I’m in the thick of raising young horsewomen—I’ve got four daughters who ride (eek), the oldest of whom is now 13. I’ve messed up big-time along the way, so I’m sharing what I’ve learned so far. I hope my hot tips might help you support your daughter in becoming more than a rider, plus save you from heartache, heartburn and trainer roulette.
Teach Her To Respect Her Trainer
Let her trainer train. Even if you jumped 3’6″ with a blindfold 20 years ago, you’re not a trainer. Your kid is not a trainer. You bleed the big bucks for a reason.
Teach her to show her trainer gratitude. Model this by thanking her trainer too. Remind her that when she’s tucked into her cozy bed, her trainer’s at the barn all day and often well into the night, whether it’s frigid, scorching or sopping wet. Her trainer often sacrifices her own self-care to do what’s best for horses and clients.
Remind her that her trainer is doing her very best, but doing it all is mentally and physically draining. If her trainer has a blah day, shake it off and offer to pitch in.
If you are stopping at Starbucks, tell her to text her trainer to see if she wants a caffeine boost too.
If she comes home frustrated because she didn’t jump big enough, gallop fast enough or get any feel-good-praise, remind her the trainer knows best. And if this doesn’t ring true in your heart, it might be time to break up with the trainer.
Teach Her To Be A Good Person
Guide her to be a helper outside of the ring—to ask her trainer and staff if they need jumps moved, braids seam-ripped or horses sprayed.
Instill her with kindness rather than judgement—to compliment and to comfort barn family after a tough ride. Show her this by clapping for the stranger with the rubbed-out braids who exited the ring crying. Applaud for the one who survived the next round after her spicy mare flung her into the roll top.
Explain she should embrace the diversity in the barn and the sport. The love for horses is so strong it can overcome any perceived differences.
Ensure she treats all barn workers with respect and gratitude. They’re doing the unglamorous work to keep the horses on fleek.
Teach Her To Work For It
Discuss how horses aren’t robots. They need to be groomed, grazed, bathed, loved on. It’s not horsemanship if the groom hands her a horse, so she doesn’t break a gel-painted fingernail, then she throws the reins back after a selfie.
When she comes home covered in dirt, exhausted and complaining that she cleaned tack for hours then grazed five horses, help her understand that this is part of true horsemanship. Then tell her to hop in the shower because she stinks.
It’s OK to point out the sacrifices you are making to allow her to work her butt off at the barn. Riding is a privilege. WE DO NOT TAKE THIS FOR GRANTED.
Praise her for doing what’s best for the horse without sulking, even if that means skipping a division or prepping hard for a show then having to bag it.
Tell her to watch her trainer ride—both the made horses and the projects. Watch her trainer teach all the lessons. Have her soak up knowledge out of the saddle. (Bonus: That’s the ONLY thing in this sport that’s free.)
Teach Her You’ll Support Her Along the Way
Chug three cups of coffee so you aren’t raging when you drive her to a horse show at 5 a.m.
Send her to shows she can’t ride in, so she can cheer for her barn family and eat greasy fries from the food truck.
Be frank when some of her horse dreams are unrealistic because, well, you need to pay your mortgage (or other constraints), but help her work towards attainable goals.
Tell her she did well when she kills it, but more importantly, tell her she’s a rockstar when she doesn’t win a ribbon.
Teach her to ask her trainer questions when she’s clueless, that she should not be ashamed to be confused. Faking it undermines the process.
Teach Her How to Fail Then Pick Up the Pieces
If she calls it quits, encourage her with all your might to keep at it—but recognize that it’s OK to let her come back to riding on her own terms.
Remind her this is a sport of highs and lows, where the best days can be followed by buck-spin-faceplant. When she’s humbled and scared, hug her, even if she says you’re cringy.
Teach her to cut herself slack, to nurture herself like she would her bestie. So if she crashes through an oxer, gets scolded in a lesson, has a showing catastrophe, she won’t shatter.
Tell her you admire her commitment to put on her big girl pants and ride. You’re proud because it takes guts and grit to get on an animal that might freak because a leaf falls too loudly.
Teach her things will go wrong, but the world won’t screech to a halt. Horses randomly limp, bellyache, decide they prefer western pleasure. This is all practice for rolling with the blows in life. There’s a bright spot just waiting to peek through.
Explain there will always be someone with a fancier horse—and someone who rides once a month but can see distances a trillion miles away. Don’t compare. Do it for the love of it.
Teach Yourself To Be A Good Role Model
Don’t contradict the trainer, especially in front of your child. If you feel compelled to do so regularly, maybe it’s time to switch trainers or invest in some duct tape.
Even if you aren’t a rider, watch her lessons. Truly be there (not scrolling Insta or buying random crap on Amazon), to witness her perseverance and growth.
Take risks and show her you are brave and vulnerable too. Take a lesson then hobble around with thighs-on-fire. She will want to see that.
Show her horses are joy. Hug them with her when they are mud-coated, feed sticky mints, groom poop-stained butts with a smile.
If you didn’t grow up riding, educate yourself ASAP. Ensure your child is in safe, reputable hands. Know what you are watching. Don’t base progress off fluttery ribbons or big jumps because that isn’t proof that your child is learning.
Stay out of the drama!
Most Importantly… Teach Her Horses Are For Life!
Teach her horses are lifelong. Even if she takes a break, they’ll always welcome her back guilt-free.
Encourage her to go to the barn when her heart is hurting, to breathe in the smell of hay and manure and smile again.
Hug her close and share how some people go through their entire lives without a true passion. Living, breathing, and dreaming about horses is an (expensive) blessing.
Jamie Sindell has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona and has ridden and owned hunters on and off throughout her life. She is a mom of five kids, ages 2, 3, 6, 10 and 13. She and her family reside at Wish List Farm, where her horse-crazy girls play with their small pony, Cupcake, and her son and husband play with the tractor.