“She is only two…”
This is the judgmental response I get sometimes when people find out that my two year old daughter has her own miniature horse. I get it! I think that people who have never worked with horses feel like we are spoiling her. Let me set a few things straight though- we do not watch television, and we do not allow video games. The same judgmental people who assume we spent too much on her are often willing to spend $300-500 on a gaming console, plus the cost of controllers, games, and internet every month. Keeping our miniature horse costs less than having internet ($50 per month), and there are so many reasons I want my daughter to grow up riding horses! Here are 7 reasons I bought a horse for my two year old:
Horses teach you to control your emotions and actions, even when a situation is out of your control.
My daughter was smitten the first day “Buddy Neigh Neigh” showed up in our barn. She wanted to be out there all of the time petting him. She quickly learned that throwing a tantrum made him walk away from her. I noticed an immediate change once she started working with her horse. She is much quicker to calm down and get control of herself when she does not get her way. Her horse is teaching her self-control in a way that I could not do on my own.
Horses teach you to think ahead and avoid risky situations.
I recently showed my daughter how a rock had become lodged in her horse’s hoof. I showed her how to pick the rock out and explained that it could hurt him if we did not remove it. Of course, I assumed she did not understand, until she was leading him through the timber and stopped right before a spot that had gravel. She pointed at it and said, “Rock!” then turned and went around it. I marvel at this, because she is already learning to avoid situations she deems as risky. Think of how this will translate into her teenage years!
Horses teach you empathy and how to help others in a kind way.
To me, our creek is a beautiful sight. I love hearing the water bubble up and gurgle as it rolls. To Buddy Neigh Neigh, it is a terrifying and dangerous place that he does not understand. As we were leading him through the timber last night, she tried to take him on a bridge over the creek. He stopped in his tracks, terrified. She immediately noticed the change, and started to speak so gently and quietly to him. I was amazed that she understood his fear, and even more amazed that she did not get frustrated with him (she is only two after all). She coaxed him across the bridge, and my mommy heart felt so proud. I am guilty of forcing him across, but my two year old’s patient coaxing helped him get over his fear. He now crosses without hesitation.
A horse will teach you how to be assertive and kind at the same time.
One of my greatest shortcomings in the beginning of my career was that I allowed my employer to take advantage of me. My daughter has learned that her horse will take advantage of her if she lets him (he is a pony after all). She is learning to hold his head up while she walks him or he will graze and refuse to walk. She is assertive with him and tells him “C’mon!” as we go through the trails, but always so gentle and kind to him. She does not let her horse push her around, and as she gets older I do not think she will let people push her around.
Horses teach you to overcome your fear and be adventurous.
I must admit, I was nervous the first time I put my precious jewel on a horse. She was nervous as well and would not let go of my arm. Her dad ended up holding on to her while I led the horse. Within three months, she was trotting and holding on all by herself. She laughs when Buddy Neigh Neigh gets spooked, then pets him and tells him, “Sssokay!” She is learning to overcome her fears and try new things.
Horses build your confidence and help you respect yourself.
Learning how to calmly control an animal that weighs ten times more than you is a powerful way to help you respect yourself and build confidence. My daughter has been watching me pick her horse’s hooves for three months now, and she is itching to help me with it. She was afraid at first and would keep her distance, but now she has no doubt in her ability (I am just not ready for her to do it!).
Horses require discipline, responsibility, and consistency.
The first few weeks that Buddy Neigh Neigh was in our barn, my daughter woke up before dawn, put her boots, coat, and hat on, grabbed my hand and said, “Buddy!” There were days that she would wake up and yell from her room, “MooOOOommmm! Buddy Neigh Neigh!” at 5:00 in the morning. One time she went out on her own without pants to do her chores and we had to chase her down! Some mornings I wished that she would just go back to sleep, but I quickly adjusted my attitude and realized that so many parents would love to have their children waking up at the crack of dawn to do chores. As soon as her brother goes to bed for the night, she knows that it is time to ride, walk, groom, feed, and water her horse. She is learning to consistently take care of his needs.
Working with horses will impact you in ways that you never expected. It has this strange way of spilling over into your marriage, your parenting style, your workplace, and the way you treat complete strangers. True horsemanship will make you a better person.
Yes, my daughter is only two, and she is learning a lifelong skill that will help make her into an amazing person.