As we head towards the festive period and most people’s thoughts are on Christmas celebrations and gift giving - it got me thinking about riding horses and just what a gift that opportunity is in itself. There is no denying that it comes at a cost…. a large monetary cost for sure…. But that isn’t the cost I’m referring to here. The true cost of riding horses runs far deeper than that….
As children and young adults, interest in riding horses may be sparked by an intrinsic love of ponies, an influential interaction with a certain horse or rider, or perhaps even parental encouragement as they live vicariously through their children. No matter how it begins, those who are bitten by the “equestrian” bug know that it is one for which there is no vaccine.
Poor Covid-19 jokes aside, for those parents considering investing in a pony or riding lessons this Christmas and who want to know what you’re really in for – read on for advice from Barry and I - a family who have lived, worked, played and raised children (we like to believe successfully) within the equestrian industry.
As mentioned initially, anyone who simply walks into a tack shop or browses an online auction for sport horses will know that this is not a cheap sport, so I’m not talking financial costs… I’m talking the physical and emotional costs that many don’t consider when venturing into the realm of horses and equestrian sports.
There are a number of things beyond finances that your children riding horses will cost you, including:
1. Your Weekends
But who needs to watch that World Cup rugby match live right?! The difference is dads, you have replays and highlight reels for the matches you miss and no matter how exciting that match-winning drop kick might be, we can promise it won’t come close to the exhilaration of that first clear round or the first jump off victory.
2. Your Friends
For similar reasons to point 1… weekend braais, Sunday brunches and lazy afternoon sundowner sessions become few and far between once show season is in full swing (which is most of the year FYI). But for every non-horsey friend you may lose who can’t understand your all-consuming commitment to the sport, you will make more lifelong friends within the equestrian industry who can attest to and commiserate on the points to follow.
3. Your Sanity
Any parent can attest to the intrinsic maternal concern for our children as we watch them scooting around an arena in an effort to beat the clock – which I can promise you doesn’t get any easier as they get older or more experienced. But if I have to weigh it up against the alternatives of where or what my daughter could be doing instead of riding horses, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
There were significantly fewer hours spent at the mall or at house parties because unlike tennis racquets, bicycles or running shoes, her ‘sports equipment’ was living, breathing and in need of exercise and attention. So whilst we may drive ourselves a little crazy watching jump off turns at speeds Lewis Hamilton would appreciate, it brings peace of mind in other areas which would have my anxiety-meter far higher.
4. Your Sense of Humour
Early mornings, pre-show nerves, elation, disappointment and fierce rivalry means rapid movement through a number of emotions in quick succession… and the same for the rider – kidding! But on a serious note, as rider assistant, emotional support and financial provider – there are moments when you question your life choices.
On the contrary however, if I had to measure my wealth in the number of sympathy-adrenalin rushes I’ve experienced watching her compete, the number of times I have smiled with pride and the satisfaction at watching her grow in maturity and resilience during the hardships – it has provided far greater value and pleasure than it has #SenseOfHumourFailure.
5. Your Sobriety
Kids who are equestrians may quite literally drive us to drink - for all the reasons mentioned above - but let’s be honest…. which kids don’t?! They give us reasons to celebrate and opportunities to drown our sorrows in commiseration of the rough lessons, the tumbles and the show results which didn’t go their way. Also – equestrians in general are renowned for being social animals so we can’t entirely blame the kids for our love of a stable-yard sundowner or a post-show pint!
From one equestrian mom to another - it’s no secret that the cost of riding horses is immense, but in my personal opinion, the cost of NOT riding horses is even greater.
From Barry, myself, our family and all the staff and members of Farnham Stables – we wish you and yours a safe and festive holiday period and we look forward to seeing you all in the show ring in the new year!
Content Credit: Lorette Knowles-Taylor