Saturday, June 25, 2011

Investing in our Youth

Many of us started our horse experience as children. I participated in 4-H and Rodeo Events before being exposed to the working cowhorse discipline in college. As a professional, I have developed a strong group of youth clients. These girls ride 5 to 7 days a week and compete in NW and National cowhorse and reining competitions. They are responsible for the majority of the training and maintenance of their horses. With a sport as complex as working cowhorse, this is a tall order. The sport offers growth and education for all ages, but the character building experiences are especially valuable for youth participants. I am so proud of the young women they are becoming and it often causes me to reflect on the important skills and powerful life lessons they are learning through this process.
Responsibility - This is a huge financial commitment that requires hard work and dedication. Kids learn early on that their horse relies on them for everything from feed and basic care to their over all health and well being. As they move into training and competing, they learn that their horse counts on them for leadership. They have to learn to put the needs of the horse before their own.
Perserverance - Competency in performance horse sports does not come easily or quickly. It is a road dotted with disappointments, frustrations, and setbacks. Every well trained horse, or perfectly executed run comes after endless hours of practice and schooling. Thousands of circles are loped. Tears are shed. Mistakes are made, and are made again. Each day the kids learn to saddle up and treat each new ride as an opportunity. They learn that through hard work and a positive attitude they can build something special.
Problem Solving - Horse training in its most simple form is problem solving. Some horses and people come by certain things easily. Other tasks and maneuvers are harder, or more complicated. It is very rarely smooth sailing when you are learning or teaching advanced skills. When things are not going right, the kids learn to stop and assess the situation. They draw on past experiences, and reach out to their mentors to try and figure out a solution to a training problem. Editing and having awareness about what they are doing, both physically and mentally is important for forward progress. They become capable of facing life's adversities with a cool head and a sharp mind.
Humility- Unique to cowhorse competition is the variable of a cow. It is a sport where in the same show you can be a hero and a zero. No matter how talented or prepared you are, often the chips do not fall in your favor. It is important for adolescents to learn to have poise and to be humble in the face of disappointment.
Confidence- Accomplishment is something every person should feel the light of in their youth. I say that competency breeds more competency. This is also true of success. The kids learn that they have greatness in them and that if they set their mind and efforts to something, they can shine.
Perspective - Big picture thinking can be challenging in life. It is hard to mentally remove yourself from a situation enough to see things as they are. Like life, horse training and showing is a process with many ups and downs. Progress can be hard to see when you are simply looking at where you, or your horse, is currently. Appreciating the path you have taken, forgiving your mistakes, understanding where you are now, and having a plan and goals for the future are keys to success in horse training and in life.
I often tell the parents of my youth kids to think of it not as money spent on their horse, but as an well placed investment in the development of their child.