My Dear Horse-Skeptic,
I'm not entirely sure I've met you before, but I've met many others like you....you look at us Horse-Nuts and scoff, saying, "What good is a horse? What use? The age of horse drawn carriages is long past." Or maybe you say, "Sure they're pretty and fun, but I have more important things to invest my money in."
Well, I have something to say to you....bringing me up around horses was one of the best things my parents could have invested their money in.
Let me enlighten you....
My sisters and I learned how to ride shortly after we learned how to walk.
Many of our free hours were spent on horseback...and if it was too hot, we were inside playing plastic horses and building miniature barns :)
The majority of our weekends were spent as a family at horse shows...
But it was hardly all fun and games.
Growing up with horses taught me patience. Horses don't always do exactly what you'd like, and they're certainly not going to do it if you're impatient. For a young person, that's an extremely hard thing to control, but it is of absolutely necessity if you're ever going to get anywhere.
Growing up with horses taught me perseverance. When I was 8 years old, I fell off and broke my arm. Very traumatic experience :) It took me months to ride again...months of tears, of fighting, of terror, and of defeat. But the day I finally went out to the arena by myself and screwed up the courage to ride again, the feeling of triumph and accomplishment was not something I quickly forgot.
Growing up with horses taught me respect. When you work with a horse, you're working with a creature literally 6-7 times bigger and heavier than you are. If that doesn't instill some respect into a person, I don't know what will! He will be much more liable to work with you and perform his best if you treat him well....even when he doesn't deserve it.
Growing up with horses taught me about unconditional love. You can push a horse a long ways before they'll ever stop loving you.
Growing up with horses taught me about work. Hard work. Back breaking, exhausting work. But it taught me that work is good, and to be grateful for it.
Growing up with horses taught me about responsibility for someone other than myself. Horses require commitment with no days off, and for every hour or two of fun, there are days of drudgery that have to be sludged through. Regardless of weather or anything else, I am still responsible for those that I have been given stewardship over.
Growing up with horses taught me that outward appearances don't matter....all they care about is your heart. Literally. Age, sex....none of that is important. Only your character and your personal actions are what matter.
Growing up with horses taught me the value of money. "A penny saved is a penny earned" and boy is that true with horses. While horses can give you a desire to work hard to earn money to spend on your next show outfit, they also teach you to learn to prioritize. As tempting as it may be to sink $10,000 into colic surgery to save the dying horse in front of you, you are forced to look realistically and practically at the situation and make the hard decision....against everything your emotions are telling you.
Growing up with horses taught me about communication. Ask for what you're wanting in a way clearly understood by the opposite party...you'll always get better results.
Growing up with horses taught me about the joys and tragedies surrounding the creation and birth of a baby. I learned how they were made, planned for, and sadly, sometimes die before they come into the world. And I learned that the sleepless nights spent waiting and watching some crafty broodmare can result in one of the most beautiful things on this earth.....the birth of a true miracle.
Growing up with horses taught me about sportsmanship and competition. The ribbon isn't what matters at the end of the day....what matters are the things you learned, the people you met, and the memories you made up till that point. Everyone who competes fairly is a winner, and those who cheat in the ring are likely to cheat you in other areas of life. I learned that healthy competition drives one on to a higher standard. The harder you have to work, the better a job you'll do.
Growing up with horses taught me to plan ahead. The choices we make today effect the things that will happen down the road. The investments we make cannot be cared for without savings to fall back on. Boring things like land and vehicles and buildings suddenly become important. Caring for your truck can make all the difference between a safe, fun trip to a show, or being stranded on the side of the road with a four horse trailer in the middle of Phoenix's summer.
Lastly, growing up with horses taught me how precious the fun times are. You never know when a horse will get taken from you, when life will change, and when those times are over. Cherish the present, love what you have, and enjoy the life God's given you.
Looking back, Skeptic, I can't say that we've "wasted" a penny spent or an hour invested in our horses.
I have no regrets about the time I've spent at the barn, and nothing I wish I could change.
All I wish, is that more children could have the opportunity to learn from these animals before they are faced with the responsibilities of adulthood.