So You've Got a Horse-Crazy Kid...

What to do if your kid is obsessed with horses.

It's a phase most little girls go through at some point in their adolescent lives. Maybe your 8 year old saw Black Beauty on TNT, or your six year old talked you into a pony ride at the fair. However the obsession starts, it hits full force with a fury. All of a sudden your child can talk, and seemingly think, of nothing but horses. Her walls are adorned with posters pulled from the pages of Horse Illustrated, her bookshelf fills up with Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion, and she trades her flip flops for cowgirl boots. When asked what she wants for her birthday or Christmas, the answer is invariably the same- a pony.

What's a parent to do, especially a city or suburb-dwelling parent? How can you indulge your child's horse obsession if you live in a high-rise condo without a back yard, much less a barn? Having once been a horse-crazy kid myself, I can give you some advice.

First, exploit your network. Do you know anyone with a horse (and I mean anyone!)? Got a coworker with a framed picture of a horse on her desk? Strike up a conversation and tell her about your kid's love for horses. Horse people would like nothing better than to talk about their horses, and most are more than happy to give a kid a tour of the barn and maybe even a spin on ol' Daisy. Start meeting horse people and before you know it, you'll find someone willing to let your child groom, muck stalls, ride and otherwise get her "horse fix."

Second, consider coughing up the money for riding lessons. Riding someone's backyard pet bareback will satisfy the horse-crazy kid for a while, but most kids will eventually want to learn to ride properly. Lessons are available at a variety of price points and some barns let students work off the lessons. Even if you do spend a pretty penny on riding lessons, it will be well worth it. The confidence and athleticism gained through riding are priceless. I would venture to say that young girls who ride are highly unlikely to get involved with drugs and unhealthy relationships. Who has time to get high or pregnant? There are three foot fences to jump and lead changes to be mastered!

Finally, if your kid is horse-crazy, I encourage you to indulge the obsession, at least for a while. If it's a phase, it will pass and the problem will solve itself. Many successful riders and trainers are simply horse-crazy kids who never grew out of it. If your child turns out to be one of these, he or she will thank you years from now for allowing them to explore and pursue their passion. When you swell with pride after watching your child jump a four foot fence on the back of a 1200 lb animal, you'll realize there's something it it for you too!

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