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What Horses and Riding Can Do for Children – Part 2

Horsemanship isn’t limited to horses – the attitudes and habits of a horse man can be applied throughout life. Learning to care for horses properly means learning how to take responsibility for another being that is completely dependent on them for its care, health and happiness. It’s an ideal education for future parents. (In Pony Club, we used to say — and rightly – “When Pony Clubbers grow up, they make the best parents!”) Grooming horses, cleaning stalls, scrubbing water buckets and cleaning tack are chores that must be done. Whether the ride was enjoy able or frustrating, when it’s over, the horse’s needs must be met. Cooling the horse down, giving it water, grooming it, being sure that it has a clean stall or paddock in which to relax, feeding it, and only then taking time to look after their own needs — these are the habits of a horseman. They are also the habits of good parents — and of young riders who are learning to be horsemen, and who will grow up to be compassionate, empathetic, careful, caring parents who put their children first, see to the children’s needs before getting their own drink, dinner, shower, or nap, and who won’t back away from diaper changes or from sick and fretful offspring.

Riding and horsemanship don’t distract children from their studies they help them study more wisely and much more effectively. Riding involves discipline and self-discipline. Attentive riders learn to appreciate the value of systematic, progressive training. They learn to apply themselves to their studies, and they learn how to stay focused, work hard — and work smart.

Riders learn to understand the importance of process. In riding, you can’t copy someone else’s answers, because it’s not just a matter of getting the right answer, but of getting the answer in the right way.

With the help of good teachers (human and equine), they learn about themselves, and they learn how they learn best — and what sort of teaching approach they find most useful and effective. They also learn some very practical social skills, such as how to put their own egos aside, how to look for causes, reasons, and solutions, and how to think instead of just reacting with a burst of temper. These skills will benefit the riders forever, even if they give up riding.

Riding lessons provide useful reality checks. Riders learn to be attentive and observant. They learn the importance of having and using safety equipment and safety practices, and they learn that no matter how much they may adore their horses, the horse are still horses and are always capable of reacting to surprises or pain with a startle, rear, or kick.

Horses and riding can provide children with self-esteem, Gaining competence as riders makes them special and gives them a type of confidence that simply can’t be matched in any other sport, because they’ve not only acquired skills, they’ve built a relationship.

Parents are concerned about the values their children might learn in the world of horses and riding. With a good instructor, they develop balance and core strength — not just physical strength, but mental, emotional, and moral strength as well. Good riding and horsemanship both require consideration for others, and in addition to sympathy and empathy, children would learn that there are no shortcuts to doing something right.

“It builds character” is usually said about things that are unpleasant or painful — things we don’t enjoy doing and don’t want to do. Riding is a pleas ant and enjoyable way to build character. Respect, compassion, empathy, responsibility, honesty, integrity, focus and follow-through – who wouldn’t want their children to have and live these values?

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