This summer, my three year old started learning to take care of and ride horses. She’s been visiting stables since before she was born. When she was just a year old, she spent almost an hour staring at a horse named Te Amo. Te Amo was my daughter’s first love. For a year she called every horse “Te Te”. Her first full sentence might have been, “I go see Te Te, Momma?” My little girl loves absolutely everything about being in a barn. She loves petting the cat that sleeps in the hay. She loves kicking the dirt in the practice arena. She loves the birds that fly around in the rafters. But more than anything, she loves the horses. She loves looking at them, talking to them, feeding them, washing them and riding them.
So even though it seems a little early, we decided to let Brenna start taking riding lessons. We asked our wonderful friend, Sarha, to help her learn. “Riding lessons” is really a misnomer. As any horseback rider knows, a lot of work has to be done both before and after you ride a horse. And even though my daughter is three years old, she gets to learn all of it. She grooms her horse, saddles her horse and takes care of her once she’s done. Munchie has a new little girl ensnared. She has a new little girl to coo as she braids her mane and give her kisses on the nose. My little girl, a child that I thought was much too young to understand the complexity of caring for another living thing, wants to help take care of the pony that she rides.
Not every kid is going to get to ride ponies. Not every kid would even want to. But they can all find something they adore that they want to take care of. Sarha told me, “Having a pony taught me responsibility. But I didn’t think of it that way because I was so in love with Munchie.” When kids can learn about duties and chores through something they enjoy, they get excited about the lessons. My daughter’s face lights up everytime she sits on a horse. And my heart melts when she gets off, pets Munchie’s neck and says, “Thank you, Munchie”.
We all worry about teaching our children to be responsible. Ok, I worry about that and I’m projecting a little. I think that pets and chores are a wonderful way to do it. I think they give an opportunity to learn, from a very early age, how to love something. It’s a quality that I’m proud to teach my daughter.