By Darlene M. Cox
Yes, mom and dad, your little one may indeed be considering asking the jolly, old elf to bring him a horse this Christmas. But, how do you know he is really ready to have a horse of his own? Is he ready for the responsibility of horse ownership? A horse isn’t like the bicycle he received for his birthday that now forlornly sits resting awkwardly against the side of the garage, unnoticed and unused for weeks.
Realistically, it will be you, mom and dad, who will bare the lion’s share of caretaking responsibility for any equine that Santa and his reindeer places in your barn. Are you ready for the task? Therefore, when Santa’s assistant contacts you to advise you of your child’s Christmas wish, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my child possess a real desire to own a horse? One way to be affirmatively assured of your child’s love for horses would be his incessant conveyance about wanting a horse of his own or other outward indications that he truly enjoys them. Does he ride stick horses around the yard? Does he draw pictures of horses in play? Does he pretend to ride a horse when he watches a western on television? Does he often point out pastured horses as you speed by them in your car?
- What is your child’s experience level with horses? Has he been exposed to horses on a regular basis? Perhaps you own other horses. Does your child assist with grooming or feeding chores? Will he require riding lessons? If so, from whom will those lessons be given? I recommend that lessons be obtained from a reputable trainer who has experience with teaching children to ride. Lessons given to children students are offered in a different format than those given to adult students. I would recommend that you interview the trainer and visit their barn to determine their level of training experience. Steer clear of your neighbor down the road who happens to own a horse and would be more than willing to let your child learn to ride on his horse. If your child has spent some time in the saddle, what riding experience level has he reached? Will the gift horse match your child’s experience level? It is important that you purchase a horse that will match the child’s level of riding experience. A horse that is too advanced will intimidate your child, and may even pose hazardous risk of injury.
- How committed are you to the care the new horse will require? Where will the horse be kept, at your own barn/property or at a boarding stable? If in a boarding situation, will your monthly finances support the care and upkeep required? The purchase price of the horse will be the least expensive when stacked up next to the care and upkeep over a period of time.
- What ultimate goal do you envision for your child and his horse? Trailriding, 4-H Club, showing, jumping, Jr. rodeo?
Basically, it all comes down to your parental judgment and personal assessment of your child and his true desire to own his first horse. If the questions above can be answered truthfully and with positive answers indicating that conditions are right; and if you know your child to be one who handles responsibility and commitment well, then have no doubts he will be able to understand the important aspects of horse ownership. Then by all means, approve the Christmas wish list and tell Santa which stall he should leave the horse in on Christmas Eve.
Oh, and don’t forget to have plenty of film in your camera to catch those special first moments when your child discovers his very own horse looking at him from over the stall door.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Trails!