Friday, Apr. 19, 2024

Let’s Help Them Be The Master Of One

One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is discovering that elusive balance between encouraging and supporting a child and pushing him or her too far or too fast. As the parent of a 7-year-old boy, I’ve realized this is an ongoing challenge that will likely only become more difficult over time. My son’s tried various activities and sports—including riding—and I hope that through experience he’ll discover his calling.
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One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is discovering that elusive balance between encouraging and supporting a child and pushing him or her too far or too fast. As the parent of a 7-year-old boy, I’ve realized this is an ongoing challenge that will likely only become more difficult over time. My son’s tried various activities and sports—including riding—and I hope that through experience he’ll discover his calling.

Some children seem to know immediately that horses are their passion, however. I was one of those children. I began drawing horses, collecting model horses and stuffed animals well before I began taking riding lessons in elementary school. My non-horsey parents nurtured my obsession in anything equine throughout my childhood, although they did ask me to try other activities along the way.

I played the clarinet, played soccer and discovered a second passion for springboard diving. I competed seriously through high school, often riding in the afternoon after school and practicing at the pool in the evening. Eventually I had to choose between the two sports in order to progress to a higher level. It was a difficult decision, but I knew that nothing could replace my love of horses, and my parents supported my decision.

Today’s children are growing up in a culture that’s much faster paced and intense than even 10 or 20 years ago. Sadly, these children also face more threats to their safety and well being than a generation or two before them. Therefore, most parents must chauffer each child to his or her respective activities after school, and they simply don’t have time to spend hours at the barn with their child. If the child has one or two horses to ride after school, it’s a quick trip with the parent waiting in the car reading a book or helping to groom and tack the horse to hurry the process.

Consequently, young riders aren’t as free to spend their time hanging around the barn soaking up the skills that eventually develop into horsemanship, such as feeding, turning out, medicating or even learning to drive the tractor and manure spreader.

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Bill Moroney addresses this conundrum in his Between Rounds column “We Must Prepare Our Young Horsemen For The Future,” p. 74. The hunter/jumper professionals have been addressing this ongoing problem in the sport for the past several years, and expanded efforts to include horsemanship testing in equitation competitions and focused horsemanship clinics have been steps in the right direction.

Bill also notes in his column that parents need to quit over-scheduling their children and pushing them to be involved in as many sports and activities as possible. It’s important to help children discover their passions, and once that spark is ignited they should be encouraged and supported. It’s difficult to develop a strong work ethic if you don’t have a keen interest in the activity. And when a child does discover what motivates him or her, the child develops an inner satisfaction and confidence in learning and achieving goals that transcends to other aspects of life, including academics and social relationships. As Bill says, being a “jack of all trades, master of none” isn’t the best path for our children to take.

This year’s Junior & Pony Issue is filled with stories of young riders who’ve discovered their passion in horses and who’ve dedicated themselves—some overcoming tremendous obstacles—to achieving excellence. I hope you enjoy reading about these children who are well on their way to mastering their respective sports and pursuits, from hunter/jumper to dressage to writing and fine arts. They’re truly an inspiration.

Tricia Booker

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