Too often, I talk to parents who are heavily involved in horses, whose kids aren’t interested in horses at all. I don’t know if their kids never get the opportunity because their parents are too busy with their own horses, but at our house, we try to make our time with our horses something we do as a family, and something that stays fun.
[RELATED: HORSE&RIDER YOUTH SECTION]
Taking it Slow
Our kids were brought up around horses every day. A lot of what we do horseback is ranch work, but we don’t want to make it hard for the kids right away. We don’t ask too much of them and get them to where they resent the horses and the work involved. We started by ponying Slade on easy rides through the pasture on a safe horse, and pretty soon, he wanted to go on all of the big, long rides. The goal early on is to keep them involved and to spend time with them.
Safety in the Barn
Keeping my kids safe has to be the top priority, fun or not. My little girl loves her barn kittens, so we can’t tie horses in the barn alleyway when she’s out there, because there’s no telling where she’ll end up chasing the kittens. Stealy loves to give the horses treats, but then again, we have to be careful about that, too, because I don’t want them to nip her fingers. We let her give them treats, but we watch closely and teach her to keep her hand flat.
If they don’t like it?
Our son, Slade, plays every sport he can. He was in coach-pitch baseball, and he plays football. If he didn’t like the horses and he didn’t like the junior rodeos, we wouldn’t go. But as far as the ranch work and taking care of the animals, that’s what we do. If he didn’t want to compete, that’s fine. But the work, he has to do it because that’s the responsibility we have as a family.
[RELATED: 4 WAYS PARENTS ARE HURTING THEIR KIDS' HORSEMANSHIP]
Of course, our kids love their horse-related toys, and they always have. Stealy has an NFR barrel racing set that she plays with constantly, and Slade has his cows and the cattle trucks and the pens. Our living room is usually covered in these toys, and that works, because we’re always talking about horses and colts and cows anytime we’re in the house, too. It gives the kids another way to be a part of it while still being kids.