Fact: Little Girls Love Horses.
Almost every girl in the world has dreamed of owning a horse. Some, perhaps, may have simply dreamed of brushing a horse.
Most girls, by and large, are horse crazy at one point or another.
Why then don’t more little girls have the opportunity to get involved with horses?
From a financial standpoint, horses are one of the WORST hobbies a little girl could get involved with. Horses and ponies aren’t cheap to buy, or lease. Add board, vet bills, farrier care, riding gear, lessons; then, once they start, the girls are only going to get better, get more involved, possibly get competitive (horse shows can be VERY expensive), and need even more gear.
For girls living in cities or metropolitan areas, it may seem impossible to get a little girl into horses.
Most, if not all major cities, have horse farms in the near vicinity, some even within city limits. However, “driving to the farm” no doubt could be a chore, and for some, nearly impossible.
People are unfamiliar with horses on a whole. Though horse association is common, horses, to the general public, remain mysterious to most US citizens. For the average America, “horses” equals:
a. the Kentucky Derby
b. the trail ride they went on at summer camp, or
c. the things that poop in front of ole’ timey “anniversary night” carriages
Horses are big, horses are strong, and because of Chrisopher Reeves, everyone knows horses can break your neck. And they poop.
So, to recap, horses are costly, difficult, and dangerous.
Ever met a girl without any hobbies?
Little girls need to scrub water buckets.
Though barriers to horse entry are all valid concerns, getting young girls into horses offers them opportunities to create important and meaningful responsibilities before boys, parties, and other influences begin encroaching on their lives.
Why do little girls love horses in the first place?
Horses are big. Horses are beautiful. Horses can make great friends.
Horses are magical.
Horses are very empowering. Riding horses teaches girls to be natural leaders in societies where many stimulus shout the opposite. Horses require a “take charge” attitude from the rider. Horses need riders to stand up, take control, and be outspoken. Horses require character and confidence, and for a little girl, horses are the anti-timid medicine they crave.
Additionally, horses allow girls unique competitive experiences. Horse and rider are a TEAM. This team bond between horse and rider is one that is special, thoughtful, fulfilling, and in more ways that it isn’t, SAFE. And though horse and rider are a team, the rider is in charge. The rider, in her ability to pilot, communicate, and command is responsible for the team’s performance. With just proper training, horse riding is a very skilled activity little girls can do ALL BY THEMSELVES. Horse riding takes confidence, and it builds confidence.
Horseback riding is also one of only two Olympic sports that men and women compete side by side. Although women and girls dominate the lower levels of horseback riding, the upper levels, and especially, international levels of equestrian sports are split even between men and women.
Learning to fail and learning from failure is also an important part of horseback riding. Little girls often have a fear of failure that seems to be somewhat built in to their being. Learning how to ride horses requires failure, struggles, and mistakes. Overcoming fears, mistakes, and failures takes patience and determination. Little girls will learn that with time, great things DO happen.
Horses are expensive, and they strike fear in the hearts of protective parents. Ever met a girl without any hobbies?
Horses bring another important quality to a young girl, individuality, which is sometimes so scarce in a suburban landscape. Often times, young girls are trying to figure out who they are, what they stand for, how they think, how they work, and how they act. So many young girls aren’t able to effectively express themselves, and with the big group activities that EVERYONE else participating in, how can a young girl feel like she stands out from the crowd?
Horseback riding not only gives a little girl the ability to be herself, it allows her to figure herself out in so many ways. She doesn’t have to dress like the other 40 soccer players; she doesn’t have to act like the other group of girls who are all doing the same thing, without any true passion for what they are doing. Following the pack is something that seems almost necessary for most young girls. Brownies, Girl Scouts, and softball are not only giant group activities, they are also activities that require conformity. With team sports, or other group think activities, no one really stands out, and no one is really different. Is that a good message to be sending any young person?
Whether on the ground or in the saddle, horse piloting takes a charm, a style. And to everyone, their horse piloting is unique. And sure, in sects (and albeit highly touted, pressure filled sects), horse riding too can become about conformity (big horse shows, Hunters, snooty barns), but unmolested, horsemanship is sheer freedom (and to the adults, isn’t it sad how the word ‘freedom’ has become molested over the last eight years?).
Horses invoke freedom, strength, and confidence, naturally.
The most important path to enriching a little girl’s life with horses is through her teenage years. With financial and emotional support, if a girl can get into horses early and be encouraged to stay with it, outside, recreational activities that could end up causing real problems in her life fade to the background.
Most teenage girls I knew who rode horses weren’t interested in boys (at least not to the degree of non-horse teenage girls) weren’t interested in parties, drinking, drugs, and other activities that are often a result of boredom. Healthy curiosity and experimentation was natural, but horses always came first, and personal, responsible decisions were made because of horses. “I can’t go to that party because I have a horse show that weekend,” or “I can’t sneak out and go drinking with my friends because I have an early lesson.” Horses are a huge positive distraction when there are plenty of negative distractions constantly bombarding the teenage girl.
Finding the right barn with other children around is important, not so much for interaction, but for the general environment. Kids also need to be at barns that require them to work. Barns filled with $250,000 ponies (and their associated parents) negate almost all aspects of hard work, determination, and self reliance that go along with young girls and horsemanship.
Little girls need to scrub water buckets.
As far as disciplines go, I would always suggest young kids start out at hunter/jumper barns. Equitation and Hunters lessons require massive amounts of discipline otherwise lacking from say, Eventing (or barrel racing [shudder]). I have seen a lot of kids do well with Dressage, but Dressage may well be too tedious for the young rider.
To the young girl, horses are magical. Go get her some riding lessons.
Having a passion for something special is an important part of life. If a little girl has a spark of interest in horses, why not give her the ability to find out if it is a true passion for her? Not enough young people today have enough true passion or motivation. Lacking interests leads to boredom, and putting a child into other sports just to pass the time doesn’t enrich their lives. Not to get all “children are our future”, but happy, passionate, motivated, confident, and positive adults have head start on the rest of the world if they start out as happy, passionate, motivated, confident, and positive children.
And though barriers to horse entry are real and numerous, add up those team sports trophy pools, gymnastics classes, swim parties, and softball tournaments: think there is some monetary and time commitment room in there? After all, we know most young girls are horse crazy, but how many five year olds are screaming for the chance to play field hockey?
If you know a young girl, anywhere, go buy her a helmet and some horseback riding lessons at your nearest English barn.