My daughter Liz has always had an interest or maybe an obsession with horses. After cleaning out the state’s toy stores of anything to do with horses, and I mean anything, including little tiny pitch forks to go along with an entire scale model horse barn, I thought after a few lessons she would grow out of this obsession.
A quick online search led me to Woodland Horse Center (www.woodlandhorse.com). The Manager advised me the best time to start a child is between six and eight years of age depending on size, interest and attention span.
Thus, at the ripe old age of seven my daughter left me for a horse. She started in Pony Pals, a special program for the young equestrian. She graduated from that to regular children’s lessons in an astonishingly short period of time.
My daughter was normally quiet, demure and seldom spoke unless she had something to say. But horseback riding lessons changed that. She now starts talking about which horse she is going to ride, where the class is going to ride, whether she is going to jump or not, who she is going to ride with, what the subject of the lesson is, how long after the lesson she can stay at the barn. This might not seem too remarkable to some people but this is all being talked about on Tuesday and her lesson isn’t until Saturday! And of course afterward, I am informed of every minute detail of the lesson, including how much dirt was in her horse, Rocket’s, feet. This goes on from Saturday until Tuesday when her focus turns to the upcoming lesson. I can safely forget her birthday, be late on paying her allowance, but there is one thing I dare not do and that is to forget or be late for her horseback riding lesson.
Woodland Horse Center offers a Working Student Program in which interested current students can work for extra riding time. Liz also participated in their Horsemanship Summer Camp for the total immersion experience. This is when I suspected that I was in trouble and lost my daughter to a barn and a bunch of horses.
Liz thinks it is cruel and unusual punishment to make her clean her room. She doesn’t know how to vacuum and certainly doesn’t have a clue what a mop is. But you go to her assigned area of the barn and it is immaculate! The aisle is swept, the brass is polished, the horse literally gleams, the bedding is perfect and my child is covered from head to toe in dirt, grime and heaven knows what else. Behind that dirt ball is my daughter’s face with two gleaming eyes of one totally happy little girl.
The next issue was horse ownership. At this point I am positive my not so quiet, demure, clean daughter is not going to outgrow her horse obsession. I talked to Woodland Horse Center about purchasing a horse. The Manager advised against it and suggested that I enroll her in the Equi-Lease Program (www.woodlandhorse.com/equilease.html), which is like a time-share but instead of one horse it is many horses. This was a wonderful interim plan.
My daughter became a very accomplished equestrian, with many ribbons and trophies and then it happened. My daughter fell in love. She had all the symptoms: shortness of breath, unable to eat or concentrate and time just wouldn’t go fast enough when she was separated from her love. I bought the horse she fell in love with and she is happily riding him to this day. Who says you can’t buy love!
You are probably wondering how much does all this “Love” cost.
Well the lessons, working student and Equi-Lease programs are downright cheap. It is around $45 per week. Owning a horse is even cheaper and here’s why.
• My daughter barely knows what a “Mall” is.
• She absolutely disdains drugs. They are not allowed at the barn and the barn has a zero-tolerance policy for them. Management will ask you to leave!
• Boys. To date her, a fellow has to work around the horse (and I mean work) and there are not many of those!
• Her friends are all acceptable to me. Am I lucky or what!
After hearing everyone else’s horror stories, I figure buying the horse is the cheapest and smartest thing I have done. My daughter is a fit, bright young woman with good grades, ambition and a zest for life. She can’t wait for the next day. She has compassion, knows what hard work is and has very high self-esteem. She respects herself and her surroundings. She is looking forward to college, with an equestrian program – of course!
Yes, I certainly do think any money spent on the horses was and is the best investment of my life.
And, she has picked a sport in which we can all join her. I ride as well, thanks to my riding lessons, and really do cherish our rides together, even though she is ten times better that I am!