Time is something that's even more rare than hen?s teeth in today?s fast-paced world, and everyone who's older than a toddler feels the crunch. We horse professionals see it with our clients?our wonderful adult amateurs are squeezing riding in as best they can around their work and family, and we see our teen students packing their lessons between school, other sports, tutoring, community service projects, and more.
We can't do much to change this, ?adults have to work, and teens need to get into college. Still, I'd like to take a moment to discuss what people who just ride often miss.
Not all that long ago, the average barn was clogged, almost to the point of silliness, with ?barn rats.? Those kids, usually girls aged 12 to 20, rarely left the barn except under parental decree. Sure, they spent an admitted amount of non-educational hanging out, but this was also the time when those kids learned the finer points of things like minor vet care, equine behavior, grooming, and all the ?stuff? that isn?t riding.
My wife remembers learning about a horse's temperament while spending hours at her childhood barn. By watching the horse in a pasture, she learned how to discern whether or not he was safe to approach by how the other horses in the pasture responded to him. The opportunity to learn from the other horses only came from sitting at the fence, watching the horses interact.
that's just one reason why I think it's important for us to make sure we take time to absorb and appreciate the everything-else-that-isn?t-riding aspects of being around horses.
Parents, let your kids spend a weekend day at the barn, and let the trainer or barn manager ?put them to work??cleaning tack, pulling manes, and just being around the horses. Adults, give yourself an hour a week to do nothing but hang out at the barn. Sit somewhere with a good, safe vantage point to your horse's pasture to watch him interact with his buddies. Find tasks or skills you should learn how to do besides riding. Ask your trainer or barn owner if you can organize dismounted clinics on cleaning tack, braiding or body clipping (for starters), and then take these lessons as seriously as you would a riding lesson.
When I was growing up in Pony Club in New Jersey, dismounted lessons were the basis of our program from November to March. we'd go to someone?s house or barn to learn about feeding, conditioning, equine anatomy, bandaging and more, at the time of year when the weather made mounted lessons impossible.
Riding is often the primary way in which horse owners interact with their horses daily. But if that's the only way you're interacting with your horse, if you're leaving the knowledge about all the minutia of horse care and grooming to the professionals in your life, you're missing out on a lot. You can learn so many things that will make you a better horseman if you can just spend a minute of precious time out of the tack, experiencing the million other pieces that go into owning and training a horse.
?John Strassburger,?Performance Editor