Horses Handed Down

It was an assumed part of having a child with my husbands background that said child would need to, at minimum, be able to handle horses, or sit quietly enough in a saddle to get drug along with a group.  His family still actively use their horses for work on the ranch, and we always planned on any kids we have being able to contribute as well.  From my perspective, though, I dreamed of cross rail classes and braids and bows.

Getting to ride Dad’s horse.

That was until recently.  A friend of mine, whose teenage daughter had caught the horse bug from her Mom early on… she had trained relentlessly for her first Grand Prix with the horse of a lifetime.  The girl is an amazing rider and she was more than ready.

Yet, just weeks before their big moment, her handsome gelding started acting off.  Fast forward to an intensive vet appointment that left the young rider, her coaches, her mother, and even the vets in tears.  Her gelding was done, they weren’t sure if he’d come back to be riding sound, let alone jumped again.

Always interested in Dee.

Everything in my soul ached for her.  All those years of dreaming and suddenly it was all over.  I watched her mother experience it all right with her; the heartbreak was palpable.  Obviously her gelding is living out his days as a very attractive lawn ornament, but where does it leave his rider?

My point here is that the night I learned about all of this, I swore up and down that I could never let my daughter get into sport horses.  The highest of the highs could not be worth the lows, right?  I didn’t know if I could support the heartbreak, the one you know will come.  They are horses after all.

Who doesn’t love a teeny pony?


I want to know, would you pass down you love of horses?  But risk watching and experiencing the heartbreak with them?

Every day I bring my daughter to the barn it becomes more of what she knows.  She’s happy there, and people are constantly offering me lead line mounts.  I’m pretty sure my trainer has a pony in mind for her (shh don’t tell my husband) down the line.  But I’m terrified for her.  Not just of her being trampled on, or falling off, but of having her heart crushed by these beautiful animals.  I know all sports can be brutal, but there is something so deeply emotional about horses.  They really become a part of you; which is wonderful until the moment it’s not.  I can barely handle it for myself, I cannot imagine watching your child go through it.

Yet right now, it’s safe to dream and allow her to love horses as much as an one year old can.  And I’m trying not to stress about the future, whether it holds cross rails or soccer practice (or God forbid both).  We’ve got a long ways to go until she has Grand Prix dreams, and that is a huge relief.  For now we’ll continue celebrating days that she stays in the saddle for more than a few seconds.

28 thoughts on “Horses Handed Down

  1. My 2 year old daughter already has the horse bug. I don’t even take her to the barn much yet (wild little thing she is) and she immediately ran in, asked for a helmet and ran for the arena. My 4 year old son likes riding but is cautious. I encourage him to learn all aspects of riding, so he knows it’s hard work too. I won’t encourage showing other than lead line, but if they want to. I love horses but not big on competition.

    Better they learn to cope with some life hardships with you at their side, helping them learn to cope and move on from the bad, and enjoy the good. I learned how resilient I was, that I could work HARD, organize, lead, fail, succeed, and teach (just didn’t like it lol) all from horses.

  2. I’m so torn…on the one hand it’s the best hobbies, teaches responsibility, empathy, athleticism, bravery, sportsmanship and the deepest depths of love. However, the heartbreak, expenses, time commitment and danger (not as worried honestly, most sports havevyhevridk of concussions and broken bones to a degree). Also, selfishly, let’s be real for a min, being a two horse family isn’t in the cards right now, so if a kid rides, I don’t. My sister and I were horse crazy from a young age and lessons followed, there was no other hobby or sport for us…it was all about when we could get to the barn next. So fast forward and by the grace of God I have two boys, LOL. And not that they won’t ride, I think horsemanship is an amazing skills for boys and girls alike, I’m just not going to encourage the riding with them. I hope they take to Jeeping with their dad so I can go play at the barn 🙂 although, the next Boyd might be toddling around my house as we speak…decisions decisions;)

  3. I guess I’d let my kids dream for the same reason as I dream and let my students dream – because it’s a wonderful thing to have something worth hurting for.

  4. I think it’s up to the kid (eventually). Whether it’s horses or something else, someday they’re going to have dreams and goals – and sometimes they’re not going to achieve them or they’ll have crushing setbacks. I think having experience with the heartbreak of horses, I would be more able to help guide my future kids through the tough times. And I also know from experience that with horses, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  5. Life is brutal. I think it is easier to learn these lessons as a kid with a horse than any other way. If I hadn’t learned as a kid that when the going gets tough you suck it up and keep moving I wouldn’t have survived grad school.

    • So, so true. I’m trying to get some space on this topic because-duh-of course I want her to be safe from heartbreak, but the overwhelming response here, and in my heart is that I don’t think any of us regret the ups and downs of horses.

  6. I wouldn’t give it up for anything – the heartbreak was awful, but there will always be heartbreak, whether it’s from horses, boys, college acceptances, jobs, the tears will come. The high of showing, of accomplishing, but mostly the long hauls and time with my mom made every tear worth it. There is nothing like the bond between a horse show mom and kid.

    • Aw, that is so sweet. And you’re right. Reading these comments this morning made it all the more apparent that my impulse to shield her from heartbreak is ridiculous. Obviously I will not be able to do that. But I can set her up for as much success and great memories as possible, just like you said.

  7. My mom passed her love of horses onto me, and it’s so cool to be able to share that with her. Obviously she loves all of her kids equally, but I feel like the horses are something special only she and I share. You can’t insulate her from heartbreak forever in life, and horses are a great way to teach not only the coping skills for that, but also so many other good qualities as others have pointed out. Let her feel it out for herself.

    • That is a really special bonding that you share with your mom. It’s so hard to not run away with my crazy dreams – because I would love a little riding buddy, and someone to cheer on in the sport. I guess it’s just a natural impulse to hope (in a very small way) that she’d pick up something more safe from heartbreak. But then, what is the fun in that? Regardless I have a feeling that she is going to decide what she wants.

  8. That’s a tough question to answer bc we naturally want to protect those we love better than we often protect ourselves. Personally tho, there is nothing my mother could have done to keep me away from horses. And I’m grateful that she instead fostered my youthful obsession. Bc now the joy and fulfillment I get from horses (even with the heartbreak) means the world to me.

    • My Mom was also incredibly supportive, and remains so. I know that in my mind, there is no way I will keep her from horses. I guess I can just hope for the best, and that she finds as much joy in them as all of us did!

  9. I have never thought about this angle of it before, honestly, but even having considered it I would not hesitate to share horses with any potential kids of mine. I would not be sane without horses, and the bad is also a thing that teaches you.

  10. From the perspective of a kid who has lived a life of horselessness and never lost the horse bug, I can tell you that if she gets the obsession and has no outlet, the heartbreak still happens but without the high. People always told me “you’ll get over it and you’ll get heartbroken about boys instead!” but I never felt the same about anything else. I would have given anything to have a horse life and someone who would have at least supported with me, if not shared it with me. I still would.

  11. I will spend next weekend watching with my heart in my mouth as my 12 year old does a 50 mile endurance ride . I can’t accompany her as my horse is broken.The highest of the highs, the lowest of the lows..
    This weekend I spent at a hockey carnival watching my 14 year old as she went through all the same emotions of winning and losing, heartbreak and joy.
    Guess which I’d rather have been doing? And it’s pretty hard to cry about boys to a hockey stick…

  12. Definitely not. Don’t let her have friends or relationships with relatives either. They may let her down, pick fights, or even die on her. Not worth it. Don’t let her play sports. She may lose or suffer an injury or have teammates that let her down. Don’t bother with school, she’s bound to struggle with something and it’s just not worth it.

    Seriously though, would you really keep her from it if it’s what she wanted? Would you actively dissuade her from taking part if she asked? Your worries for her are called life experiences. The ones that form good people, not the opposite. Your friend’s daughter is apt to become more resilient and compassionate for her experience…if that’s the way she was taught to handle adversity. Worry about how you teach her to handle setbacks, not the setbacks and challenges themselves. They’re bound to find her one way or another.

    • Haha, well now that you say it that way it seems pretty ridiculous. And I know that. But some days you just try to (fruitlessly I’m sure) protect them from everything. Obviously I want to inspire her to be able to dream big and deal with the consequences. And I know I will. That does not change how scary or difficult it will be.

  13. Ugh, so tough! Right now I can only imagine the emotions involved, but I hope that I support whatever my future children want — whether its horses, football, music or something I haven’t even thought of. At the end of the day, horses have brought so much love and passion into my life, that I hope my children can have the same, through horses or otherwise.

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