Adult ‘barn rats’?


Well, Session 2 of camp is underway and it’s been great fun so far. The participants have been working on their riding skills of course, but also on their basic horsemanship. They’re learning how to care for their horse and to look for things that would tell them their horse is not doing as well as it could. Later this session it’s possible that the vet will be back up doing some more work Deck’s eye. He has already had one round of surgery and might require another. Today the campers got to watch the blacksmith work and learned quite a bit about good foot care.

As is often the case, it occurred to me how lucky these kids are because they get to see things that even a lot of horse owners don’t get to see. There are lots of people who own horses who actually have a job and so can only come up a couple times a week for a couple of hours to see their horse. There are others who can only manage to find the time to make it to the barn once a week for a lesson. The odds are pretty much against them seeing what these kids will see.

Over the years, I have noticed that there can be quite a gap in the knowledge that some adult riders have. This is especially true If they have taken to the sport later in life. It is quite possible that they have missed most of the information that the ‘barn rats’ get just by being here all the time.

So this takes me to my next thought. I really feel that because we use horses for enjoyment now rather than for survival we have some moral obligation to learn about them so that we can treat them well.

It is not only important to know how to ride, I think it is also important to know a little bit about what is best for your horse. This often requires that we understand what our horse is trying to tell us. It’s important for us to learn his language because it’s asking an awful lot for him to learn ours. (Although as anyone who spends time with horses knows, they seem remarkably good at reading us.)

I think it’s important to be able to recognize signs of health and signs of trouble and have a sense of what to do when the horse is not well. I think it’s a good thing to know how to handle a horse on the ground, leading him in and out of the barn. I think it is educational to see him interact with his peers in the field gaining, as we watch, a bit of an understanding of who he is when is not standing in his stall waiting for us.

For the most part horses are happy to do our bidding and enjoy their time with us. But I think the more we understand them, the better their lives will be. That’s all the things these kids are going to learn and I know a lot of adult riders who are kind of jealous about that.

For a number of years now people have been trying to talk us into having an “adult barn rat day”…a day where adults, whether they are riders or not, could spend a day at the farm getting to know these wonderful animals a little better. We have done it before but it has been a long time… but the more I think about it the more I’m considering it.

I think perhaps it should involve wine…

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