Look at any little girl’s room or a children’s books section of a local bookshop and you’re likely to find some pictures or drawing of a young girl and her pet ponies. (Or at least that’s been the case traditionally, though of course nowadays it seems that what was exclusively for boys or something formerly exclusively for girls are now being embraced by both genders.) I was a pretty normal girl in that sense, in that my childhood room was filled with posters of horses.
My friends and I also each our own My Little Pony collections and our social life—such a social life that young child have—revolved round our toy ponies. As we got a bit older our tastes and interests diversified in the way that happens naturally for most children. Most of my friends lost their juvenile interest in horses and ponies, but I did not. My parents were also well enough off that when I got to an age (or maybe size) where I could ride a horse I was giving lessons for my birthday and since the age of seven, horse riding as been a major part of my life.
I’ve often thought about what it is that attracts so many children—both boys and girls—to horses and to riding at an early age. While not all children maintain their fascination as I did, nearly all have something of a horse phase it seems.
It’s something that I sometimes still ponder when I’m riding my horse now, decades later as an adult, and think I have a vague answer for. In my opinion, horses and ponies represent to children what they don’t have: independence and power. Children are often fascinated by things that are big and powerful—horses, trucks and trains, dinosaurs—and I think it’s a reflection of a vague sense of weakness that children almost always feel.
To that end, I always try to spare a moment or two when I’m riding to reflect on both the physical and even more importantly the emotional freedom that horses have represented in my life.