I see article after article how “kids these days” just do not have the work ethic of the young equestrians of times past. Trainers claim that the next generation of rider does not care about grooming their horses, cleaning stalls, or learning real horsemanship. I just have to wonder, why is everyone blaming the kids? Maybe the problem is not solely with the kids, but with poor training.
Looking back on my childhood riding days, I was taught how to groom, scoop poop, and take care of my horses. I was expected to learn more than just how to ride. I was not born knowing how to put together a bridle, I was taught. I don’t remember being particularly gung ho about scooping poop, but I did it because that was what was expected of me. The barns I grew up in had the air of, “if you want it, you have to be willing to work.” Perhaps the problems these days is not that the kids are not doing things like scoop poop because they are “too good for it,” but that they are not expected to.
When I taught lessons years ago, I did my best to teach the kids basic horse care, and most of them were happy to learn. Even when there were grooms, most of the kids I worked with were happy to tack up their own horses. However, sometimes they had to be told to, and needed guidance. But, in my opinion, that’s okay. It is okay to teach all aspects of riding horses! I believe that if we do not, we are doing a disservice to the kids! Kids are not going to be perfect all the time, they’re kids. But if they are never taught, or expected to learn certain things, how are they supposed to know?
I believe that it is the responsibility of trainers to teach good horsemanship skills, and to create an atmosphere in which the kid is expected to do the “extra” things! Furthermore, as adults, whether amateur or pro, we can set an example for the younger generations by exhibiting good horsemanship skills and strong work ethics on the ground, as well as in the saddle.
Just to clarify, I have absolutely nothing against barns using grooms. I have worked with grooms at barns that I have ridden (or worked) at, and they truly do keep things running smoothly. They can be invaluable at those shows, as well as make it possible to ride a lot of horses in a short time. I always had a rule for myself, though, that unless I was on another horse, teaching a lesson, or getting myself ready (helmet, boots, show clothes, etc.) I was helping the groom get my horse ready. Just because a groom is there, does not mean that we should just stand there watching them get our horses ready.
I guess my point of this post is that I have realized that there will one day be a whole new generation of riders, and I want them to succeed at improving our sport – not tear it down! It seems that many equestrians have a very bleak outlook of the future of our sport, but I believe that with proper guidance the younger generation can continue to better our sport! I believe that if we don’t like something, we should do what we can to change it! Even though I do not teach, or work as a trainer right now, I feel that I can set an example for them! We all can!! But first, we have to stop blaming them.