Have you ever heard the Sandi Thom song, “When Horsepower Meant What It Said”? It’s a peppy tune that whisks us back to a time when horses were central to our lives. Horses may not be central to our everyday lives anymore, but they are still a powerful attraction to girls and women around the world. Think about it: how many girls do you know that go through a horse phase? Did you ever dream of getting a pony?
Women and girls aren’t just whimsical creatures dreaming about long, flowing manes and cute, cuddly ponies. They dream about horses for a reason. They are strong, powerful creatures that exude confidence and beauty. Communing with horses grants girls a bit of time bathing in that confidence…and given enough time, it really rubs off on them.
A little more than a year ago, I met two sisters, ages 8 and 7. They came to me for riding lessons upon recommendation of a friend. Like most young girls, they were crazy about horses and eager to come to their lesson each week. But unlike most young ladies, these two sisters had a common bond: autism. Now, there are many variations of autism, but bottom-line, it can be debilitating. The older sister was non-verbal when she first began riding lessons at Agape Therapeutic Riding Center, and the younger sister was fearless but wild. Horses did more for these girls than a whole team of doctors, occupational therapists, and councilors could do combined. One lesson a week, 45 minutes in the saddle—it was life changing for these two sisters. Today, the older sister communicates easily (and is rather opinionated!), and the younger sister can focus and excel in school. Both girls are amazing young ladies, and the world can thank horses for revealing their personalities to us.
What’s so special about a horse? They do not judge. They are big, powerful, beautiful, and majestic. They are patient and kind. And most of all, they allow us to guide them, granting us this feeling that we are in control. For young girls, time spent in the saddle stabilizes their frenetic lives, and quiets the constant feedback they get from society. They can be at peace, they can live in the moment, and they can soar above the ground in a way not possible on their own two feet. That’s what is so special about horses.
This unique quality isn’t limited to just time spent in the saddle. I have witnessed many a teenage girl sigh with relief just to sit in the grass with a horse and watch it munch contentedly. I have done it myself. Horses restore a girl’s soul in a way that her peers cannot.
Are They Worth It?
Horses are an investment. And not just owning a horse, lessons are an investment too. There is gear to purchase. Lessons take place rain or shine, hot or cold. Barns are dirty, stinky places. Horses are dangerous. So, are they worth it? The answer is a resounding YES! A girl will be repaid with self-confidence, self-respect, an understanding of responsibility, physical strength, and independence. Many girls who ride horses are less affected by peer pressure at school, are more likely to apply themselves to hard tasks, and will be better at understanding unspoken cues. If you want your daughter to have a leg up in the world—and she’s begging you for riding lessons—let her spend an hour or more each week learning to handle (and love) a 1,500-pound gentle giant. It will be a fantastic investment in her future!
The adage, “Horses lend us the wings we lack,” couldn’t be truer for many women and girls. These powerful creatures teach our young girls about responsibility, advocacy, patience, loyalty, and strength. Time spent with a horse will be returned in greater self-confidence, more awareness of the self and others, and the strength to tackle life’s greatest challenges.
by Caroline Johnson
Listen to little girls when they talk about horses.