The American Youth Horse Council offers me the opportunity to get to know a lot of really committed and wonderful leaders working with kids through horses. Something that struck me as I was thinking about these leaders was the simple and practical things many of them do without evening realizing they are doing something really important. Their actions make people feel included instead of excluded. Their efforts may be directed to small groups of people, but they are truly ambassadors for the entire industry.
Beyond the projects and programs are the smaller things that the individual who experienced the concern or kindness of the leader will always remember. They remember the kindness behind the effort to introduce the new parent to a club member with a couple of years experience, or the times when they call with a question about a horse or an idea and this very busy person makes the time to answer those questions and encourage those ideas. They remember feeling like the leader they talked with about horses, cared about them as people and about what they thought.
There are so many opportunities that can create that kind of memory and positive experience for kids with horses. The real trick is to stay open to acting on those opportunities, you still need to use your best judgment, but seize the moment. Here are five ideas to help kids (or adults) connect with horses:
The next time a child asks you about your horse find a way to share a positive story. Do you have a favorite story or book to share with them or a personal experience?
The next time a live-show, event or movie showcasing horses comes to town, invite a child to see it. The inexperienced horse enthusiast may not know about events and shows, so even if you don't attend with the child, you may be the channel from which they learn of the activity.
The next time you are out riding and a kid is excited to see you and your horse coming down the road, find a way to acknowledge their interest. That might mean simply saying hello or just waving, or if the circumstances allow, let that child pet your horse!
The next time you are asked to help out with an activity that helps bring kids together with horses, find a way to say yes. Volunteering time, money or just being able to make connections to the right resources can really help these events in a big way.
The next time a child asks if they could ride your horse, help them connect. If you have a horse that you can give a child a ride on - even if it is around the paddock on a lead-line, why not do it? If not, learn who works with kids in the area, and share that information.
So, the next time a child, or anyone, asks you about your horse or horses in general, consider taking a little time to share something with that person to leave them with some goodwill for horses. It's a good investment for you too!
Jill Montgomery serves as the Executive Director of the American Youth Horse Council. The American Youth Horse Council is the umbrella organization providing leadership and resources to the youth horse industry.
For more information about the American Youth Horse Council call 800-879-2942 or visit www.ayhc.com