Riding offers much more than equestrian know-how. Here's why horses can be a life-enhancing choice for your child.
When 4-month-old Andrew fell and smacked his head on the kitchen floor, his young mother knew just what to do. She calmed the baby, checked his vital signs, then called the doctor. By the time a nurse practitioner was on the line, the mother was able to supply all the information the nurse needed: pulse, respiration, pupil size, whether the baby's eyes were "tracking." Impressed, the nurse asked, "Are you an RN?"
"No," replied the young mother. "This is just what you do before you call the veterinarian." Yes, Margaret Coon learned her first-aid savvy and composure under pressure through participation in the United States Pony Clubs.
Margaret's mother, Ruth Harvie, says the incident is but one of many involving her children, all raised with horses. "I can't tell you how many times my husband and I have thanked God for Pony Club," she says. Her sentiment, perhaps surprising to the non-horsey set, is common among equestrian families.
"I don't know of a better way to raise kids," observes Darwin Pluhar, the father of three young horse lovers, all of them involved in the Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association. "They learn to think on their feet. They learn respect. And they learn to accept responsibility for their actions."
Parents' perceptions of the impact of horses on children are now being borne out by research. One study, sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council, found that horse activities do indeed enhance a range of life skills for children.
Previewed at the AYHC's National Youth Horse Leadership Symposium in February 2005, the study looked at youngsters involved in 4-H, Pony Club, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association
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Another study, conducted by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, found that 4-H horse shows were much more than just an enjoyable "activity" for children.
"Clearly," says Kathy Anderson, Ph.D., the study's author, "participating in these shows enhances a child's life skills, including goal-setting, self-reliance