For the Love of Horses
There’s no shortage of children’s books that involve horses. From The Black Stallion to Black Beauty, these popular reads just go to show that kids remain fascinated by the unconditional love and beauty horses project. Children and horses go together like peas and carrots or grade schoolers and Minecraft. This enchantment might have something to do with the many physical and emotional benefits that horseback riding and being around horses offers a child.
Betsy Webb began The Louisville Equestrian Center (LEC) in 1999. She has over 60 horses on property, including 30 lesson horses ranging from the gentlest of ponies to horses that challenge the more advanced rider, and she has overseen countless kids’ summer riding camps. Betsy has helped thousands of children and adults value the connection between humans and horses. “Each lesson builds upon itself and builds self-confidence,” she says, “and, you know, not only that, but responsibility.”
Betsy Webb, founder of the Louisville Equestrian Center, says riding horses is a great way for children to get exercise and acceptance. “A horse doesn’t judge you,” she says.
Barbara Pippen noticed a new self-reliance developing in her son as he began taking horseback riding lessons at LEC. When Barbara’s son was 11 years old, he explored other extracurricular activities, but there weren’t any that clicked. “I threw out horse riding one day and he said, ‘Oh, I’d like to do that,’” she says. “It was so fantastic he just took to it.” She watched her son grow in confidence as he started riding, and he soon found that driving Hackney ponies held his real interest. Barbara says, “He just loved it. He thrived.”
Kim Hutchinson also saw a new inner strength surfacing in her two daughters when they started riding at LEC at the ages of 5 and 6. “You can just see their confidence grow,” she says. Some of this new self-assuredness grew out of their riding skills, but Kim says it also evolved from barn time. “You could see them take pride and responsibility in taking care of the horse,” she says.
Spending time in the barn is a big part of the riding experience. “There’s a lot that happens on that horse, but a lot of barn life, as well,” Betsy says. Each rider is responsible for helping care for the horse they’re riding, including brushing and getting them ready to ride. “Barn life” teaches responsibility but also increases the connection a rider feels to their horse and their fellow riders. Barbara says, “I saw such strong friendships building…and those friendships just stick forever.”
Riding offers children a great way to stay physically active, too. “Everybody thinks that you’re just sitting on the horse and wandering about, but horseback riding is one of the best physical activities that you can get,” Betsy says. Studies show that riding offers proven aerobic-exercise along with the greatness that kids are outside getting a good dose of time in nature. Kim says, “It’s a great sport because it keeps you in shape, and they (the kids) have fun.”