There is a usual trajectory of growth in the horse world....a path that goes something like this for someone getting into horses for the first time, who's drawn in...
The horse world has a standard way for getting involved. It' s usually through horseback riding lessons. You sign up with a farm for an hour lesson and show up to "ride". This is just the usual way it's done, but "riding lessons" are still learning lessons! Riding is just one piece of the horse puzzle. It's a fun piece, the one that is the easiest sell and draw, but it may not be the best and most effective approach to getting folks started out with horses.
As kids, we went to school to learn. We learned, we practiced, we applied what was taught. In horses, we often start in the application phase...the act of physically riding a horse before learning the full curriculum. In math class, did you learn fractions before addition or subtraction? So why in horseback lessons do we jump right into riding a horse before we learn more about the actual horse? Why don't we take time learning more about the type of riding there is, what the differences are?
What about the history of the horse? How has the horse human relationship over the years evolved and what are the different ways that horses are connected to humans in our present day? What are the different disciplines? How are they different? Why know about them? How do horses impact the environment and how does the biodiversity of the environment in which they live and we live impact us?
Because for lots of folks, this is boring....we want to jump right in and have fun and go fast and start doing what we see other horse people doing. We want to be like that person or this person, it looks cool, never mind we have no clue what is actually going on. Let's just jump in and hang on for the ride!
Literally, I've seen it....you've likely seen it....riding lessons with folks no joke, hanging on for the ride...like for dear life. Doing way more than they should be safely for the lack of having any clue what they are doing, or how they should be doing it- safely. I've been at horse shows with teensy-weensy kids slouched forward gripping mane like a life-line, going around the arena on saintly horses but feeling compelled to say "whoa" to the ponies on autopilot passing by because their jockeys were just a slight movement off from face-planting in the dirt!
I'm too much of a control freak for such lack of discipline. I realize the impressionability a fall or scary out of control moment on a large unicorn can have on a small kid or adult not having the hand-eye coordination, balance, mental awareness, or skills taught to handle a 1000lb creature when turned loose in an arena and left to their horses devices. A scary and often avoidable experience at this impressionable time, turns many away from horses for good. And that is a shame!
We feel a strong responsibility to set those we teach up for success. What we teach at the foundation, sets the stage for each student's future. We take great pride in knowing this. It's important for our students. It's important for our horses. It's important for our program and it's reputation. It's important for our future program. It's important for our local horse industry....it is important. We believe in taking time to build a strong foundation.
Our program is based on education. On knowledge. On understanding what to do and why to do it. We question. We answer. We don't just do for the sake of doing, because that is what everyone else does. We aren't here to educate followers. We are here to educate leaders in horsemanship. Showing is NOT the only path to success when it comes to horses! It is a piece of a business model based on competition that many gravitate towards out of ego.
Our ideal student comes to us out of a different motivation. A desire to know more. A desire to learn about unicorns and how to connect with them. How to behave around them and discover how through aligning with a horse, how we can align and connect to ourselves and feel more empowered. More understanding. More control. More awareness. More joy. More fun!
If you want to know more about our unique and different approaches to starting out with horses or how to enhance and improve your existing knowledge. Get in touch! We will be offering many blended learning courses (combined in barn and online/virtual) clinics and sessions in 2022 that focus on building blocks with horses that when taught earlier than later, lead to greater success with horses than many traditional "riding, competition, and horse show focused" models focused on building a business instead of building a solid, well-rounded horseman/woman who can exist independently of "the business" because of their own education, knowledge, and skills learned.
Stay tuned too for upcoming Personal, Career, and Corporate Leadership Consulting offerings that we have partnered together with Memphis Training Consultants to roll out and offer in 2022! These unique life skill trainings straight from the horses mouth, and my interpretations from a few years experience will be unlike any riding lesson or coaching program you've experienced before.... click here to stay tuned for more to come in 2022!
As 2021 comes to a close, it's that time of year to re-evaluate. To reflect on how things are going, what's worked this year, what's not worked...what learning opportunities are available that can help us start off 2022 on the right foot, headed in the right direction for our goals.
We should all have goals- hope's and dream's are something everyone needs in these challenging, uncertain times. In our odd COVID world, with a resurgence inevitably upon us, hope gives us the coping mechanism and a little glimmer of light to work towards to help get us through challenges.
Horse barn operations from the inside-out, do have many challenges- despite looking from the outside as a "fun" easy job. Keeping track of each horse's complex and different needs, along with managing multiple bodies on different days, add in owner "simple" requests at the last moment or changes in turnout, feed, supplements, blanketing, leaving in or out for whatever reason may seem easy....but doing it on top of managing life and other responsibilities can quickly begin to feel like living in a three-ring circus! There isn't often much gratitude for the majority of effort, but let something slide and you sometimes find yourself getting yelled at....a post for another day.
Horses don't know if it's a holiday. They don't care about social plans, they have the same routine day in and out. They rely on us to keep them on point...meaning at the expense of living life sometimes to those responsible for their care. Never mind the surprise injuries or illnesses that seem to mostly happen after hours, weekends, or during emergency hour times. Regardless, it is a passion for me to do that is just in my blood and what I enjoy.
What I am intent on focusing on in this upcoming year at Meadowthorpe Farm, however is education. Giving back and collaboration with community horse endeavors that are aligned to our vision, and promote learning above all else. I have been disappointed in seeing a dwindling dedication and passion in some of our endeavors this year, and a lack of true alignment to what we promote here. I have been observing and taking note, and what I have noticed in response to opportunities I have presented, is a lack of enthusiasm for our core values and an interest in traditional showing and competition that to be frank, does not align with why we are here and what we are trying to do.
Going to horse shows, and winning top ribbons is something that can be achieved anywhere at any barn. We are not interested in that here in 2022. What we are here to do is expand your knowledge and education about horses, horsemanship, and all things such. If you can go to a horse show, win a top ribbon out of many of your friends, have the latest and greatest equipment, look the part, ride the part, pay for the part....BUT you have NO IDEA WHY you won...you can't explain what you are doing, how it applies to the horse, or to you, what is the point? If you aren't sure how to care for your horse, what to feed them, what they are eating, why they are eating it, and spending as much time on the before and after care of your horse as you do showing up and riding the horse, that blue ribbon doesn't mean very much.
One benefit I have seen this year from offering and running several of our students through our Global Equestrian Level 1 Horsemanship and Riding curriculum is that our youth need more education! As a coach of an IEA team having students participating from barns from all across our area, one thing rang true....top riders and competitors didn't know as much as I assumed about basic horse care. The kids who went through any of these lessons admitted they learned a lot more than they thought they would and were shocked as I was at the lack of basic knowledge that is often just "assumed" top riders have because they win "blue ribbons"
Blue ribbons are a misconception of actual knowledge. Riding skill is just one piece of the pie that makes up a well-rounded horsewoman or horseman! Honestly, it's a small piece of the pie, unless you have the funds and money to "cheat" in my opinion and buy the whole pie. Paying to play does cheat learning the whole story and having a complete toolkit and skillset to help you truly stand out- on your own. So that you can make the pie yourself, from scratch!
This year, I discovered a bad spot in the pie. I discovered a spot that isn't aligned to our vision of well-rounded horsemanship here at Meadowthorpe or for the Memphis Youth Equestrian Team. I discovered that my passion had back-fired. My attempt to give kids an opportunity to horse show through IEA was still catering mostly to those who can afford to "pay to play". Because of the format with so many newbies coming into the sport through this entry point, many of my team members are getting more focused on competition and developing and unrealistic expectation of what good horsemanship really is. Even worse, the format so grossly skews the amount of work and preparation that REALLY goes into getting a horse to a show....and the work afterwards. Kids can just show up, dress up, get on the horse, ride, dismount, and boom, done.....
EXCEPT FOR THE HORSE OWNERS AND THOSE PROVIDING HORSES FOR USE AT THIS FORMAT......
Parents and kids get to pack it up, leave, and skip on out, leaving the "horsemanship" and horse care up to others.....
Hum....this is a misrepresentation of priorities that we want our clients to learn and isn't serving horses in the manner we prefer....
Horses are NOT machines to be used, used, and used again for benefit of a blue ribbon pursuit. At least, not here. Not with my team, and not on my horses! Parents and kids are wanting to put the cart before the horse and insisting on jumping more, jumping higher, riding longer, cantering sooner, skipping to higher divisions because they want to keep up with their friends, or because other barns they ride at don't have the strict safety guidelines we do and are letting riders do things that quite frankly, are unsafe! If you can't stay on a horse without stirrups at a trot, insisting on cantering and even jumping on MY horses will quickly and consistently get you a "NO". Here's why"
Events we offer will be merit-based. You do the work, you perform the required milestones, you get the privilege of next steps on horses owned and provided by us in our program and at this farm. Pay to play doesn't work here without the work and effort and milestones put in too.
Participation and use of our time will be offered to those who give back to horses and our community by participation in the new BridgeUpGiddyUp program with our partner Global Equestrian counterparts. This program offers diversity and inclusion in our local community by providing 48 deserving students from the Whitehaven community access to equestrian education and riding. Collaboration is the real world. Our group will experience how to collaborate with the many different faces and backgrounds from our community gathered together because of our passion for horses. Diversity makes us better and more enlightened....real world lesson #3.
More to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg for us in 2022. But seems a fitting close for this post. Hope to see many of you stick around for the ride...AND the ground lesson!
When you lease a horse, you are not having to pay for the purchase price of the horse, but you are responsible for the care and cost of care for a horse you lease. This means you get a "test run" as a horse owner and experience what the responsibilities are of owning a horse: paying monthly board, paying farrier fees to keep your horse's feet in good condition, any vet bills that may come up with the horse, etc. An obvious advantage to leasing is having an "out" in terms of the responsibility should you decide, the responsibilities: time and financial, are more than you want long-term. There are many different types of leases and options however, making this an affordable and attractive option for many folks who can't afford the full cost of board or who can't ride more than three (3) times per week due to other commitments.
Typical horse boarders have had to purchase a horse. We have horses ranging in value from $2500 to $40k. Usually leases involve having to pay some amount of a non-refundable lease fee and are often year-long terms. Lease fees under such common circumstances in the industry are generally about 25% to 35% of the horses value. Generally, if there is no lease fee, you are getting a great deal. You are likely getting a horse that is NOT a super competitive show quality horse. If that is what you're looking for- a competitive, show quality horse that your child can win top ribbons on, be prepared for a higher price point! Although one of Meadowthorpe Farm's talents is acquiring amazingly talented schoolmasters as potential lease horses from time to time that are no or low lease fees, this is RARE! Other farm's will charge you MUCH more than what we do & honestly, they should because they have their own out of pocket expenses and labor invested in that horse as soon as it comes onto their property!
Horse property expenses come with a price tag. When you lease an apartment or a home, you pay rent to cover costs. Same with a horse. Expenses such as property taxes, utilities (water and electric) Facility maintenance, equipment and equipment maintenance, gas, labor, insurance costs, miscellaneous expenses such as footing, fence repairs, shovels, rakes, hoses, water nozzles, buckets, feed troughs, manure management and dumpsters, haul-off's.....ADD UP QUICKLY and should all be factored into monthly boarding costs for a barn boarding business to remain, a business!
There are many benefits to leasing vs owning a horse. Especially for folks new to horses! We recommend newbies to horses lease first, and usually start off with a half-lease and ease into what it's like to be a horse owner, and all the responsibilities that go along with that! Horses are after all, living creatures, not cars, and should not be changed out like a car! Leasing gives a safe space to get ready for horse ownership without the horse paying the price if you can't afford or don't have the time to devote. We absolutely put horse welfare top at Meadowthorpe Farm, and 9 times out of 10 leasing will be a requirement for new folks before we will find you a sale horse. This makes us unique amongst many horse farms, but we work first for horses and seek out and develop clients with that like mindset.
Want to learn more about Why Lease a Horse vs Buy? Click here to read this article to find out more.
P.S. It's frustrating when expectations of what you "want" are not in line with what you are paying for. From a business standpoint, when this happens, barn owners often have to say farewell to such clients because it's good business to do so- such clients negatively affect our bottom line! Horses is not good business to be honest. Much of it is emotional and the value of what the benefits are from experiencing horses is not something that will ever make sense to an accountant, or the bottom line. So prepare yourself potential horse dad's and horse husband's that have a child or spouse involved with horses....if you look at what your child or wife does from only a bottom line perspective, horses will hit you extra hard! You must consider the emotional benefits, the physical benefits, the life skill benefits, the friendships, the benefits of up's and down's. Having a horse experience can absolutely set folks up for real life successes when it comes to soft skills and the value of hard work and dedication. Of overcoming challenges and handling failures and successes gracefully. Having a horse can build character, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Having a horse is about learning to work with another creature too, so there is a teamwork component in place here that makes it a unique sport to soccer, gymnastics, swimming, etc. Learning to work together with another creature involves awareness, intuition, troubleshooting, adapting, setting boundaries, communicating effectively, demonstrating good leadership yet being a follower and stepping back and allowing the horse to do the job most of the time, it's a dance, like life, and horses will certainly teach folks how to become better dancers!
I want to encourage horse ownership, leasing, and youth participation in the horse industry, but the realities of what horses cost, now that I'm involved in the business of boarding horses has been an enlightening education for me!
Recently, I ran across an outstanding article outlining the realities of operating a horse boarding farm and all of the associated costs. This article is spot-on! The cost breakdown (from a farm in Lexington, KY) is similar to our farm area costs. I encourage parents who are considering getting children involved with horses read this article for a price check on what owning a horse and boarding it costs in 2021. If you want to board a horse at a quality facility, in a convenient location, offering quality amenities: nice arena, lights, all-weather footing, nicely maintained facility, hot water, security, nice stalls, jumps, nice turn-out and fencing- AND most importantly, quality care for your horse, there are some high costs boarding facilities face to "house" your horse. I encourage reading this entire article for the cost breakdown, but I will also summarize the numbers for you below:
COST OF ONE HORSE PER ONE MONTH:
Our monthly board at Meadowthorpe is currently $700/mo. Boarding is NOT a profitable business. We no longer run a board-focused business for this reason. We really should raise prices- we are below prices of similar boarding farms in our area.
We want to steer you in the best direction for you horse goals for what is most realistic for your ability, budget, and your time. We are willing, however, to find creative and realistic opportunities and options to experience horses and achieve these goals if there are barriers blocking a direct path for you. Our motto is where there is a will, there is a way! We focus on good values, work ethic, learning & skill development but also on getting the family involved in horses! Keep an eye out for upcoming materials and programs available to our dedicated clients: boarders, lesson students, Memphis Youth Equestrian (Memphis IEA- a Midsouth IEA area youth equestrian team) family with more information about what we're germinating for our folks this spring and summer! If you are interested in what we're growing, but aren't a client, reach out & we'll provide you options for how you too can receive some of the benefits our dedicated customers do!
Reflecting on what makes the Memphis IEA (a Midsouth area IEA area team) unique, it's the type of kids we target and their families. We want ALL youth to have an opportunity to ride and show horses NOT just the one's who's families can afford it (pay the big membership fees, the upfront lesson packages, purchase the team attire required so that we all look the same and market the image we want the public to see us as). We are okay with being different. We are a melting pot and diverse and we're flexible. We make room for individuality so that we all have room to learn and grow and ride from our members uniqueness and different life experiences that each member brings to our arena. Our team is a collaboration- there is no "I" in "Team." Here is our most important requirements for a member of Memphis IEA/ Memphis Youth / MYET ( a Midsouth area IEA team):
Season 2021 is in the books and as Coach, I am so very proud of our amazing team!
This season was extremely challenging for all. Covid-19 challenges, new rules, being put in a Region 12 while the other the other local Memphis area team was placed in a different Region- 10, and being told that we could not compete outside our region, or with our other local area team within walking distance on our same street? I offered to step up and take on the huge task, both in terms of labor and financially, to offer to host a local show a year before having too, but opted against it when I was told we couldn't invite our other local Memphis area team due to the region rules? This was a real bummer and took wind out of my sail starting the season to be honest. It started off a HOT MESS. Our region also had a really BAD show schedule originally that took several months to iron out and make right for all farms in our Zone 4 R 12.
Due to Corona, horse shows that had to cancel in the spring and summer understandably rescheduled- short-notice-for many fall IEA show dates IEA had decided on in our zone and region. We all had local A show and schooling show conflicts taking trainers, horses, and competitors away from being able to attend IEA competitions. We also had to scramble just to have enough horse shows in our zone and region to give folks an opportunity to accumulate points. We lost members of our team because of better show schedules in Region 10, but were not allowed to compete outside of our region, EXCEPT for with our pals at a Providence Hill Farm. We were granted an exception and were willing to pull out of our zone 4 region 12 Nashville show date on the same weekend and attend this show to help them be able to hold the show even! There were not enough teams able to attend this date for them to hold the show without us. We were happy to help and grateful for our Zone 4 R12 crew supporting this move and their understanding so that the show could go on! Team work, makes the dream work!
With all of the turmoil, I am really impressed with all the wonderful IEA Administrators, Coaches, Teams, Officials, and the entire organization for making the absolute most of this season and remaining so positive, and supportive 2021. We are a new team and have learned so much from our veteran IEA pals this season. What an amazing group, and we truly appreciate being able to participate at this level and be able to offer such a wonderful team equine sport opportunity to our kids and parents in our local community affordably.
We had to travel to many shows this season with one coach, less team members, and lease horses from participating teams due to scheduling conflicts. We also had many new members this year and are a young team with most of our kids not being A rated show string kids. I'm proud of this! I'm proud that we earned Team Championship or Reserve Championships at more shows than not that we attended this season. I am proud that our kids, did this on unfamiliar horses EVERY SHOW! We did not have the ability to load up our own horses and travel 3 + hours away each show (that would be financially out of the question), but we were able to negotiate deals with Coaches and teams to lease horses from them at those shows. Benefit- not having to travel with our own horses. Con- our rider's not drawing rides on familiar horses at big events, which clearly is an advantage! We truly did earn our Championship titles when we had them. Somehow, we managed to do all of this and still offer rates FAR BELOW AVERAGE of other IEA teams due to our unique networking structure and flexible membership, training, and showing options- we offer some truly out of the box options to our kids and parents without sacrificing quality, safety, or horse care due to our collaborative and unique approach to horse showing! We'll continue to adapt our approach, marketing, outreach, and network to achieve our vision. We like change. We like challenge. We like healthy competition. We like trying new things! We will remain cutting edge and give kids and parents options that they want so that we can promote youth horse sports.
I could not do this without our wonderful coaches: Leslie Gattuso and Allison Rayburn- two class acts, who share my vision for this team and love our kids! We all truly want to give these kids and ponies an opportunity to horse show. I am so excited for our continued teamwork and to see what opportunities we come up with for MYET next IEA show season! GO MYET Memphis Youth! This is one amazing crew and I am honored to be a part of it. What we are doing is unique, special, and we are making a positive impact for young equestrians in our local Memphis horse community! I absolutely love this team. Thank you one and all for making this thing work for these kids and ponies.
Ground work is smart work when it comes to horses. One thing my horses are is well-behaved on the ground! I get compliments on it often from folks who handle them at the farm. They don't need chains. They don't need gadgets to handle them. They have been taught consistently and repeatedly to respect humans and their space.
Respectful horse manners is my pet peeve! No walking behind me, on me, past me, pushing me! My horses halt with one word. They back when I turn around to face them, if I move an arm a certain way, if I jiggle the lead, or say "Back up."! They drop their head with me saying "Head Down" or with a slight downward pull of the lead rope. They automatically turn to face me when I lead them in a pasture to turn them out. They stop on a dime when I do. It's a safety thing...it's a respect thing! This doesn't mean they don't spook or get scared, and act like a horse....but it does mean I can break through their natural "flight instinct" and get back their focus and attention in a pinch! Super important because they are after all 1000+lb dragons- when fired up!
I can move herd of 10 + horses that I've established a rapport with off a gate by use of body language, a raise of an arm, a look, and sure, use of voice if needed, because they understand my communication to them in a language they understand. Because I speak their language, they respect me.
I am seeing a need to teach more youth- especially in the hunter jumper realm- more about the fundamentals of "speaking horse" through the use of ground manners and body language! Heck, I see cases at our boarding farm now of many well-trained riding horses need work in this area-especially when I have to lead them in and out. I am amazed at how many walk on me, right behind me...won't get out of my space, push past me, won't back....try to run out the gate.., their sheer size makes this extremely dangerous because they don't have any respect for people space. I don't trust that like my own horses, should they spook, that there is enough solid ground training in them for them to even consider my presence to spook around me at very least...not on top or over me.
Ground-work training in your horse should teach respect for personal space and boundaries and it should be consistently instilled in horses through positive reinforcement of good, repeated, behaviors on the ground. No exception! Common misconceptions about groundwork from hunter folks are: That ground work is boring- understanding horse behavior is essential to safety and corners shouldn't be cut here. What about longeing...that's groundwork, right? In a circle, to get the energy out, right? Actually, it's to assess the horses mental state that day, to see how their moving, and to do mental run-down with them to see how well they are focusing on you before you ride. Are you able to get your horse's attention and keep it?
Ask yourself this: Do you need to be in the right frame of mind to ride your horse? If you are frazzled, nervous, impatient, tired, short-tempered, in a bad mood, angry, anxious, relaxed, happy, content, focused, confident....does that affect your riding ability? Well, same for your horse, Ground work lets you assess where your pony's mind is at before you hit the saddle and take your chances. Ground work does not have to be longeing. It may be just be a few quick few exercises leading the horse to focus attention on you. To see how willing they are to pay attention to your cues and to get them to move their feet. If they aren't listening, you know you are good to up the ante and either do some more intense ground work or throw that leg over for a ride. Maybe riding is not a good idea that day based on the lack of attention your horse gives you EXAMPLE: a windy day, lots of activity going on outside the arena, butterflies, invisible monsters, and "creative thinking".
And horse peeps...btw, it is always okay to not ride and only work your horse on the ground! That is okay! That is good training!
Maybe you only ride 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes based on your horse's attention span fitness,, training level, age, or attitude? Maybe all you do is walk halt transitions. Maybe walk-trot....work your horse where their head is. Where is their mental state? Are you paying attention to that, or are you just running through a routine around and around a circle of walk-trot-canter because that is what YOU think your horse is supposed to do?
NEVER get in the saddle any day with expectations...meet your horse where they are and work them from where they are that day! Not yesterday...not tomorrow! Pushing too far, too fast creates big problems fast that are long lasting and harder to fix once created!
Start on the ground. If your horse can't canter a circle on the ground without shooting flames behind him/her then why on God's green earth would you think they'd be any different with you on their back? Think...use common sense...try and put yourself where your horse is! Would you be pissed off going around and around in a circle over and over with a bitting-rig forcing your head-down and having to use a hind-end that is not strong enough for that type of continuous, strenuous work in a circle? You'd likely blow a gasket too at some point too and try and run away from that! People with the best of intentions can create ticking time bombs in horses with a misunderstanding of horse behavior, ground-work do's and do not's- which is why I think all horse owners should be willing to focus as much willingness to their education of horses on the ground, as in the saddle. When in doubt...the old adage less is more is true to heart with that of a horse!
My lesson students should expect a new ramp up on this soon. It's time to return to roots and start training you how to speak better horse! Off to price some additional round-pen panels too. In the meantime, read this awesome article for a great breakdown of why groundwork is the bomb and very best tool for better riding too.
Click here for an awesome article with more information
As new students start riding with us, new equipment is required. Students, regardless of English or Western, must wear a hard hat. Also, students must wear hard soled boots with a heel. Paddock boots for English riding and/or cowboy boots for western riding.
IEA Horse show attire is more formal. Show team members will need beige breeches, a navy show coat, white show shirt, black gloves, and black tall boots. We recommend our riders visit Saddles N Such at 2135 S Germantown Road in Germantown, TN 38138 for fitting and sizing recommendations. Here are some examples of items we recommend:
Navy Show Coat: Like the below RJ Classics Coat below.
Tan Breeches: Like Piper SmartPak options below
Black tall Field Boots (laces) not hunt boots (no laces)
SmartPak or Dover. Can be synthetic or leather
We like One K, IRH, Ovation, and Samsung brands
MUST be white. We recommend getting a short-sleeved and long-sleeved white show shirt. Can NOT be a polo. Must have the correct collar. See Suggestion here:
Competition is a motivator. Competition can be fun. Competition can be a wonderful learning experience. BUT....Competition can also blur the boundaries between healthy and realistic learning about how the real world works when we fail to let kids/students fail!
So let me just cut to the chase. I'm a HUGE believer that the best way you learn is often to fail! If you do something wrong, you made the choices that led to the wrong occurring. You can learn from such poor choices with a good mentor, teacher, or parent who is wise enough to explain the reason your choices resulted in the failure in order to help you to see alternative solutions that may have led to better choices resulting in different outcomes...better ones! Now here's the tricky part....as parents, it can be SO HARD to allow kids to make choices that result in failure! BUT...it is unrealistic to always win.
It is unrealistic to be the BEST all the time. The real world is harsh. Success in the real world often comes to those that keep moving. Those that bounce back. Those that are resilient. Those that don't give up when something doesn't go the way we want it to. Pain is a reality of life. There is no way to escape it. Learning to cope with disappointment, hurt, unrealized expectations, mean-spirited people, embarrassment, ridicule, hostility, peer pressure, etc....it's all a part of life. Success is turning these experiences into positives and forging ahead! Being adaptable and flexible. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses.
Your kids can either learn to pout, cry, bully, give up, act defiant, behave in poor sportsmanship...or your kids can learn to cope, put on a game face, smile, show good conduct and manners, laugh it off, route for and support their friends, stand up to bullies, or shrug it off because, seriously....WHO CARES WHAT OTHERS THINK? I LOVE kids whose parents have instilled in them a sense of independence and who are strong enough to not give a flip what others think other than those people they look up to and respect!
It is good to strive to become the best you can at something...but you will never get there. Being the "BEST" is temporary. The learning opportunities along the way are what are important...NOT actually the short-lived achievement. The relationships made along the way are what count the most. The relationship achieved between a rider and horse. The working through a problem to a solution. The development of skill and true self-confidence because you work for it....overcome something. The developing friendships when you bond with others that you connect with because of an experience.
Students need to fail often in order to learn. Students need to experience trials, hardship, disappointment along with the joys of success and all the rewards and accolades that may go with it.
Parents need to be brave! Love your kids enough to let them find their way. Love them enough to step back and listen when your kid's teachers and coaches tell you something about your child's abilities that maybe you don't want to hear! Don't take offense to it, be willing to delve in and explore the reasoning WHY! There are very good, plausible, reasons for the WHY that can be solution-ed! Maybe your child is NOT as talented a horseback rider as another child you know of the same age group. Maybe the other child has been riding longer? Maybe the other child is more physically fit? Maybe the other child has more emotional maturity and control? Maybe the other child is able to focus more easily? Maybe the other child rides 5 times a week vs your child riding once weekly? After all, practice makes perfect! All of these reasons, give you a WAY for your child to work towards becoming BETTER for themselves not better than another!
LISTEN to your coach who knows more about horses and riding when they give you an assessment. HEAR what they say. If you do not have years of experience with horses as they do, then they have an expertise and knowledge that you do not! If you feel your child should be jumping big jumps because "Suzy So and So's" mother told you that her daughter is jumping bigger than your child, try saying BRAVO! Don't burden your child with your competitive drive to compete with that parent! That is you, NOT your child! Safety is far more important in this sport than ego! This can be a dangerous sport...especially when ego leads to corners being cut!
Focus on how your child can become better and step out of the way and let your child and an expert pave the way! Be a support for your child and praise them for not winning....rather trying! Praise them for putting in the effort. Encourage them to keep it up, that they will get there and that you think they are doing great! Your child wants to be praised by you for the effort they put in NOT for the end result!
Parents, don't focus on the Winners....focus on the Winners that are being grown! The winners in bloom! That is what the focus is and will be here at Meadowthorpe Farm. We like the color blue, but we like the way to it so much more! If you want to prepare your child for more than just winning blues...if you want to prepare your child to grow and win at life instead, while keeping the love and welfare of horses the main priority... Doing the right thing by your horses...Not pounding them into the ground when they need rest...Not jumping them daily, or multiple times a day in the heat or cold or wet or dry....Bringing them along slowly and steadily and taking the time to prepare and understand WHY your are doing something the way that you are for the horse....being able to articulate that and demonstrate it....while having fun and laughing often...if you care more about what's really important for your child and for horses, then reach out to us. We may be a good fit for working with your child, and you! #WinnersGrowHere #GoodThingsGrowHere
What better way to celebrate Meadowthorpe Farm's one year opening anniversary than at the Germantown Charity Horse Show this week! I can't believe it's been one year already?! I cut back teaching several years back to focus more time on my corporate career, family, a relationship, and my horses. It was a tough decision because I ADORE starting kids out with horses, but what felt like a good thing for me at that time (despite smacking my forehead plenty of times wondering what in the world was I thinking giving up my beloved students?!?!) turned out to be a blessing in disguise and just meant to be. Just as I scaled back, my mom had a massive stroke, which changed life as I'd known it completely for me. On top of that, my dad's dementia got worse. My world was rocked, my foundation & support system collapsed, relationships changed, and new one's emerged...life as I knew it, completely and utterly transformed and new, different, paths presented before me. I jumped from cruising down a country road not paying attention to the rear view mirror & flashers on all around me to FULL SPEED AHEAD on the expressway from HELL bumper to bumper, having to laser focus, face the insane chaos, & perform some slick defensive and offensive driving to arrive alive.
Long story short (likely for another time, lol) life required 200% of me in another arena. Magically, in this most difficult time of overwhelming hardship, the most incredible blessings began to unfold....and this farm was born. This first year goal has been on building the best boarding farm and foundation for our business model with the right barn family members for our unique atmosphere. Somehow during this time, the most perfect group formed...better than I could ever have imagined! I can never give enough kudos to our amazing barn family! Thanks for this crew for helping me grow into the Barn Manager that I am now and will be to come. This year, I'm back in the arena in another capacity. My focus is laser sharp on working with students again. Like this gal right here! My first and only student to ever mount a horse backwards. I'm so glad she's back and that some things can pick right back up where you left off BUT be better! Now, the posting trot is instinctive, natural, and done by feel. I had to rack my brain to come up with creative ways to teach this one the posting trot originally....but EUREKA, she's got it and made me laugh yesterday talking about how easy it is now.
Thanks life for changing! Thanks for working out for the best for me always. Thanks for making me better and teaching me to roll with it and trust in my talents. I am in awe of it all often, and have plenty of challenges daily still. But this year and past few years have taught me that when you can tread water and keep your head afloat, when you can BELIEVE IN DREAMS and yourself and look for the positive and authentic meaning in life when struggles present themselves... when life makes no sense, when you can have the self-confidence and courage to let go of nonsense that is a waste of your valuable energy, bless it, and stand true to yourself, know and stick to your boundaries- with class and integrity...growth occurs like magic! Dreams start to become reality! This is my life AND Meadowthorpe Farm! I'm so proud and happy for our One Year Anniversary. I know great prosperity, fun, and future adventures are to unfold and I am so excited about student and horse progression stories to come.