If you’ve never watched a wiry 70 pound child “man handle” a 1,000 pound horse and convince it to hold still and lift up it’s hoof for cleaning…you’ve missed a demonstration of fearless determination!
Our Equine Program and Barn Manager, Rebecca Buchholz, conducted a Jr. Vet Day at Overton Arena during spring break. After each child chose a horse, she showed them how to take the horse’s vitals and analyze its overall well-being. Then the child would independently take the horse into a stall for grooming while Rebecca moved on to the next child’s “vet” training.
One particular 8 year old girl, Autumn*, finished her horse’s brushing (getting as much hair on herself as on the brush) and had completed picking three of her horse’s four hooves…when suddenly, as often happens in the arena, a life-lesson started happening.
Ranger, her horse of choice, decided he didn’t want to cooperate. No amount of coaxing, pulling or pushing on the girl’s part could convince him to lift up that last foot. That’s when it happened – the light-bulb moment that often occurs when the kids are working with the horses.
“Miss Rebecca!” the girl exclaimed. “Ranger is getting mad at me and not letting me finish his hooves. I bet I’m supposed to learn something from this.”
As Rebecca often does, her reply was a question, “And what are you supposed to learn?”
She thought a moment, then answered, “Maybe I should back off for awhile. Be nice. Give Ranger a little break, talk nicely to him and quit pestering him to raise his foot. Then after he’s not frustrated anymore maybe he’ll cooperate?”
Wow. No detailed lecture could have driven the point across as effectively as those few moments of trying to get a horse to do something he didn’t want to do. Rebecca concludes, “Therapeutic horsemanship works. I don’t do anything special. I just teach them horsemanship. Horsemanship teaches compassion. Horsemanship teaches persistence. Horsemanship teaches it isn’t the job, it’s the attitude. We’re breaking the cycle, one hoof print at a time.”