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[This Q & A is a bit different from most, because I gave my young friend a bit of a grilling in order to develop a better picture of the situation. I learned long ago that it's not a good idea to get caught in a cross-fire between kids and their parents. Some of the more personal questions were aimed at helping me envision her as a rider. There's a world of difference between the riding needs of a very young, small rider and an older, heavy-set one. (The former, for example, may need a smaller, more docile horse while the latter needs a sturdier horse, but has more mass to use against a less obedient animal.) The question you are about to read is a combination of her original e-mail and a subsequent one answering my request for some more detailed information.]

Hello BOB!

I am from Iowa and I was just wondering how much horses average from [in cost] and some things about them. I really want one but they are too expensive and stuff! HELP ME!! PLEASE!!

my e mail address is _____________. Don't send [your answer] here. This is my mom's! Thank you for everything and your website helped me on my hobby speech!

- S. P.

P.S. don't forget not to send my mom any e-mails here. I appreciate it a lot!! Thank you! and if maybe you could send me a picture of a saddle or a plain horse before Monday. I would be undoubtedly happy!! Thank you soooo much, love S.

[I started off by asking her to be totally honest with me and to tell me why she didn't want me sending e-mail to her mom's address.]

The reason I don't my mom to get an e mail like this because she doesn't know I am so interested in horses... and I don't know what her reaction would be with her getting an e-mail like that. Not in a mean way, she wouldn't get mad or anything. She'd be cool with it, but I don't know what her reaction would be if I sent an e-mail on her address... so that's not a big deal!

[What do your folks think of you having a horse?]

My folks... well, I don't know. They would love to get one, but it would cost a lot of money to get a barn and the food... and everything else that comes along with it. I think it would be cheaper to stable it somewhere else.

[How old are you, and what sort of build do you have? (Such as petite, muscular, large-boned, overweight, tall, etc.)]

I'm not overweight but then I am not a stick either. I am average. I am 12 years old.

[Do you have the land and buildings for horses, or would you have to board it somewhere?]

We have plenty of land for a horse. You see, we live in the country and we have about five acres and our whole backyard is way open, so there is plenty of room! My neighbors have a few horses too. They are soo cool. I have never ridden on one of theirs, though.

[And finally, how much experience have you had with horses?]

Well I don't know. I have ridden them before and I know grooming, how to ride, etc. and plus I am gonna go to a horse camp on July 9-15 with a friend!! Oh yeah, I almost forgot - I am doing a speech on horses and I got a lot of pictures from your web site!! And a lot of info, too! The speech is due Monday. I learned a lot about them by doing research for my speech, too!

Thank you soooo much for writing back, Cowboy Bob. I can't WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT MESSAGE!!

[By the way, she got a B+ on her speech.]


Imagine this:

You come home from school one day, and your mom says she has some news for you. She has decided that it would be nice to have another member of the family, and your new, eight-year-old foster brother will be moving in tomorrow afternoon. Oh, by the way, he's from Somalia, doesn't speak English, and because of the hardship he suffered in Africa he will require a lot of time-consuming and expensive care.

How would you feel?

You might be okay with it, but I suspect that you'd wish your mom had included you in her plans from the very start.

That's how parents are with their kids' interests. They like to be involved. Sometimes they can see killer problems that the kid completely overlooked. And sometimes they know of better ways to do things. And sometimes they haven't got a clue... but they still like to know about their kids' interests and activities. And when you are dealing with horses, you are dealing with strange, difficult, time-consuming, and expensive situations.

Leave your family out of such an important discussion, and you may create an unnecessary problem for yourself.

With that background, I'm going to let you in on a VERY valuable secret that only a few people know about. This secret can help you in almost any problem you have with other people. It involves a very powerful way to get them strongly on your side.

This secret is a single, nine-word sentence. You have to be sincere when you say it, or it won't work. This sentence has actually been called "The Nine Most Powerful Words in the English Language."

Are you ready? Okay, here's that sentence:

"I have a problem and I need your help."

Simple, huh? Yet powerful.

Go ask your mom to sit down with you in some quiet place. When you have her attention, say that secret sentence. Then explain how much you love horses, and ask her if she can think of some ways for you to learn about horses and maybe even fulfill your dream of owning one some day.
Riding through the daisies
Obviously, you'll want to talk about the cost. As you correctly pointed out, horses can be expensive. An older, grade horse may cost $500. A younger, registered animal will generally run upward of $2,000. (Willy's sire had a full brother that sold for over one million dollars.) The purchase price of a horse isn't the only cost either. You've mentioned buildings and feed. There's foot and medical care. Insurance can also get very expensive.

If you board your horse at a stable, you can expect to pay in the area of $150.00 a month (in year 2000 dollars), depending on where you live. How far would that boarding fee go if you applied it toward housing horses on your own land? (And don't forget that horses have to be cared for EVERY day -- either by you or by someone you pay to do it.)

There are several other options you could discuss, such as a half-lease of a horse, taking weekly riding lessons, or even working for some horse owners in exchange for having them teach you about horses and letting you ride one of their animals.

Some other things you'll want to talk about will involve the type of riding you want to do: English vs. Western (See the next Q & A for more on this), jumping vs. trail riding, dressage vs. barrel racing, etc.

Working with horses involves reponsibility, accountability, patience, self-control, alertness, and a number of other character qualities your mom can help you improve. If your bedroom is always a mess, what chance is there that you'll always keep your horse's stall clean?

From the standpoint of age and build, I'd say that you are at an excellent starting point. Between ages 12 and 14 most girls see a dramatic improvement in their ability to use their legs and balance to cue their horse. That means that your physical ability will tend to grow along with your knowledge and experience. Going to that riding camp should also give you a good training foundation.

I know that parents can sometimes be dream-smashers (Hey, I was a kid once, believe it or not!), but they aren't always that way. I believe strongly that horses are great for kids (and adults) and that they're generally a better investment than a four-wheeler, fishing boat or snowmobile. If you and your family work at it together, you can discover what a wonderful family -- as well as individual -- activity horseback riding can be.

...And somehow it seems easier to chase your dreams when you're on a horse!

P.S. Congratulations on your speech... and if your mom has questions about helping you with your love of horses, tell her to send me an e-mail.

Happy Dreaming!

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