Have you ever noticed that (usually) the older a rider gets, the more fearful they get? They’ll even tell stories of when they were young, jumping wheel barrows or picnic tables, galloping through people’s yards, or doing backflips off their horse? When I was a kid, I just did anything I felt like doing, most of the time not thinking that something might go wrong. Some of my more memorable times were from getting a very green horse and bringing it along by myself. I was bashed in the head, fell off many times, and had both me and Vintage fall.
I can look back now and say it was a great learning experience and I don’t regret it at all. After all, I learned how to train a horse (often through trial and error), and from that, had amazing times with a horse that felt like an extension of myself. But it could have gone seriously wrong. I look at that now with Stu, my fifth untrained horse that I’ve acquired (I’ve only purchased one trained horse in my life), and think to myself, wow, he could really hurt me. He’s already given me a nice hearty kick.
As I look at him now, already the biggest horse I own at 2 years old, it’s a little intimidating. He’s the biggest, most expensive, and fanciest horse I’ve ever owned. And his manners, training, and overall worth as an adult are solely in my hands. And there’s so many what ifs? What is he kicks me again, in a less squishy place? What if he becomes difficult on the ground, and I don’t know what to do? What if I am intimidated by him?
I got a message the other day from someone who owns Stu’s full brother.
Her teenage daughter has been working with him and started showing him as a three-year-old. I was sent pictures, but since they include a minor, I’m not going to post them. But he looks so good! She’s doing awesome with him, and apparently, he’s been easy enough to work with, no major issues anyway. Color me jealous! Teenagers are amazing. They have no fear, and they operate on solid ambition and love of the animal.
It fascinates me that the under 18 group can accomplish so much with horses. Junior riders, some having only ridden a few years, are light years ahead of my own riding skills. They throw themselves into riding with their whole selves, and they excel because of it.
What happens when we grew up? Why is the scared adult such a common thing? Sometimes it could be attributed to an accident, some kind of incident, or a fall that emphasizes the danger of the sport. Often times we as adults don’t have the time teenagers have to devote to horses, and we feel like we are rusty. Some of it could be attributed to teenagers not realizing their own mortality, and therefore, taking more risks.
But mostly, teenagers are right. They may take more risks, and they get more done because of it. They have the drive to succeed, and the confidence in themselves, despite often knowing less than the adults (only because they haven’t been around as long as some adults, not because they are inferior). Having trouble with your horse? Ask the teenager to ride it. Not only are they thrilled to be able to ride another horse, they usually fix the problem, too. They have sticky seats, or at least enough guts to feel like they do.
They drip with confidence in themselves. I remember being a teenager myself and thinking I knew everything about horses, and the adults at the barn were kind of ignorant. It was likely very obnoxious, but that attitude worked for me. It made me try things with my horses that I would have otherwise been hesitant about, would have needed my trainer’s guidance, or could have been a “bad idea.” Adults did have me riding their horses. My trainer put me on the green beans and left me to my own devices. Things might not have been picture perfect, but my own horse Vintage turned out pretty awesome with my teenager “trial and error” training methods. I mostly survived. I’ve got all my limbs and my brain (because I always wore a helmet.)
I’m jealous of teenagers, and I want to channel their energy. I want to go out there and just start spending my afternoons with Stu to see what we can accomplish. I’d love to take him to his first show when he’s three.
I think teenagers are a huge example of why attitude matters so much in this sport. They haven’t been riding nearly as long as the adults, but man, they are good. I want to be as good as a teenager. I’m going to work on channeling that teenager confidence into my skills.