A few months back, “Horse Tales” reported on youngsters and horses, and how many begin working with horses at a young age, regardless of whether they grew up on a farm or even have any family members affiliated with the horse industry. A good number of those youngsters continue on with horses, while others’ interest may wane — but some become involved again at a later age.
It is commonly accepted that an interest in horses can be beneficial to both youngsters and adults — and more often in recent years, to those with special needs, whether those needs are physical or emotional. In addition to the natural attraction to a beautiful and powerful animal such as a horse, the responsibility that goes along with working with horses is also a positive outcome. The horse is dependent on you for his care and welfare, and provides an emotional bond that is often one-of-a-kind.
A number of years ago, I learned of an elderly lady who was recently widowed and who, at this late point in her life, became involved with horses through a local barn and riding school. She was able to transform her feelings of grief and missing her husband into a working relationship with horses — and for the first time in her long life, took riding lessons and benefitted greatly through that experience.
However, while not yet in the sunset years of her life, in a recent conversation with another adult who had grown up around horses but had stopped riding for quite some time, Lisa Shaver Steingart related how her recent involvement with horses has become especially important during a time of illness.
Lisa grew up on a farm, the youngest of four children. Trying desperately to keep up with her older sister and brothers, she started riding behind her sister as a tiny tot. By the time she was four years old, she began entering local shows. She explained, “Behind every good rider there’s a really bad pony!”
After she outgrew the “bad pony,” she rode an Appaloosa that was blind in one eye. “I rode everywhere bareback. I’ll never forget the first day [my sister] Sherry had gone off to college and I couldn’t reach to get on. I finally caught Bud, the old Appaloosa, and wrangled him into a corner and got the bit in his mouth and got the bridle on his head. I stood on log skidder tires to get on him, and went down the driveway so proud of myself. He was the greatest. I rode him and even showed him with his one eye.”
Lisa raised and sold rabbits as a youngster, and one day when she was about 12 years of age, a man came who wanted to buy all 75 of her rabbits. She sold all but a few, and used the money to buy a registered Quarter Horse gelding from Fort Sill, OK, named Rebas Runt. “I bought Reba when he was a yearling and had to wait two years before we could break and show him. We were crash test dummies!”
As years went by, Lisa rode through her childhood and into her adult years — even while expecting her children, remembering how she once took Grand Champion of the Day while riding in a show shortly before her son was born.
She introduced her children to horseback riding at a very young age and, as she did from the age of 12, each child grew up riding Reba. There was always a horse or two around, but Lisa took a break from her own level of involvement with horses for a number of years.
It was her teenaged daughter Ashlynne’s love of horses, in conjunction with Lisa being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, that gave her the desire to ride again. Her doctor had stressed the importance of using her limbs as a way to combat the complications of the illness, and Lisa decided that getting involved with horses would be the way to overcome her problems.
After dedicating herself to riding again, Lisa began to enter — and win — classes in local horse shows. Through her involvement with the Sullivan County 4-H program, including starting a new chapter, she became thoroughly involved with horses. At the annual year-end awards banquet of the Woodstock Riding Club, held at the Twin Pines Resort in Hurley, NY, Lisa was one of the 12 Sullivan County club members to win an award. She couldn’t be prouder, as Ashlynne was named Novice English High Point Champion, Novice Western High Point Champion and Brighter Days Memorial Trophy Winner for High Point Novice on her horse, Can’t Passup A Cowboy. Lisa herself was the High Point Champion in Adult Walk/Trot/Jog with her horse, Patch of Chocolate.
When she next visited her doctor, she stated, “I walked in there with pictures and a fistful of ribbons. He shook his head and said ‘It saved you!’ and my orthopedist said the same thing.” Clearly, Lisa’s working with horses, although something that her doctors would not necessarily recommend to all their patients, served to help her with the difficulties associated with her illness.
And in addition to the physical challenges she’s facing and overcoming, the pleasure of riding again and sharing that experience with her teenaged daughter has become another plus. At a time in their lives when many teenaged girls tend to drift away in their relationship with their mothers, Ashlynne and Lisa are sharing these years through their involvement with riding horses and showing, each working hard and earning the rewards of a job well done.
It’s never too early — or too late — to become involved with horses!