be supportive and listen to your child. If she becomes uncomfortable for any reason with the process, be sure the horse is suitable and the coach and child have a good relationship. No one wants a client who jumps from barn to barn, but at the same time, know that 5 years go by very quickly and there may be someone else who could help your child along quicker.
8) Talk to parents who have done this before. Their experiences will help you understand what expenses, time and commitment will be required to keep your kid successful.
9) Enjoy the journey. You and your child will get to share experiences that few other sports allow. Be the supportive parent and let the trainer be the coach. Children will very seldom learn from their parents what they will learn from an outside party, so don’t get offended when your child dismisses your advice only to take it to heart from their coach. Your job is support and encourage, its the trainers job is to teach.
10) Keep the pressure away from winning and instead, focus on helping them grow. When the hard work is put in, the ribbons will come.
11) Know that the investment in their youth career will be expensive but the pay off will be knowing your child has been exposed to life skills they cannot gain in any other sport. They learn the responsibility of caring for another living being, they learn patience, they learn to work and manage time and resources and they learn how to deal with the pressure of competition. Showing horses every weekend is the safest way I know of keeping kids out of trouble.
12) Listen when they tell you their dreams. If they decide at 16 they would rather play volleyball, it’s good indication they have satisfied their goals with the horses and are ready to step back. No matter the investment, you need to let them make the choice to stay in or back away.
13) Teach them that the horses are a privilege and certain responsibilities are expected in order for them to pursue their dream. Schoolwork should always be a priority.
14) When they are old enough, let them learn to manage finances. Explain the costs of boarding, training and showing and encourage them to learn a horse related skill to help pay bills. Banding, stall cleaning, feeding and body clipping are all ways a child can help pay their own bills. Teach them to prioritize expenses when shopping for horse supplies and encourage them to keep a record of the expenses.
15) Once a child reaches college age, their time will generally be focused on school. The horse will likely be sold or leased or passed along to a family member. Discuss and plan for that day.
These years go by in the blink of an eye. Make the best of them and have fun. Know that your time and money will be well spent when you see a responsible and confident young adult walk out into the world.