What to Expect When Your Child Loves Horses

What to Expect When Your Child Loves Horses

Can you relate? An equestrian reflects on the stages her parents went through during their journey to horse ownership.

little boy with palomino horse (Credit: Marilyn Van De Graaff)

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By former AQHA intern Amber Hammes

Back in the day, I was about as horse-crazy as they come. My parents endured years of me begging for a horse of my own. Like a lot of parents of horse-crazy kids, they didn’t have a big, fancy barn or herd of horses that I could just pick from the moment I showed an interest. It was all pretty new to them and, frankly, financially terrifying. Eventually, they acknowledged when it was time to buy their child a horse and now they’ll tell anyone and everyone the benefits that came from their kid owning a horse. Through it all, they walked with me on my journey to where I am today, a lifelong horse girl. As a tribute to all those awesome horse parents out there, I have summarized the five stages of becoming a horse parent.

Stage 1: “It’s just a phase.”

So you’ve been saddled with a horse-crazy kid. (Pun intended!) You’ve heard the horror stories of bank accounts getting depleted and free time disappearing. But what’s a parent to do? Horses are a major investment with little chance of a return, and what if your child grows out of it? Then you, as the parent, will have a 1,200-pound “dog” to take care of. Your child’s pleading has become incessant so you decide to find a local barn where you drop your child off for an hour lesson once per week.

Stage 2: “… Maybe it’s not just a phase.”

Your child shows a genuine interest that isn’t letting up, and as much as you resist, you can’t help but swell with pride when you see your child atop her favorite lesson horse. At this point, most parents are starting to sweat and don’t know how much longer they can hold out! The child has grown increasingly adamant about having her own horse, and her room is covered floor to ceiling in equine décor.

Stage 3: The Leap

You’ve given in. You realize that horses are definitely not just a phase. Your child lights up and becomes more confident when she’s around horses. But this is a major investment, and definitely something parent and child need to take seriously.

My parents decided to do something a little out of the ordinary. They decided that if horse ownership was something I was serious about, then I had to do the research and pick out the horse, pending their approval. I dragged my parents on three out-of-state trips, and it took nine months, but I eventually made my choice. I’m so grateful that my parents did this for me, because it was a wonderful learning experience in decision-making. The process taught me how to walk away from a sale, and make sure it was exactly what I wanted. As a result, what I learned from buying a horse has trickled into other areas of my life and helped me make better choices in big decision-making moments.

Stage 4: The Immersion

At this stage, the horse has consumed your lives. You spend your evenings carting your child back and forth between the barn, tack store and local farm store. Your weekends consist of hot, dusty arenas and drive-throughs, as your child and her noble steed compete at shows. You have officially become a “horse-show parent.”

Stage 5: The Payoff

You have arrived at the acceptance stage. You see how your child has grown into the smart, kind and responsible human being she is because of horses. You can’t imagine what the past several years would have been like without that integral part of your family’s lives. To you, every penny has been well spent. Blood, sweat and tears have been shed, but in the end, it has all been worth it to see your child grow into a successful adult.

Being a horse parent is definitely not an easy feat. It challenges relationships, bank accounts and who you are as a person. However, if you talk to any parent with a horse and child in tow, they will most likely tell you it has made a positive impact in their child and family’s lives. To horse parents, you can’t put a price on the life experiences horse ownership has to offer to a growing child.