It goes without saying that a lot of what we do here at Drowsy Water Ranch is put people on horses. It sounds like nothing major, but when you stop and think about it, it’s kind of a big deal, especially when you think that a lot of the people we are putting on horses are little people. These cowboys and cowgirls will be on a large animal out in the wild and, for us, that is, certainly, a big deal.
It also goes without saying that we have a few horses around here. Usually, our herd is around 120 head of horses. Some of them are young, others are old, some are big, others are small. We know each and every horse’s age, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and personality. So how do we know which horses are the ones we can trust to carry the kids? We have a few things we look for in a kid’s horse. Here are three things we consider:
1. They’re mature.
Kid’s horses are mature. “Mature” may mean “old” but not always. Mostly, it means they’ve seen it all and not much will surprise them. For some horses it takes 20 or more years to reach this maturity, other horses have it by age eight, and other horses never seem to get there. Mature horses know that new rocks in the forest aren’t scary, they know that a fallen tree or a roll of thunder is no cause for alarm. They go forward, backward, turn both ways and stop. They’ve been across the creek thousands of times and trotted through the arena on more than multiple occasions. They know that kids sometimes get loud or flap their coats in the air or drop their reins or give the wrong cues and these horses know that all of it is okay.
2. They err on the side of pokey.
Kid’s horses are often not the fastest horses in the herd. We want it like that. We’d much rather put a child on a horse that needs extra encouragement to go fast than one that needs extra help standing still. Most kid’s horses know how to trot, lope, or even gallop, they’d just much rather enjoy the scenery at the calm pace of a walk. These horses are still willing enough to pick up the pace and we teach kids that want to move faster how to encourage these pokey characters. We can feel safe knowing the horse would just as soon talk in full sentences as he would run away with a youngster on his back.
3. They know their job.
Kid’s horses know they have precious cargo. They know they are supposed to keep that cargo safe and they are acutely in tune with the type of rider they carry. You put a nervous kid on his back, he’ll know to walk slow. You put a confident kid up there and he’ll know he can pick up the tempo. How they know this, we can’t say, but our kids’ horses know their job is to match their rider and keep that rider safe.
As anyone into horses will tell you, a kid’s horse is one of the most valuable horses you’ll find. These are the horses that everyone wants. They are the horses that create a confident rider and a lifelong love of riding.
Each week, as the little cowgirls and cowboys leave, we see tears as they say goodbye to their favorite new friend from the week–their trusted horse. That’s when we know we have great horses.