I've been thinking a lot about kids and horses these days, because, it's my life now haha. I have heard countless times, "they just lost interest" or "we can't do baseball and ride horses". I too experienced a hiatus with horses.
This makes my heart sink because I firmly believe that horses help create great humans and that this loss of interest can be prevented. If this resonates with you, read on.
Did anyone else have parents that took your horse away as punishment if you sassed, told a fib, didn't eat your vegetables? Or you got so busy with school or sports that your horses were the very first thing that had to go? Maybe not and I was just a rotten kid haha. For some of you that grew up in rodeo families or on big ranches, this might not have been a thing because it was your life. But for me, whose parents had to be very involved in my horse life because we boarded, it was always the first thing to go if I was in trouble or busy.
I think about this often having my own kids and each of us having our own horses. I lost several solid riding years because my horse life and "other" life didn't mix properly and because it was work for my family, they let it go as well. Having my horse "taken away" as punishment, made me get out of habit and often times it was hard to get back out to the barn after time off even though I really wanted to. When I got into tennis, there was also "no time" for horses. I had to choose. Ugh...that seriously sucked and I want different for my kids.
There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there who say that being motivated is not as much the key to success as creating habits; routines and rituals that, even when unmotivated, you still do. I think this is one of the reasons kids give up on horses. We allow them to break the habit of their horse. This can be done by taking away the "privilege" of their horse or by making them choose between a sport and riding. How hard is it for you to go to the gym after even a couple days off from your normal routine?
What if we made our kids stronger by showing them that they can do sports and ride? There is always time if it's made, but we have to help them make it. They don't automatically know how to create time and organize themselves. I love how Jocko Willink's "Way of the Warrior Kid" books describe how Uncle Jake teaches Mark to reach his goal by getting up earlier, at 5am, to ensure he gets his workout in to reach his pull up goal.
Queen (I love her), Rachel Hollis says, "When you really want something, you'll find a way. When you don't really want something, you'll find an excuse." How true is this!?
One study, sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council, found that equestrian activities enhance a range of life skills in children. The study looked at youngsters involved in 4-H, Pony Club, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, or the National High School Rodeo Association in one eastern and one western state. Results of the study, published in February 2006, found a significant positive relationship between horsemanship skills and life skills such as character development, academic achievement, leadership and so on. I don't think I need to tell anyone about the positive effects of horses when raising children.
I couldn't find any statistics on what percentage of kids lose interest in their horses but I know its overwhelming because there are countless forums and 24.5M posts on the topic.
Let's change this for our kids! Here are 3 steps towards ensuring our kids don't lose interest:
1. Make it a Habit - think of it as a workout routine. Try and pick a good time when they're most fresh and bring snacks. If there are other things happening, like soccer practice at 4, change the time to the morning, even if you have to wake them up earlier (it will be good for them anyhow!).
2. Make it FUN - who says you have to do drills every day or take lessons every week? Play a game (more to come on this!) such as Riding Golf...again, more to come on the topic of games.
3. Make it Easy - is it super hard for your kids to tack up? think of ways to make it simple for them (we can help there too ;))
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you did comment and share! More to come regarding how to execute on the 3 steps to ensuring your kids don't lose interest in their most valuable activity.
Love and Horses,
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