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Lessons for mother of small children

From: Kathleen

I am a 33 year old mother of 3 kids under the age of 5. I would like to start taking riding lessons once a week. (I used to ride as a teen). My goal is to eventually lease a horse (after 2 or 3 years of lessons) and then get my own. Is it realistic to think I can fit lessons as well as any extra time needed at the barn to learn about care of horses with 3 small children? My husband is willing to help out with the kids- I can't imagine bringing them with me until they're older. No one else in my family rides, and I'm afraid as I get more and more involved in learning, and eventually leasing a horse, I'll find I don't have the time it requires and will feel I have wasted my time working towords this goal.

I'm also concerned about the money involved. I'm a stay at home mom and don't have a lot of extra money to spend. However, this has always been a dream of mine, and I'd like to pursue it if at all possible. What do you think?

Thank you,

Kathleen


Hi Kathleen! I think that the first part of your plan is realistic, and that you should start there and see where it leads you. Lessons are an excellent idea, and you can take them forever. Everything you learn will help you become a better rider. It's been my observation that good lessons in riding and horsemanship serve to make people better human beings as well as making them better riders -- so I don't think that the time and money spent taking good lessons will be wasted under ANY circumstances.

You are wise not to bring the children with you; unless your barn has a baby-sitting service, it's best to leave the kids at home. I discussed this at some length in my first book; mothers with kids at the barn tend to spend their time and energy keeping track of the kids, and can't really focus on their own riding. You've probably already discovered that part of your attention is always on your kids, whether they're in the room with you or not, whether they're awake or not... it's just part of the "mom" job description!

You're lucky to have a husband who understands your wish to ride, and is willing to help out to make your wish come true. This is the kind of support that any rider would be grateful to have.

Be sure to get the best possible instructor, and keep a focus on safety. Never get on a horse unless you are wearing your ASTM/SEI approved helmet, properly-adjusted and fastened. Accidents happen so fast around horses, and head injuries are so prevalent, that you'll want to take every possible precaution in every area of the sport: headwear, footgear, choice of horse and tack, riding etiquette... and that all-important choice of a mentor/guide: your riding instructor. You can't take all the risk out of the sport, but it IS possible to avoid taking unnecessary risks.

As for the sense in pursuing your dream -- that's what dreams are FOR. If this is something that you've always wanted and you're always going to want, and you have a chance to make it real, why wait? Keep your perspective, though, and set your goals in terms of skills and knowledge acquisition, NOT in terms of a timetable. Tell yourself "I want to learn basic dressage" or "I want to learn to jump a course of 3' fences", or whatever your riding goals may be -- don't tell yourself "I have to be leasing a horse full-time and showing at Second Level (or jumping 3', or whatever) by four years from today." That's not realistic or fair, especially if you have three children at home and your finances are limited (and if you have three children at home, your finances are just about GUARANTEED to be limited). If you set your goals fairly, you'll make progress and get a lot of satisfaction along the way.

Whether it's worth it or not will depend on why you want to ride and what you want out of it. If you're thinking that you might like to ride in the Olympics, and nothing less will make you happy or fulfilled, then it's probably not worth putting the money and effort into lessons. If you want to learn about horses and horsemanship, become a horsewoman and a rider, and be able to share your passion with your children, then it's almost certainly worth it. If you just want to spend time with horses, want to improve your riding skills, and want to learn more about horsekeeping, it's definitely worth it. What you'll get out of the experience will depend partly on what you put into it, and partly on your goals and perspective.

That question is one I hear fairly often, and as part of the answer, I usually tell this story:

*** A young high-school graduate had just gotten to his new college and was standing in line to register for Freshman English. After a while, he noticed that the person standing just behind him was a woman who didn't seem to belong. She had grey hair and glasses, and looked a lot like his grandmother... He finally said "Excuse me, ma'am, but I think you're in the wrong place, this is the line for Freshman English." "Yes," she said, "that's right! I'm a freshman, and it's a required course."

He thought about this for a few minutes, then began to worry about something else. "Um, ma'am... if you don't mind my asking, how old are you?"

"I'm sixty-eight," she said.

He counted on his fingers for a moment, then said "But ma'am, that means that by the time you graduate, you'll be seventy-two years old!"

She smiled. "I'll be seventy-two anyway..."

****

In other words, if there's something that you really want to do, and you have a chance to do it, why not go for it? It seems to me that if any mother with with three small children can find enough time and money to take lessons, and has the willing cooperation of her husband, she ought to give it a try.

I firmly believe that NOTHING YOU LEARN IS WASTED. If you discover that you can't really manage the time to lease or own a horse, or that you need to part-lease a horse for five or ten years instead of two because you just don't have enough free time, or that weekly lessons are all you can afford for the next however many years, so what? Lessons are valuable for their own sake. Don't set yourself up for failure by deciding right now that you "have to" take X number of lessons each month, or that you "have to" be leasing a horse in two or three years, or that you "have to" own a horse in five years. Take your lessons, acquire the skills you want to learn, take your time, and enjoy the trip. If you take lessons for five or ten years and become a good rider, you may find that there are plenty of riding opportunities along the way. All the time you're taking your lessons, you'll also be building a network of friends and acquaintances in the horse world. If you're like most riders, you'll find that the better you are and the more experience you have, the less money you'll need to ride -- you'll be on the list of every horse-owner who wants a trustworthy, reliable person to exercise a riding horse!

Many moms give up the whole idea of horses and riding until the kids are grown and on their own -- if you can manage to make horses part of your life before that time, more power to you. ;-)

Jessica

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