There’s no doubt, I love spending time with my two granddaughters. Emery is 3 and Harper is almost 2, and watching them play or listening to what might come out of their mouths next is entertainment at its finest. When Emery has an announcement to make or wants to get your attention she cries out, “Hey anybodys!” (And believe me, she can always get her Pop’s attention!) One of my favorite things is watching how Emery and Harper love their horses. I see them and I wonder: Is a child’s attention and focus on horses caused by environment or parental direction? Is this “horse bug” actually inherited by a recessive gene no one has identified as yet? You might laugh at such a notion, but sometimes a child’s love for horses seems to pop up out of nowhere.
I grew up in rural Michigan, but I wasn’t from a “horsey” family. I’d never been on a horse until I was 5, when my grandmother dropped me off at a riding stable so she could make a 50-mile round trip to the city to get her hair done. Truth is, I was a horsey kid from the time I was in a highchair and the only way I could attract attention was by banging my tray or spoon until someone (usually Mom) would try to understand what I wanted. One day, so the story goes, I was enjoying dinner with my folks and the word “HORSE” came out of my mouth, clear as a bell. Dad turned to Mom and exclaimed, “Did Frank just say horse?” Mom replied, “That’s exactly what it sounded like!” My father then said, “Where did that come from?” Mom swore, until the day she passed away, that “horse” was the first word I spoke.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t consumed by horses. I made my mother read “Justin Morgan Had A Horse” to me until the pages fell out of the book. My grandmother took a special interest in my “horse craziness” and promoted it as much as she could. My parents took a rather laissez-faire attitude toward my equine enthusiasm, so I had very little positive things happening to help my future with the horse except once-a-week riding lessons in an English saddle. Geeze people! I wanted to be a cowboy! I had to fight, kick, scream and cry before my parents finally relented and I got my first horse. The rest, of course, is history.
This leads me to the question: Is the passion for horses an inherited characteristic or an acquired passion, or both?
I have seen families that for generations have been involved in horse activities, but for some reason not all of the family members have developed an affinity for horses. Some want nothing to do with horses. This bolsters my contention that the “horse bug” just might be an inherited trait. For me and many others, there was no parental encouragement regarding horses and yet up jumps this one individual who is just “horse nuts.” I married a horse-crazy girl and we had three children who love horses, and now we’re seeing the same passion in our granddaughters. When it comes to the “love-for-horse trait,” I guess you could say those genetics run strong in our family!
It’s my belief that many kids, from all walks of life, have this same “horse bug” gene. But in our modern world it’s tougher for this wonderful genetic trait to express itself. Used to be, horses were everywhere and it was easy to just jump on bareback and ride all day long. Even if you lived in town, you’d get on a friend’s horse and go! Nowadays, we have expansive urban living, so much more distraction and liability concerns, not to mention the dozens of extra-curricular activities pushed by parents – helicopter and otherwise. Jumping on a horse is not nearly as casual and fun as it used to be, and it’s certainly not as affordable.
The problem, as I see it, is how in the world do we cultivate this “horse bug” gene? Do we stand by and allow it to remain dormant, perhaps forever? Hey “anybodys,” YOUTH is our future of our horse industry! We need to keep talking, keep working out a way to make riding fun, easy and more affordable so that kids can realize their love for horse in a very real way. If we don’t, I’m afraid that in our current environment this “love-for-horse” trait has a very real danger of becoming extinct.
As always, I remain,