While horses have been what my family has done for a living for generations, my kids are interested in softball, basketball, and baseball. From the minute I had my oldest, I knew whatever made his heart beat would be what I’d support. But with horses being a way of life for us, here’s how we manage to keep them involved and set them up for success if and when they do get back in the saddle.
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Like in many homes where kids learn to make their beds and help with household chores early in life, our kids learned the basics of horsemanship. They learned how to brush a horse, how to be safe in the barn and in the pens, and how to see lameness or pain. They learned barn chores with our whole family at a young enough age that they weren’t yet distracted by sports or school, and they sat in the saddle on safe horses to gain early confidence.
Ebb and Flow
Because my kids have that foundation, they can come to back horses when they’re ready. I don’t stress that, because I did the same thing when I was a kid. I didn’t go to the junior rodeos or run barrels at the jackpots—I helped on the ranch, and then I played basketball and was a cheerleader. But by age 15, I came back to it and was hooked because my parents didn’t force it.
I’ve seen parents struggle as they watch their kids move away from horses, especially when there’s a financial commitment involved. My kids know how hard their dad and I, and so many of our friends, work to compete with our horses. They understand that if we sign up for a junior rodeo series, we expect the level of commitment necessary to be successful. If they don’t want to put the time in, we don’t sign up, and we find something else they are passionate about. It’s the same with sports—if we sign up for a team, and halfway through they don’t like the coach, it doesn’t matter. We made a commitment to the team and the season, and we’ll finish it.
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When my son first started wanting to rope, he’d come to the arena with my husband for a regular practice session. If you’ve ever seen Trevor practice, it’s an all-day event. He might lope circles for 30 minutes, he might sit in the roping box and fiddle with a horse in the corner for 30 minutes, and he might rope one steer and do that whole process all over again before he ropes another one. That would get very boring for a kid. I understand that integrating my kids into our time in the arena doesn’t work. We quickly learned with them that we need to fit our practice in when they’re at school or sports, and we need to tailor their practice to fit their attention spans. When we’re in the arena with our kids, it’s about helping them get better and letting them feel like it’s their time with us and the horses.