The psychology of horse craziness

Horse riding - lovely equestrian on a horseBy April Clay, Psychologist

Fortunately for you, horses are not like puppies. Kids don’t find them wandering the streets with hopeful eyes and bring them home to announce: “Mom, look what I found, can I keep him?”

Whew. So yes, to be in the company of horses, or not to be, is your choice. Even so, if you have a potentially horse-crazed young one living with you, challenges are a given.

Sport or non-competitive?

Some kids will want to be involved in the show circuit. For others, it’s pure love and contact is quite good enough. Take some time with your young rider to see what it is that attracts them. Don’t forget that there are ample opportunities to be in the company of horses, competitive sport is only one.

There are lessons and camps, volunteer opportunities and odd stable jobs. This is where moving slow initially can really pay off. It may be your child is unsure about what type of horse involvement would suit them best.

Why girls and horses?

Here is a common burning question. Why are girls drawn to horses like flies to barns?

This is a question Melissa Holbrook Pierson eloquently undertakes in her book Dark Horses and Black Beauties: Animals, Women, A Passion. She circles daintily around all the standard explanations: girls love horses because they are better equipped with the relationship skills it takes to ride, to fulfill some deep Freudian urge, to feel powerful, because horses are pretty and thus feminine and so on. In the end, Pierson prefers to embrace the mystery of the attraction and be satisfied, to stop analyzing and revel in the wonderful pleasure of it all.

Potential benefits

All youth sports offer great opportunities for kids to grow. There is the social aspect, learning good sportsmanship, building confidence in new skills and experiencing what it’s like to set and meet goals. But, horse sport also provides something unique and different.

A distinctive benefit of spending time with horses is what they can teach us about ourselves. For kids, learning to problem solve with their equine friends can be challenging and empowering. They will be quick to learn, for example, that ill-focused anger doesn’t get you anywhere with horses or people. Talk to your kids about what great role models equines can be for humans. Draw parallels for them between their horse relationship and how they deal with other important relationships in their lives. Make the most of your kid’s chosen passion because as Lord Palmerston so wisely said: “The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.”