Published by Eventing Connect

Sable recently wrote a great article about young people in the sport and the rider/parent/coach dynamic. It was very thought provoking,especially as I had a childhood less ordinary and now also have a child myself. My mother had a saying-‘you learn nothing from the easy horses’ but I strongly disagree. My early education with horses was akin to a downhill toboggan ride after one too many eggnogs-no one knew what they were doing,it was all very blurry and there was no way to stop. Plus vomiting and headache were more or less guaranteed…..
My catastrophe started when I decided to teach my polo pony to do dressage. My polo career was short lived,I was atrocious at the game. Since I can neither throw or catch,it was probably a logical assumption that adding a horse and a stick into the equation wasn’t going to improve matters. However,I had quite a big argentine thoroughbred gelding with a parrot mouth and an attitude problem. The team tactics were always ‘Christa,don’t try and hit the ball. Take out the opposing number 3 and we will take care of the rest’. My horse was fast and tall,and he was a bastard for biting in a ride off. We actually won a national championship this way……Anyway,dressage. Seems inoffensive enough? Well that depends on the horse…..during that brief stint I contested two dressage national championships with my angry argie,won a few rosettes and a trophy,received a ban from the the Pony Club and a yellow card from the affiliate dressage society. He broke my nose three times and on one occasion I fractured my shoulder blade in a mesmerising mid air triple spin and back flip crash after feeding him too much. You might think my mother would have been horrified and immediately rushed out to get rid of him,whilst searching for a safe replacement for her darling child. And you’d be wrong. Way wrong. She in fact began actively seeking out psychotic horses that no one else wanted to ride and when she ran out of those,she started breeding them instead……
There was Patsy,the parrot mouthed thoroughbred with a habit of regularly rearing over backwards. There was Archie,the 17hh thoroughbred who would have put any bull on the PBR tour to shame. There was Fury,the ‘Broken to ride but only when he remembered’ chestnut gelding who totally rearranged my face,causing me lifelong health issues. The list goes on and on. I kept going,sold on the notion that if I managed to get these horses going,I was a shoe in for the next olympics. I had NO idea what I was doing,I was getting hurt repeatedly and I was 28 years old before I realised that I needed to make other choices. Somewhere along the line my ambitions and dreams went out the window. I’m a decent rider and a successful young horse producer,but I fail to believe it enough to make the next step because it was bet out of me. Every day,my body aches. I am on medication daily to be able to do simple things damaged by horses-things like breathing and moving. My life is very different now,I have two very nice mares plus a husband who tolerates me well and a beautiful little boy. And herein lies the point.
I am terrified to let my son Charlie near horses. He likes to sit on my retired eventer and they are great pals, but at the moment Charlie isn’t that interested unless it’s a tractor. The relief is huge for many reasons-mainly that he’s not horse mad,so hopefully I will never have to let go of the leadrein and trust a horse with my most precious love. Also he is probably like his father-good at EVERYTHING. I couldn’t possibly cope if he was better than me at riding……!! I jest,mostly…… Loving tractors means he can spend time with his father in a tractor (nicely freeing me up to ride) and also tractors are better than horses. You can leave them out in all weathers,they do useful things every day and they don’t go lame very often. I just couldn’t imagine ever letting my child loose on a psychotic horse,’for the greater good’. I can’t believe it happened to me,repeatedly.If he wants to ride, I will seek out the best and most reliable animals I can find. He will be on the lead rein until he is 22. He will learn how to ride normal easy horses and if one day he happens on a tricky one,he can say no-or he can use his carefully honed ability to give it a try if it is safe to do so. This is not a poor me sob story,it is an illustration of the damage done by a parent who pushed their child too hard and too far in all the wrong directions. Parents,you have a responsibility to allow your children to learn and grow in a safe environment. If that environment includes horses,then you need to be doubly careful. Don’t worry about fancy equipment,rosettes and national trials. Worry about fun in a safe capacity. That can never be the wrong answer.


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I am a Sports horse producer based in Ireland. That sounds very grand....the reality is that life here is crazy-trying to fit four horses,200 cattle,a baby and a husband into a day results in tales of the insane and a feeling of lurching through life with no clue what's going on. I have a keen interest in everything from planets to bones to quantum mechanics,and am a perpetual asker of the question 'why?'.

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