Horses help people. The horse has a way of getting into the heart and soul of an individual, testing their judgment, leadership and confidence. Talking about the science of horses helping youth, about how their blood pressure is lowered, how they are less anxious while in the presence of a horse, feels more like a lecture. Well, I don't want to lecture. I want to talk about a cause that I am passionate about, something that drives and motivates me more than anything in this world. That drive is to show others the power of a horse, the power that horses can exert not only physically, but emotionally. I want youth to be on a level where they have self-confidence, self-awareness, work ethic, and leadership for their futures. So it's my intention to start a program to unite horses and these very youth.
We can try all we want to talk down to kids, treat them like young adults, and even lecture them about how their futures are important and still get nowhere. What our youth need is engagement. They need to know that someone is there for them, and that someone is the horse. We were all kids once, we had awkward changes in our life that we didn't want to talk about, and most of the time we either kept those awkward things to ourselves, or we told our parents. Now I don't know about you, but for me that was very uncomfortable. I found an escape, something that wouldn't judge me for the weirdness of puberty and the strange ways of high school.
I want to point out the word "escape". We all need to escape. But escape becomes bad when we escape inside ourselves. Everyone has something that takes the stress away. Some of us have found that thing that makes it okay, whether it's hunting, painting or holding the family cat while you cry--we have it. Many youth today, escape inside themselves, creating depression, anger, and suppressed emotion. I was a twelve year old once, and my escape had a name, weighed about 1,000 pounds, and liked to steal candy. Her name was Sassy. Throughout the battles of high school, losing a loved one, and preparing to move on with college, she was there. She was never judgmental and always had time for me. She was my incentive to graduate high school, she was there when I needed to cry, she even listened to me when I talked about boys I had crushes on, and I knew she would never tell. Through trial and error we failed and succeeded. We were let down and brought up. I experience so much about life without knowing it. I brushed her, fed her, and spoiled her, in fact, she was so spoiled she used to lie under a blanket on the lawn with me when it was cold. Some people ask me why. "It's just a horse," they say. But let me tell you, for a kid, she was "just a horse" on the outside, but a best friend on the inside.
From the days when she didn't want to do anything and I had to encourage her through persistence, leadership, patience, staying positive, and never letting her see me give in, she taught me to be confident. I remember days when all I wanted to do was poke around the pasture, but she decided it was race day. She taught me how to be patient, stay calm, and use decision making skills to get her on the same level where I was. The day I came home with a bad grade and went straight to Sassy, she was bad at math too. But I knew what I had to do. As I held that report card in my hand, I thought about the honesty and integrity of a horse. When he fails, he gets back up, when he messes up, he doesn't care who sees, and I knew I needed to tell my mother, as scared as I was of that "F" in math. I had to let her know, because if Sassy was a person, she would have done the same thing.
I felt like I had a responsibility to be as honest and dignified as Sassy. Something as small as a bad grade led to a lifetime of admitting mistakes, and never being ashamed of failing, but instead getting back up and trying again to be the best you can be. Whether it's something as silly as a math grade, (doing problems you swear you will never use), or riding in a schooling show trying to win that ribbon, you do it to your best, you do it honestly, and you do it with integrity.
By now you could say Sassy is my incentive for starting an entire program, and I'll agree half way. My other reason is that I was a kid too, not that long ago. I know the impact horses can have. I have witnessed it, I have felt it, and now I want to share it. The last seven years of my life with her, I learned who I was. I learned that I am worth something. I can succeed. I am intelligent, confident, and a leader.
When I moved out for college, I found myself missing her, always calling Mom to ask how she was. Missing her, I knew I had a reason to do what I did. My reason for being here is to show others what Sassy has given me. The life skills to do great things, to never stop believing in my ability, and to never take "No" for an answer, regarding something are passionate about. My vision is for youth connecting with horses, learning that the horse does indeed have feelings, and that much like life in general, horses can be stubborn. Like life, they require patience.
There is no better teacher than a horse. Horses have a spiritual power, and as humans we are modestly obsessed with horses. From our tear-jerking movies like "Seabiscuit", "Secretariat", "Dreamer", and "Black Beauty", to the horses we interact with every day, we connect with them. I want to give back to the youth of our community. I want horses to light fire the souls of these kids and give them guidance for a future. I want parents to have patient, willing leaders, that never stop being kids at heart, because of their love for horses, and I want my community to understand how much we need this program now more than ever.
The world is changing rapidly. Let's bring an old fashioned, natural, real working method back into the lives of our children. The program is not impossible. It is here now, and it is here to stay. Let our youth have their own Sassy story to take with them to their future, whether they become doctors or mechanics, this is an experience they will never forget, and a bond that will live in their souls forever.