By Devin Morrissey.
At some point in their lives, nearly every young child dreams of owning a horse. It probably has something to do with the number of fairy tales and daring heroes that always have trusty steeds involved. However, there’s more to introducing a child to a horse than simply inspiring their imagination.
Kids can learn a lot from animals during their early stages of development. Class pets at school can teach kids how to be responsible for regular chores and daily tasks. The same principles can apply with bigger animals such as horses. Interacting with animals can also teach children how to care for another living thing — as well as how to feel empathy and compassion for another creature.
By introducing your child to horses early on, they can learn all these things and more. Because horses are large animals and require a lot of care, they can be a learning experience that your child can grow with through the years. Here are a few of the benefits of introducing kids to horses early in their life:
Kids Can Develop a Sense of Responsibility
One of the biggest things that a pet requires is regular and responsible care. They need to be fed, exercised, groomed, taken to the vet as needed and, of course, loved. While all of this applies for every pet you may introduce to your child, it applies more so with horses.
Because of their size, horses need a lot of space and take a lot of work to maintain. The good news is this offers many layers of responsibility and duties that you can help your child to grow into through the years. For example, you may not want younger children being responsible for cleaning out your horse’s hooves, but they can watch you do it, then take over the chore as they get older.
Horses also present a unique opportunity when it comes to being responsible for training an animal. Kids can reap the direct benefits of properly training a horse, because a properly trained horse is a horse they can ride and bond with — as opposed to a dog or a cat who they may be able to train but can decidedly not ride (usually). This benefit can help to motivate kids to stick with their new responsibilities.
Kids Can Learn Empathy
Another benefit to children being introduced to animals is they can begin to understand how their actions impact another living thing. This can help them to develop a sense of empathy and compassion at a young age. Horses in particular have been shown to have intense emotional impacts on the children they interact with.
In fact, some child psychologists use horses as therapy animals to help treat emotional and mental issues that children may live with. This is called equine therapy, and it’s been shown to help children have enough space to foster positive emotional health. Part of this success has to do with horses’ innate ability to emotionally connect with humans as they have done for centuries.
Horses are among the few animals that have been around humans for almost the entirety of civilization. They were present in ancient Greece, helped to move Native American families across North America before colonists arrived, and have continued to be integral working members of modern society despite the invention of cars. Horses have been with humans for what feels like “always,” which may be why we associate them with having human-like emotions.
Because of their high emotional capacity, horses are a great role model for kids to learn empathy. Children may feel immediately connected with their equine friends and want to do the best they can with them in order to keep them feeling their best at all times. This kind of emotional bond, for those who can’t keep horses too close to home, has also been found in dogs and some domesticated pigs.
They May Discover a Lifelong Passion
Finally, introducing your kids to horses may be introducing them to the one thing they want to dedicate the rest of the life to: Caring for and working with horses can be an entire career path, with varied avenues and journeys. You never know — one moment they’ll be asking to decorate their room with horses and the next they may be training world-famous stallions.
We all have that one fascination or passion from when we were young that has followed us through our lives. Introducing your child to horses could help them to find that passion and carry it with them for a long time. The bonus is that their passion will come with a deep, intense sense of responsibility and empathy for the world around them.
Being around large animals from an early age, like horses, could help to spark an interest in things like livestock husbandry, horse training, or even veterinary science. Your child could potentially work with large animals on the set of the next big action thriller in Hollywood or help kids like themselves learn to love horses as well In the world of animal care, the possibilities are endless.
Devin Morrissey dreams of writing abroad, but he’s settling for writing on the road. You can find him on Twitter or across the Pacific Northwest, but tweeting him is probably easier.