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Why Horses?

By Julie McMillian
Gulf County 4H and Family Consumer Science Extension Agent

Do you want to figure out a way you can aid your child in eventually being a healthy well-adjusted adult? You help can them by allowing them to enter a relationship with a horse. Most kids are naturally drawn to horses and may benefit greatly in what they can gain from them. The lessons learned from caring for equine are character building, companionship, mental and physical health, leadership skills, and responsibility just to name a few. There are many negative influences out there today that can influence the way we think. Positive character traits such as responsibility, patience, kindness, self-discipline, and accountability will stem from handling, riding, and caring for a horse. This can help to counteract with media, politics, and other stressors that children deal with today.

Open enrollment for 4-H begins Sept. 1

 If your child is out at the barn caring for their horse, they are less likely to be stuck on their phones on the couch. Therefore, their physical health will benefit from riding and doing chores as well. Horseback riding offers many aerobic-exercise benefits.  Physically riding will build muscles, boost balance, coordination, and flexibility. Lifting saddles, water buckets, and cleaning require physical movement as well as gives a sense of self accomplishment of “I can do this all by myself.” When youth are responsible for the care of a horse it teaches them to put others needs above their own and they learn empathy as well as seeing the bigger picture, which will help later in life. Horse ownership can be expensive but there are other ways to get your child involved with a horse, such as lessons, leasing or sharing one through a barn work program. I can personally tell you that they are worth every penny invested. 

Did you know 4-H has a horse program? The goal of the program is to teach and provide young people with an opportunity to participate in activities that foster the love for the animal and achieve their goals. The activities are designed to improve citizenship, sportsmanship, horsemanship, character, competitive spirit, and discipline while making youth aware of life around them. When thinking about the 4-H horse program, there is the potential for participation in horse judging, public speaking, demonstrations, hippology and quiz bowl. Participation in these activities can help a youth improve in many areas to gain a better education and they don’t have to necessarily have a horse. There is also horse showing for those who own a horse. Showing equine will connect youth from all over the world as horse family while teaching them to prepare, build the courage to compete, enjoy the rewards and deal with disappointments. Hopefully, the disappointments will drive them to succeed and work harder while furthering their leadership skills. Afterall, taking control of a thousand-pound animal to work through challenging tasks will require skills that promote a child’s self-competence. 

In short, these are reasons to allow your child who keeps begging for a pony to be involved with one. Horses are fun and kids will adore them. They will keep youth positively engaged during their difficult years from pre-teen and into adulthood. Did you know that Gulf county has a 4-H Horse Club? Big River Riders 4-H Horse Club has been around for years, most activities are geared toward youth who have horses, but we are always looking to expand. For more information, contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 or email jmcmillian@ufl.edu. *Due to COVID-19, our physical office location is closed to public traffic at this time. However, please call or email us for assistance with extension related needs. Sorry for the inconvenience. 

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.