I remember hearing a lot when I was younger about the positive influences a horse has on the development of a young person`s character. We were probably trying to persuade our parents to buy us ponies at the time.
But what traits do we develop when we begin to care for horses?
Responsibility – I think this one is pretty obvious, when a horse is in your care you learn to check that they have everything they need. That they are warm, dry, healthy and happy.
Time management – Juggling school and looking after a horse teaches you to crack on with your jobs and maximising your horse time. I have noticed, that with the increase in health and safety parents are staying on the yard with their kids and because of pressures of their busy lives they do more and more of the jobs, which prevents kids learning key time management tactics, even as simple as “You have twenty minutes to groom and tack up ready for your lesson” With the focus being on time for the lesson!
Team work – When riding, you have to learn to work with your horse, to take his feelings and abilities into account; learn to reassure and reward him.
Respect – you learn to respect others; other horse owners, horses, and to listen to advice, others opinions.
Dedication – You learn to work hard at a project, attending to it every day; working hard to achieve your goals and to better yourself.
Money management – you learn to budget your pocket money; to spend your well earned cash on things for your horse, to limit your own clothes purchases so that you can afford to enter that competition, or to have an extra lesson.
Conviction and determination – controlling an animal ten times (if not more) your size requires sheer will and determinism sometimes. Learning to ride teaches you to really want to achieve. You learn to have a no nonsense attitude and keep your horse in line in a fair and consistent way. Horses can tell a lot from our body language, and will walk all over you if they think you are only half hearted about riding.
Control of emotions – horses are sensitive creatures, and extremes of emotion can upset their performance, so you learn to put a lid on your frustration when you eventually catch your horse after twenty minutes of them cantering around the field … Likewise, if you`ve had bad news, or fantastic news, you learn to put it aside so you can best focus on your horse and your performance together.
Selflessness – I think this is the most important trait we learn. You learn to put your horse before you. You go outside in the pouring rain to feed, or change rugs. You get up early on your weekend because your horse is waiting for breakfast. All in all, you learn to put the needs of others before yourself.
There are hundreds more characteristics that we develop, and that are enhanced, by horse ownership which I think makes us better people. Let me know which trait you think has been most influenced by horse ownership. I think for me, having and working with horses has taught me to control my emotions and keep a balanced, ambivalent disposition.