Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kids at the barn

Today I got a little taste of the future: I had my four-year-old nephew with me for the day, so I took him out to the barn with me when it was time to take Panama's blanket off.

My in-laws have horses, but I don't think my nephews actually get to see them very often. Their mom doesn't often take them outside, and she is hyper sensitive about them being near the horses — instead of teaching them some basic safety rules around horses, she just doesn't allow them to interact with the horses very much.

So when I told my nephew that we were going to the barn, his first question was, "Can I touch your horse?" He asked it several times, as if he was having a hard time believing the answer was truly, "Yes."

He really doesn't have any clue of how to act around horses. He runs up to them, he walks behind them, and gets in their way. So I had to constantly be on alert, but that was fine — I trust my horse and I don't mind taking the extra time to teach my nephew a little something. The way I figure it, it'll make it faster and easier next time if I teach him the right way this time.

I had my nephew wait for me outside the corral while I haltered Panama. He was waiting for me at the gate when I brought Panama out. I asked him to stand a little distance away to give us room, but when I turned Panama around so I could chain the gate again, my nephew came around behind him.

I couldn't see where my nephew was, so I held both myself and Panama very still and asked him, "Where are you?" He came around the back of Panama, and once I had him in my sights, I started moving again. I asked him to wait a little ways back while I took Panama into the cross ties — I didn't want us all trying to crowd through the door at once — and he waited patiently until I told him to come on in.

Once I had Panama in the cross ties, I explained to my nephew that you have to be careful behind a horse, because they can kick. At nearly five, I think he is capable of understanding this, but he will probably have to hear it a few times before it sinks in. I don't want to overemphasize it, because I have seen kids his age completely terrified of horses for that reason, but I also want him to understand that he shouldn't walk behind a horse unless an adult tells him it's okay.

Luckily Panama is very good with kids, as well as with people being behind him, so I was never overly concerned about my nephew's safety — more about the learning experience. His mother probably would have gasped and jumped forward and snatched him back if she'd seen her son today, but in my opinion that is completely the wrong approach because it is likely to startle the horse. Much better to calmly ask him to move and explain the danger of the situation once said danger has passed.

Anyway, my nephew was quite happy to feed Panama treats while he was in the cross ties, and even "helped" me brush him a little. It was meant to be a quick trip, though, so I put Panama back shortly after taking off the blanket. My nephew then got to see a "girl horse" (apparently he likes those more) when her owner took her into the cross ties, and fed her a couple of treats too.

He was especially excited about the chickens. He probably hasn't seen chickens in person before, but he instantly knew what they were. (He gasped and yelled, "Chickens!" It was the cutest thing.) They were roaming loose today, so he followed them around for a bit. I had to keep him from following them right into the chicken coop when they tired of their stalker!

Taking my nephew with me to the barn was overall a very positive experience, and I wouldn't mind having a short companion of my own someday on my regular trips. However it was a reminder of how much longer things can take when you have a kid with you, especially one that doesn't know how they are supposed to behave or what they are supposed to do. Still, I was pleased to find that it is possible to combine kids and horses — even with a fairly unruly kid who is not accustomed to being at the barn (which mine certainly will be!).



At December 10, 2009 at 7:53 PM, Blogger Veronica said...

My daughter loves our horses. However, at 3, I pick her up to pat/touch them and it's easier when I'm doing things if she is inside, or watching from the safety of another adults grasp. My son? He thinks horses are TERRIFYING. Of course, he is only 10mths old, so horses are very very big compared to him. I'm looking forward to Amy being a little older with a little more understanding so that she can start to learn good sense around the horses, until then, I'm teaching by example.

At December 11, 2009 at 6:11 AM, Blogger jacksonsgrrl said...

How cute! And how great that you are able to give him something in the way of animal interaction that he otherwise wouldn't have! My advice: DO NOT let his mother go with you---EVER! Best to make it an auntie and nephew sacred outing. At four, he will certainly learn quickly around your horse, and you are giving very wonderful teaching it sounds like! You sound quite patient too! Very cute post, I enjoyed it!

At December 12, 2009 at 11:04 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Veronica, I'll bet you are looking forward to having a horse-crazy daughter to share your hobby with! Interesting to hear about the differences in kids -- my trainer has had her baby around horses since he was only a few days old, and he isn't scared of them at all. In fact, when held up in front of their faces, his favorite thing is to grab onto their nostrils. I guess they do kind of look like handles when you are that young. (He is 9 months.)

Mindy, no, his mom won't be coming with us if I can help it! I have a TON of experience with kids, much more than I do with horses actually, so I am pretty confident about my ability to teach him some basic horse sense. In some ways it does put a damper on what I can do, and how fast I can do it, but I really enjoy sharing it with him!


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