“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill
I whole heartedly believe this statement to be true, though perhaps if I could amend it, I would add “or woman.” As a woman who grew up on the back of a horse, I have so very much to thank this upbringing for and when I decide to start my own family, I will certainly give my children the opportunity to receive their education in the riding arena and barn stalls just as I did.
Growing up is always challenging, while there are parts we certainly miss once we are adults, most of us would probably love to forget the moments of insecurity in high school, the crushing pain of our first broken heart and the embarrassment of acne. While I can only speak for myself, I believe that growing up female becomes more challenging with each generation. The tremendous societal pressures we face as women continue to mount. This is not to say that men don’t too face these challenges, however, I believe few could debate that being a girl is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
This being said, growing up to be a strong, successful and confident woman can grow out of the ashes of childhood pressure and insecurities. I think that there are valuable lessons that can be learned on the back of a horse for young girls that they cannot be taught anywhere else.
Here are 5 of the most important things I learned in my equine education.
1. Hard work is never easy – but it’s worth it
Riding and caring for horses is by no means the easiest of jobs but the reward that comes with it is unparalleled. For young girls, being around horses gives them the opportunity to work hard towards a goal. For me, this required cleaning stalls and helping with other barn chores in exchange for riding lessons. This taught me the value of working to get what you want.
2. Getting dirty is okay!
Too often little girls are taught they must be clean, pretty and well dressed at all times. Let a little girl loose at the barn and you will see these notions thrown out the window! As much as I loved wearing the dresses my mother picked out for me to school, I loved nothing more than changing into my barn clothes and getting good and dirty at the end of the day.
3. Respect is mutual – or at least should be
For those who have never ridden a horse, it may look relatively simple and easy from the outside. Once you have experienced it yourself, you learn it is much more complex than that. In fact, I feel that riding and caring for horses taught me about respectful relationships at a very early age. For instance, if you don’t respect and care for your horse, he will not respect you. You learn to ask for your horse to cooperate with you in the arena and then reward and respect the response in order to further help grow your relationship.
4. Take care of your belongings
When my father brought me home my first saddle, I was beside myself. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I polished it every night and made sure dust never had a chance to settle on the beautiful shiny leather. It felt good to own something I loved so much and my hard work paid off. That saddle far outlasted the years of riding it was intended for. To this day it is sitting in my childhood room at my parent’s house looking clean and well loved still.
5. It’s not about winning or losing – it’s all about how much fun the ride was
Competing at horse shows was once of my favorite things. I experienced the thrill of the win and the agony of defeat. As I grew older and more observant of my surroundings, I noticed that certain girls time and again would cry, pout and to my horror actually punish their horses if they did not win their class. This was so awful to me that it helped me put things in perspective in my young mind. Why get into the arena and compete if you aren’t having fun?
It is all these things that I remember and am willing to credit much of my success to today. The confidence that comes along with a girl’s relationship with horses is one that I cannot praise enough. While life removed me unwillingly from the back of a horse for nearly 5 years, I am now once again back in the saddle and rediscovering the joys and life lessons that my equine companions continue to teach me.
Emily is a health blogger and also writes about alternative health methods. She also believes that confidence can be improved with the help of subliminal cds.