Having my grandchildren involved in my horse business is amazing. Everyday I go to work I look forward to the time I spend with my students. And now my students include my most precious little people, my grandkids!
The other day I caught myself daydreaming about how great this is and how great the future is looking for my family and me. It led me to think about the most important things in my world of kids and horses. Whether I’m working with my grandchildren or with my young clients, my priorities are the same. I want my barn to teach kids life skills and horsemanship.
I want to provide the old-fashioned, safe community that I knew as a child. My barn environment reminds me of growing up in a neighborhood where we could safely ride our bikes to meet our friends and hang out for hours. A neighborhood where all the parents looked out for their neighbors’ kids and didn’t hesitate to lend a hand or a tool. They didn’t hesitate to give some advice or even a reprimand to a youngster that needed a little guidance. The young riders at my barn know that we look out for each other, we respect one another, we work together and we share.
I want to foster independence. I love watching the youngest riders build confidence as they learn the independence skills that horses teach. At my barns kids know that I won’t jump in and do everything for them, I prefer that they first give it a go on their own. Of course I’m there to safely monitor grooming, tacking up and riding. But, if I delay assistance just a bit, it’s always amazing to see just how much my students can accomplish when they rely on their own resourcefulness.
I want to create a team of riders that work together. Often parents talk to me about how they want their children to experience a team sport. They tell me that they probably should sign their child up for soccer, basketball or baseball. When I explain our barn approach to competition, that the riders must help each other and work together to achieve our group success, parents are often surprised. We are a team! And I only want it that way.
I want my riders to learn the joy of taking care of something besides themselves. There is so much reward in seeing an animal thrive with good care and attention. My riders love the hands-on-care of the horses as much as they love the ride. I also believe that taking care of animals teaches kids about compassion and respecting life. The minute we have a colicky horse at the barn, I have at least 10 students ready and willing to walk the animal for hours. Even if it’s a blazing 100 degrees in Austin, the kids want to help until the horse is healthy again. If I have a horse that needs daily wound care, I know I’ll always have a crew of kids by my side helping as my assistants. It’s a remarkable, beautiful thing.
I’ve been teaching riding lessons all of my life. During these years, I’ve witnessed how horses shape the lives of young people as they grow to be adults. The success of my former students can be seen in all aspects of their lives. As they head off to college, start their first jobs, or take on equestrian internships, my students are independent, responsible, hard working, kind and compassionate people. I’m sure the barn had a little bit to do with it. I’m also sure that my precious, littlest students, my grandchildren, will gain the same important life skills just by spending time with me, at the barn. And it doesn’t get much better than that.