Maybe every young girl doesn’t need a pony for Christmas. There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t have a horse, money and time being two of the biggest, but I want to talk about some amazing things that my favorite hobby has gifted me, and why I’m kind of glad I got a horse for Christmas all those years ago:
- How to manage money: The old joke is that you should buy your children horses because they’ll never have money for drugs, it’s true, but all jokes aside the horse taught me financial literacy and responsibility from a young age. They’re expensive pets, especially if something goes wrong or if you’re showing them. I’ve always been a bigger money saver than a lot of my friends, and that really started when I was 15. My parents told me that I was responsible for D’Artagnan’s vet bills. Which would have been fine if he didn’t get seriously hurt, but of course he did, and I emptied my savings account. My parents stepped in then, but it taught me that that savings account needed more in it in case of emergencies, and not just the equine kind.
- How to be patient: Bad habits take a long time to work out, riding ones are no different. Learning to deconstruct your riding, find the bad part, then put everything back together again without it is no easy task. It takes a long time and a lot of work. It gives you patience. So does dealing with an animal that is just as stubborn as you are. Horses get set in their ways too, and getting their bad habits fixed takes time and energy as well. There is a lot of slow work that needs to get done before you can move on to the exciting parts. Any trainer will tell you just how important slow work is.
- How to handle competition: It’s funny, but I became less competitive when I was racing as a child. It became more about competing with myself, my past times, my past rankings, and less about competing with my peers. This might not be true for everyone, some people are just competitive to their core, but what is true is that horseback is a game of give and take. If you want to place better, you have to give a lot of time and energy, and you know that all the other rides are giving it too. It gives you perspective on how to gauge your success and what to keep in mind when you’re going for the gold.
- How to work hard and be humble: Horses don’t just come with riding. They also come with some dirty work, and even if you are at a nicer barn and don’t pick your own stall, you will still find yourself rolling up your sleeves to get down and dirty with some unpleasant tasks. It’s one of my favorite things about horses, they’re livestock, and life with livestock isn’t always that glamorous. It requires energy on the rainiest days and the coldest days. It requires blood and other bodily fluids. I think that kind of honest work doesn’t just make you a harder and better worker, but I think it humbles you too. At the end of the day, you still smell like horse crap, so come off your high horse. If you don’t want to, horses have a way of humbling you themselves, sometimes the high horse can knock you right off onto your butt.
- How to face your fears and take charge: The phrase getting back on the horse doesn’t come from nowhere. Bad falls can really teach someone a thing or two about fear and not giving up, but that’s not the only thing to focus on when it comes to facing fears. Horses are a lot bigger than us, so we have to be the boss, all the time- always. It’s not for the faint of heart. Most people wouldn’t stand square in a charging horses way swinging a lead rope trying to get it to turn, but horse people will, because they’re supposed to answer to us, and for them to do that, they need to know we aren’t afraid of them, we need to know we aren’t afraid of them. Fear management is a useful skill across the board.