There were lots of kids to ride with and places to ride. Kids could ride down the road and cars would slow down when passing us. Seems like today people about run you off the road or speed up and blow the horn at you! When I rode, in my mind, I was Roy Rogers or Maverick. All the westerns on TV made us kids want to be cowboys. I guess some of us never grew up!
The types of ponies my parents bought were not expensive, but we rode them so much they became really quiet and broke. Not well trained, but broke. Today people are buying two types of horses. First there is the horse that is not broke enough to teach their rider anything (and perhaps is unsafe). So this rider is never able to learn balance, confidence and basic skills. The other type of horse is one that they spent a lot of money for and is strictly a show horse. The horse is well trained for a certain discipline, but maybe not what I call broke. The rider may learn how to get around the show pen, but they never learn to truly ride or what to do if they have a major problem. Plus, when people spend a lot of money on a horse, they don’t exactly want their kids taking off and riding down the road or across a farm field. I get that.
Today there are so many pressures and barriers for kids and adults, that they aren’t developing that natural ability that so much time in the saddle will give. People may have long work days and hectic schedules. Kids seems to be into so many activities that horses come last. When I was in school there were few sports options and each sport had its season. Today there are so many sports and they seem to run year-round, with traveling teams, camps and preseason conditioning. Add demands at school and all the distractions of social media and our digital world, it’s no wonder our kids have no time.
So, I think we can all agree with these things reducing time in the saddle today, people don’t have the opportunity to learn the riding skills that I did as a kid. People, adults and kids, are learning to pose on their horse for the show ring instead of riding. There is a difference in riding/training versus showing. It takes hours of riding and training both horse and rider to do well in the show ring. You have to maintain your riding fitness as well as your horse’s fitness and skills to be able to show. That takes practice and time. Then you go to a show and you are in the show ring maybe 5-10 minutes per class.
For those of you that remember a childhood similar to mine, like me you are old! But as I compare these “olden days” to today, it’s easy to understand why horsemanship is declining. The point of all this is that people need to learn to ride. If you want to ride, you need to find the time to do it. Kids need to put away the cell phones and spend time in the barn. Don’t have an indoor arena? Weather is usually not an excuse. In Ohio, during the course of the year, we really don't have that many days that it is brutally cold or pouring down rain. Get out and go spend time with your horse. Like the saying goes; time spent in the saddle is never wasted.
One final thing to remember…horses don’t make mistakes, people do. Don’t make the mistake of not truly developing a relationship with your horse. The effort you put in will be returned many times over.