What does that have to do with horses?
Everything! Youth development has everything to do with horses. The nature of working with horses presents so many lessons for kids just learning their way through life. But the lessons has to be recognized and expanded upon. It can’t just lie there like an old shoe with no meaning.
One of my favorites is for my students to get out of their comfort zone. This is a natural part of being around horses. Horses are bigger than people, they don’t think like we do and yet we get in the pasture with them, brush them and even get on their backs. It is really quite crazy if you think about it. Why should kids get out of thier comfort zone? Getting out of one’s comfort zone from time to time creates just enough good stress to ramp up focus, creativity, pace, and drive, and it helps a person to respond to life stress when unexpected things happen. Wouldn’t that be a great take away from a riding lesson?
As mentioned before, horses do not think like humans. They are the animal that is hunted in nature and therefore their responses to unusual things are quite flighty. When working with horses, we need to understand this nature, respect it and still build a partnership with our horse. What is the value in that you ask? Well, ever tried to work with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with? Yet you are expected to work peacefully with that person and possibly work on a project together? Learning techniques to work with someone or something that does not think like us is a valuable skill.
Wow! Nothing like having at least 6 things to work on at the same time to help you with your focus and thought organization. Heels down, sit up straight, holds your reins properly, look ahead, be confident and now steer your horse through a complicated pattern. Lose your focus and your horse wanders off the planned pattern, or has plans of his own. You must put all these tasks in your mind and still focus on the task at hand. This is great practice for all of the complicated facets of life you encounter as an adult.
It needs to be said. Horseback riding is always working on balance, core strength, motor planning, leg strength and more. Riding a horse properly is not like sitting on a couch. Ask anyone who has posted at the trot for 8 rounds of the arena knows – this is exercise! It used to be that kids naturally got all of the exercise that they needed playing outside and being active. Now with all of our electronic equipment, video games and covid – kids being fit is not a given assumption.
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