Diversity Brings Depth

In a world of specialization, encourage your child to try everything possible with horses.

Growing up, I feel I had two distinct advantages as a budding horseman. First, it was a time where one horse did everything, and kids wanted to enter every class at a horse show and were encouraged to do so. Second, my parents trained horses professionally and saw the advantages such a mindset gives a rider, in terms of growing riding ability and developing as a horseman. 

Today’s Western industry focuses more on specialization. While that’s great for building a sport’s prominence or a breeding program’s legacy, it can short-change our kids. When they see only one sport or activity, it limits the vast possibilities they can try, which can also limit their futures with horses. Here are five reasons to keep your child’s riding options open for their best future horse life.

Even if your child doesn’t plan on competing, learning an event like horsemanship can help build a solid riding foundation and set them up for success in the future. Photo by Nichole Chirico

Sets a Good Foundation

Classes like horsemanship and showmanship are the foundation of being a good rider and handler. They teach kids basic safety and skills that they can build on in the future. Entering your young rider in these classes at open shows and 4-H events allows them to put these basic skills to work with an element of low-pressure competition.

Maintains the Fun

It’s easy for kids to get burned out when they do the same thing over and over again. They don’t want to drill constantly—they want to have fun with their horses, build relationships with friends, and be kids. Going to playdays, open shows, gymkhanas, etc. gives them all the fun opportunities to keep them hooked on riding and horses.

Eases Pressure

When kids try new things, there’s less pressure to perform. As they learn to have fun in new activities, it’ll help teach them to manage pressure, nervousness, and performance anxiety because it puts them in a positive, fun-loving mindset. If the singular goal is to have a good time, that transfers to other parts of their lives and helps manage stress when they do get to a higher level of competition.

Builds Confidence

When a child learns they can do something they didn’t think possible, it helps them believe in themselves in the future. Whether it’s trying a friend’s horse to get the feel for a lead change, slow-loping through a barrel pattern on an all-around horse, or spontaneously entering an egg-in-spoon class at a playday, all of these new experiences boost your child’s confidence in what they can do with horses—and encourage them to keep trying new things.

Teaches You to Chill

As you watch your child have an open perspective about horse life, it can help you manage your mindset and avoid putting too much pressure on your child to succeed in one event. Watching your young rider have the time of their life being silly with friends and horses helps you take a deep breath and take stock in what matters: the relationships we build with horses and horse people.

[Is Your Kiddo Wanting to Try 4-H? Check This Out]

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