Lessons Learned with Kids and Horses

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Our younger daughter was as enamored of horses as her aunt was at the same age. She would help a local rancher out for a chance to ride. When she was sixteen, she finally got her wish. At that point, we learned a great deal about horses, youngsters and the interactions between them.

Play: Horses love to play. They can be very inventive, if their environment will allow it. Having things for them to play with is a good way to prevent them from developing stable vices… bad habits that a bored horse can develop.

One way to keep them entertained and interested in a toy is to use horse treat balls. Like those for dog and cats, it is basically a puzzle that rewards them for figuring it out. Ask your vet what kind of treats to add, there are many choices.

Horses and human food: One thing we learned really fast is that horses are not shy about snitching whatever food is left around. That doesn’t mean just treats and sandwiches. Our horse, Mear, loved Starbuck’s coffee and Dr. Pepper.

Keep in mind that horses are herbivores. It would be wise to keep things with meat or dairy in them far from your horse; they will try to munch on it.

Cleaning up after your horse: Unless you have your horse boarded at a facility that provides the service, you will need to keep up with the horse apples and watch that a yeast pit doesn’t develop. Horse manure means flies, amongst other things. These flies bite, and not just your horse.

Speaking of flies: There are a lot of products that you will want to have on hand, especially during fly season. Make sure you have a good quality fly spray, preferably one safe for dogs as well if you have a canine friend.

Fly masks and fly sheets are a sound investment, although your horse may not agree. Mear was adept at removing her fly mask when she was tired of wearing it. Fly spray can only do so much; keeping the flies away from your horse’s eyes is a must.

There is also a product called Swat on the market. This is a topical cream that can be put on fly bites. It prevents further bites and helps to heal the bite it is put on. Once they draw blood, flies are drawn to the already bitten area to continue the damage.

Fun stuff: We had a lot of fun with Mear, and not just when she was being ridden. We learned some valuable skills and you may want to consider some of these following items. Use your imagination; you may come up with even more fun things to do with your horse.

Braiding your horse’s mane and/or tail is something that can be learned. We spent more time on her mane than her tail, mostly at first because her tail was on the short side. We found that the rubber bands used for our daughter’s braces made an excellent means of tying off a small braided segment, although there are bands just for that purpose.

If you go to a craft store and look in the jewelry making section, you’ll find beads and other items that can be braided into the mane. It takes time and patience to thread them into the mane, but it is gorgeous when it’s done.

For Easter and Valentine’s Day, our daughter would get fake flowers to weave into Mear’s mane. She was a paint mare, and the dark coat color on her neck with the bright red flowers was stunning. Care has to be taken that the horse doesn’t try to eat them, though.

Another fun thing was also done for Valentine’s Day. Our daughter bought a bunch of organic carrots with the green tops still on. The cashier wanted to remove them for her, but she explained it was for the horse.

Next, she took the carrots to a florist. She had the florist wrap the carrots like they were a dozen roses. This amused the florist greatly. When she was done, she presented the package to Mear who thoroughly enjoyed the carrots and green tops.

Safety tips

Many of these tips you probably already know. However, they always bear repeating. When holding the horse’s lead rope, don’t wrap it around your hand. If the horse spooks, you could be seriously injured. If the horse spooks, let go of the rope. Third degree rope burns are not a pleasant way to end your outing.

Please wear proper attire while riding, including helmet, gloves and proper footwear. Your life may depend on following those instructions. You may want to know how I know that, and there is a reason.

We were doing mounting exercises. Our daughter held the lead rope while I mounted. Mear took off sideways and my foot got stuck in the irons… because I was wearing tennis shoes. The lead rope was yanked violently through our daughter’s hand… third degree rope burn.

I had on a proper helmet and riding gloves. They saved my life. I was half in the saddle but not far enough on to swing my leg over. I pulled myself up, kicked my foot out of the irons and threw myself backwards.

My head hit a rock, splitting the helmet like a melon. Even with the helmet I was knocked out briefly. Without the helmet I would be dead. As it was, I was pretty severely injured. All of this because I didn’t wear the proper footwear.

There are a lot of other safety issues when around horses. If someone says that you should do things a certain way around a horse, they most likely have a good reason.