From a young age, I was taught all about what’s on Old Macdonald’s Farm – “with a woof woof here and an oink oink there. Here a hiss, there a roar, everywhere a neigh neigh.” As I grew older, sounds were replaced with drawings and a one way conversation with my parents that never dignified a response, “Mum, I need a dog, a cat, a hamster or all three.”
In a world dominated by technology and fancy cars, it is easy to forget how simple life was way back when; letters were used to communicate, feet were used to take you places and horses were how the elite travelled.
If there was one animal my mother was happy for me to interact with, it was a horse. Horses may not fit the typical description of a household pet; they do not come in and out of the house as they please or cuddle up to you on the couch, however that doesn’t neglect the role horses can play in your upbringing. That said, I shouted until I was blue in the face in favour of Alfie or Jimmy (the names I had given my non-existent dog and cat) – safe to say animals played no part in my upbringing.
It wasn’t until I saw the benefits of horse riding lessons on my younger sister that I suddenly started to pay attention to our four legged friends:
Values – My sister started demonstrating a genuine care and compassion towards things that weren’t necessarily her own.
Communication skills - The horse is your partner, therefore you need to find ways of communicating together, however unconventional – becoming friends. You may have a lesson on a different horse each week, or it may be the same, but you have to figure out how to communicate effectively with that horse.
Confidence - Learning to ride is a long and difficult journey with many hurdles in the way. That said, every hurdle jumped bought about new found confidence in my sister, both on and off the horse. The process of working hard towards something and achieving it, even after failing perhaps, is a valuable life lesson learnt.
Family Fun – Whether it was a family outing to watch the horse riding lesson or a family horse ride on holiday, horse riding provides the opportunity to get into the great outdoors and have a family adventure at any time of year.
Stimulate the imagination – My sister quickly became ‘horsey obsessed’ and began to read about horses, both facts and novels. It encouraged her imagination to run wild, eventually coming out in wonderfully creative drawings and poems.
Would I rather drive a Porsche or ride a horse? Would I rather hear a horse’s neigh or a Porsche’s engine? The answer for me is simple – nature wins every time.
Toby is a PR assistant at Regatta