A friend's aged horse died last week. He was a thirty something Arabian gelding. Her family purchased him for peanuts when she was ten. The idea was to get an older horse that she would be safe to learn on and he was that. He was not a champion in any discipline at the shows, but the pair did it all. They showed in hand, western, games, jumping, dressage and even endurance.
When she outgrew his abilities and purchased a younger horse, the gelding was lent to friends for summer camps, and other events with beginner riders. He even did time at a facility for handicapped riders.
This young women, who is only in her early twenties, has learned such confidence and poise from knowing and caring for this horse. When he became unrideable, she brought him home and cared for him in his old age. When his final illness hit, she handled it all herself. From evaluating the symptoms, administering medication and discussing the outcome with the vet.
The life lessons she learned from this animal; care of another being, how to lose with dignity and pride, how to commit yourself to something and keep at it when the going is tough, are priceless. She will now learn to mourn a friend and still remember his value.
Letting your child experience the care of a pet, the emotions involved in loving, caring and, yes, losing that animal is a great gift to them. You have a chance to guide them in their response to difficult situations involving that pet that will help them in their life. You have a chance to show them that value is not only in the winning, but especially in the rich relationship you have with an animal. You have a chance to teach them that while they can expect that animal to perform for them, they have a responsibility to provide the best environment and care for it to do so.
Teenagers especially respond to the lessons learned from equestrian sports. Horses absorb emotions and mirror them right back to the rider. Teenagers can learn to control emotion in order to perform better with their equine partner. The effects are immediate and exciting. Horses can have lifechanging effects on these kids that are at a most difficult time in their life.