Why My Daughter Loves Horseback Riding Lessons and You Might Too
Throughout the past couple of weeks, the temperature has been pretty frigid. But BEHOLD, today when I took the dog for a walk, I started sweating with my coat on! It's almost 60-degrees today which means we get to do my daughter's favorite thing in the world this afternoon - horseback riding lessons.
Now, I grew up in Kentucky. My parents gave me my first horse when I was in third grade and my mom had horses even before I was old enough to have one of my own. When I left home, I decided that going out to clean stalls in below zero temps and trying to find someone to look after a horse when I go on vacation didn't interest me much so I have never owned a horse in my adult life. My mom still has a couple of horses, so if I felt the need to ride, I just crossed the bridge. Here we are on our longtime resident Cochise. My daughter is another story though. She wants to ride all day, every day.
She is allowed to only be in two extracurriculars at any given time. We've done dance, gymnastics, choir, basketball, and soccer. She loves soccer so that's a given when it's available. Everything else was just sort of smeh (not her passion). But one thing she did LOVE was going to ride Cochise on my mom's farm. It's a little too far away and my mom's farm isn't set up for lessons. Plus, she's MY kid so she doesn't listen to me! So, a couple of years ago, I enrolled her in bi-weekly horseback riding lessons.
Her first lesson was in the winter and her teacher Annie Gilkey at Double M Stables put her on a big black horse named Pepper. He was a perfect gentleman and did everything she asked without any attitude. Every week, she gets to ride a different horse that specializes in something different (trails, barrels, poles, jumping, etc.) But my daughter will without hesitation tell you all about her favorite - a little mare named Sugar that's all get up and go.
She started off doing private lessons but is now in a class with a few other kids and loves hanging out in the barn with her friends. I have to drag her away. She also has really connected with her teacher Annie and it amazes me how much she grows in horsemanship every week. She's done so well, that when we had the opportunity to go on a weekend-long trail ride in Tennessee, I jumped at the chance. She was experienced enough to navigate a full-size horse throughout the steep terrain of the mountains. We went with Pam Dawson, a former teacher of mine who used to take me camping and riding all the time when I was a kid. Back then, I kind of took it for granted because I did so much of it - I was with my horse all the time. But to her, it's so new and so magical.
Her progress has been slow and steady. She's finally into skipping over little obstacles "jumping," but we are two years in. Horseback riding isn't about jumping on your first ride. It's about connecting with the animal, understanding the basics of telling your horse what it needs to do, learning about tack, proper procedure, horse care, and safety, riding a horse in many different landscapes, and yes even cleaning stalls.
Sometimes my daughter struggles a bit with containing her excessive amounts of energy. But when she's with her horses, everything is relaxed. Horseback riding lessons give her confidence, leadership skills, and above all, give her a passion. I remember when it was my passion and the feeling I had when I was with my special guy Stormy. (That's him in the picture above. Please ignore what I'm wearing... what can I say, it was the early Nineties and you need ultimate freedom to move when you are doing such amazing trick riding.) Someday she might compete by showing or even decide to get a horse of her own (when she's old enough to go out and clean the stalls). But for now, it's just something I let her do for herself because she loves it so much.
Maybe you or your child would love it too. There are so many benefits from getting up in a saddle and down in the dirt. And there's nothing quite like the smell of a horse barn. It's just... wholesome and simple and free. If you and/or your child would like to try out horseback riding lessons, there are several places locally to contact including:
My suggestion is to do your homework. Talk to the instructors and make barn visits to determine which one will be the best fit for you. To add your stable to the list, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!