Part 1 – The parents
“Mom, can I have a horse?” Many life-long adventures have started with this simple question… of course, so have many adventures that just felt like they lasted a lifetime. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts (here, here, and here), you know that most kids go through various stages of horse craziness. But suppose you’ve come to the realization that this obsession isn’t going to go away, and that your child may be almost ready to assume some of the responsibility of owning a horse. That’s all well and good – but what about the rest of the family?
Being the parents of a horse-owning child involves a lot of responsibility. A horse is not just a dog on steroids. They require more commitment, in time, energy, and money, than the next 10 dogs your kid drags home. (The upside? With a horse, your kid won’t be bringing home stray dogs… Wait – what am I saying?? Of course they will – they’re animal lovers, just accept it.) Anyway – responsibility for the parents involves more than just paying the bills. It also involves doing due diligence to insure your child’s safety as much as possible. I emphasized those last 4 words because, to be honest, you can’t protect your child from every eventuality that may happen with a horse any more than you can prevent a broken ankle from playing soccer or a broken heart from their first big crush – everything worthwhile comes with a price.
You can’t protect your child from every eventuality that may happen with a horse any more than you can prevent a broken ankle from playing soccer or a broken heart from their first big crush – everything worthwhile comes with a price.
Some things you can and must do to help keep your child safe:
- Make sure you’re relying on a team of experts
- Stay up to date on your child’s progress with her instructor
- Make sure your child understands that wearing a helmet is absolutely non negotiable.
After paying the safety and financial responsibilities comes commitment. Once you decide it’s time for your child to own a horse, you need to make the commitment to ferry your child back and forth to the barn or prepare your own land for a horse. You need to make a commitment to help your child learn about adhering to a schedule (whether it’s morning and evening feeding, farrier visits, or annual vaccines, for maximum health and happiness, horses need to be on a schedule). You need to commit to either making phone calls to the vet and farrier, or helping your child take up that responsibility. When I got my first horse at age 12, I wasn’t comfortable making phone calls – but, I learned to deal with it pretty quickly when my parents made it clear that it was my responsibility to call the vet and farrier. I still don’t like making phone calls, and I still deal with it. Most importantly, you need to make a commitment to become involved. Whether you end up buying a horse trailer and shuttling child and horse to lessons and horse shows, or just read a few basic books on horse care – everyone’s life will go more smoothly when you take an active interest in your child’s horsey life. In the next post – we’ll talk about siblings, sibling rivalry, and horse sharing, so stay tuned!