Don’t all parents try to pass on their passions to their children? I know I try to at least share with Cait all the activities I love. Of course, the ulterior motive is to see if she’ll pick any of them up as interests, so that we can have things we enjoy doing together.
Naturally, some activities have clicked better than others; hiking, biking, going to the ballet, water color painting, and playing the piano. Most of my other interests she finds boring. And that’s okay. That leaves her lots of room to discover her own passions.
Then there are those things I got to do as a kid that Cait would love to do but I haven’t offered. Namely like having her own horse.
We had horses growing up. We had the land and barn for them. My mother worked. She figured in the long run horses were cheaper than babysitters. They sure were a lot more fun.
I loved my horse, Lujo. He was a buckskin with a smoky black muzzle and a big soft heart. Sitting his canter was like sitting in a comfy rocking chair. He looked after me as if indeed he was my babysitter. We spent many blissful hours of the day together, for years upon end.
So why won’t I get Cait her own horse?
She hasn’t proven to me that she’d do all that’s required for the care of such a large animal. She doesn’t know enough about the reality of feeding and watering and mucking out stalls every day all year long, whether the temperature reads +90F or -20F. She doesn’t know about the bruises, sprains, and broken bones that can come from landing a fall badly. She doesn’t know that horses, as herd animals, get lonely and depressed without another horse to keep them company, so having only one isn’t an option for us. She doesn’t know that I could fund half her college education with what it would cost to buy a horse, put up a barn, and then feed and vet it. She doesn’t know that horses can live for 30 years and, at this point in my life, I wouldn’t be capable of selling it after she leaves home — and I’ve already done my time shoveling stalls and breaking ice off the water in the dead of winter.
So we do the next best thing. Cait has been going to horse camp for the last few years. She gets to borrow someone else’s horse for a couple of weeks each summer. She gets her fill of riding and she has the responsibility of brushing out Charlie (that’s him below) after their workouts, mucking out his stall, and making sure he has water.
It’s a win-win situation for everybody. She can indulge in her love of horses, while learning about the responsibilities and the hard work without me having to nag her. And I get to see how all the upkeep wears on her, while being sure that she’ll never have contests to see who can jump a horse the highest while sitting on him bareback, without reins (look Ma no hands) or a hard hat, in the middle of farmer’s field with a bunch of curious cows.
Or that she’ll never put the neighborhood mean kid on her horse while forgetting to mention that her horse only lets her ride him and takes everybody else for a very fast spin, finding the shortest distance (which might or might not involve a few low-lying branches) back to the barn.
Or that she’ll never play Cowboys and Indians bareback at breakneck speeds, charging through rivers and up and down hills and galloping across fields, jumping over fallen logs and nimbly navigating around woodchuck holes.
Not saying that I ever did crazy stuff like that…
And if, in the end, this turns out to be more than a passing fancy, I might have to tell her that I know where I can pick up a couple of good saddles cheaply, and where we could find a couple of horses that wouldn’t break the bank. For now, I’m keeping that information to myself.