Growing confidence and empathy with horses

Confidence is one of the greatest strengths in riding, both on the ground with horses and on their backs. Learning to ride and care for an animal that weighs over a thousand pounds can be daunting at first, but like anything, the more familiar one becomes with it, the easier it is. I think even as adults, the confidence to navigate a task in partnership with a flight animal can give us a boost of confidence that can be applied to all aspects of our life. This is most obvious however, in children. 

There is a five year old girl who comes for lessons, an only child whose parents love very much, and want her to be as happy as possible. They are very caring parents, but offer to help anytime she has trouble with anything. Each time she lessons, I ask she help as much as she can with grooming, tacking, and untacking her pony. This began with her insisting she couldn't do many of the things I asked of her, with her parents backing up this thinking by telling me she had trouble with this or that, or offering to jump in and help. She had particular trouble removing the safety snap cross ties from the halter. Each time, I would explain, demonstrate, and then wait as she struggled to remove the snap. Each time I would tell her, "you're strong enough to do this. Pull down on just the part with the arrow." Week after week, she would get it sooner and more easily than the last, until last week she came, and as her mother jumped in to help, she stopped her and said, "Mom, I'm strong enough. I can do it," and removed the safety snap on the first try, turning to me with a huge grin. 

There are many ways to raise strong, empowered, empathetic children, and to nurture and grow those qualities in adults. Horseback riding is certainly one of those ways. Horses require hard work. They require dedication. They teach us to be strong, and when we get too strong, they teach us to be humble. They teach us to communicate with others who may not speak the same language, or may not speak at all. They teach us to care and advocate for those who do not have a voice. To consider how our actions affect something else. They teach us that we are capable of incredible things if we put our minds and muscles to the task. They teach us that the more time and love you pour into something, the more you get back. A young girl learned this week that she could do more than she imagined, and thats pretty incredible for her. To be honest, it was pretty incredible for me.