Danger: Horses

My farrier came out today. We rarely have seen each other for the past year thanks to our schedules, and since he knows the drill and the mares and I all trust him, we communicate mainly through texts and notes we leave at the barn.

But since we had a chance to chat today, I found out that one of the last times Cody was out, a neighbor kid of mine who stops by to visit with me all the time dropped in to help Cody–and then hopped on Friday’s back when he was done trimming.

“I was a little surprised,” Cody said. “He just jumped on bareback, without a halter or anything, and rode her out in the arena out of my way.”

I didn’t know whether to be amused or really angry–or both. I’ve been stern with S. that he is NOT to ride the horses because I’ve been concerned about his safety. Every time I’ve warned him about this, he’ll always start spouting off about how many occasions he used to ride their bucking Arabian stallion back in Idaho, blah blah blah.

It’s funny, I’ve had my suspicions about how he was surreptitiously riding Fry once in a while because I’ve seen her give him some crusty, wary looks on occasion.  Well, now I know.

Of course I’m not just worried about his safety, I’m worried because (like any other middle-school-aged boy who plays video games all day) he has all of the sound judgement and attention span of a flea. The one good thing is the arena and barn is right next to a road that’s traveled frequently by all sorts of people who know me (and S.), and he wouldn’t be able to get away with much without everyone in the neighborhood reporting back to me.

I might be willing to give him permission to ride a bit when I was there, but any time I try to mention a way I’m working with a horse or I’m noticing something aloud, all I get out of him is another braggy story about himself or some remark that he “knows that already.”

S. has had a bit of a hard life, and one of his obvious defense mechanisms is to make sure that everyone knows that S. Knows All.

So in other words, he doesn’t listen to me. Or rather he makes a show of how he’s not listening to me. But sometimes I hear him say exactly some of the same things to the horses that he’s heard me say, so I know he’s “hearing” me–at least part of the time.

I have tried to build  a friendship with this boy over the past couple of years–even though sometimes I can’t help the sinking feeling in my stomach when I see him running over to see me (I know I’m going to get my ear talked off, and his visits mean “my time” with the horses is over unless I tell him to leave).

I worry about the warning signs I see that’s he’s got really low self-confidence, and so I try to find ways to encourage him by asking his opinion. I ask him to help with chores, and I find ways to compliment his good sense. It takes a village, and I’m always in a good mood when I’m at the barn.  Why not?

And I have to admit that I admire him. Or at least I’m jealous of the way he had the confidence to hop up on a horse with nothing but his legs and hands.

I also have to admire my opinionated filly for being kind enough to not dump his scrawny little butt in the dust. (Or maybe she has–but I think I’d prefer to stay in the dark about that.)

In any case, I’ll have to talk to him about him riding her…and make it clear to him what my feelings about this (as if they are even clear to me).  Will he deny he did it? This kind of thing is really tricky territory with a kid this age who’s been around a lot of angry, unpredictable adults in his life. Allowing a kid the space to be honest but making sure they know you’re disappointed is tough.

They say good fences make good neighbors, but kids have been climbing fences and climbing on strange horses for a long time. I’ve done it myself once or twice in my storied career as an idiot tomboy.

Makes you wonder if there’s a reason why you get thrown together with certain people in this life, and how you can wind up caring so much about the exasperating ones.

“Reserving judgement is a matter of infinite hope.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Danger: Horses

  1. Ugh…can’t imagine that happening to my horses. Warning bells are going off all over in my head. It’s one of those cases where you can’t imagine the millions of possibilities of how it could go wrong, but you know the potential for it to go wrong.

  2. It’ll be tough but you know you have to put your foot down. Though getting that across without alienating the kid will be a task I don’t envy .

  3. I think you’re going to have to have a a talk with this kid. I’m already thinking of all the lawsuits the adults in his life might have against you if he gets hurt. You could lose your property and horses to them if you’re not careful. I hate to think of things this way but I’ve seen it happen to innocent people.

    Hopefully, you can have him help you groom or find other jobs for him.

  4. It sure would be powerful to use this as a transitional moment. I wonder if there is a horse in the barn that really does need riding.

  5. Wow — that’s a hard one.
    If I were in your shoes, I think I’d first have to ask myself if I’d want this boy riding my horses at all. If I decided the answer was a “no,” I would sit down and (as gently as possible), tell him that under the circumstances you don’t feel comfortable with him riding your horses. He can come an visit any time YOU are there, but if you are not home — then he needs to stay home. Stress the fact that it’s not because you do not like him, but more because you are responsible for his safety when he is around your horses. No matter “how much he has ridden in the past,” he needs to realize that things are different with different horses and different owners. I would then say if he is caught riding your horses again — he will be asked to stay off your property permanently. I know this may sound harsh, but a lawsuit from him getting hurt would be much worse….and he needs to know there are consequences if he does ANYTHING with the horses without your permission.

    On the other hand, if you’d like to allow him to ride a little — I would have a similar conversation with him and tell him you’d enjoy giving him a chance to ride a little — but ONLY, ONLY, ONLY when YOU are home and are in the barn where you can supervise him. Again….I would say that even if he “knows how to ride,” these are not his horses, nor horses he has ridden before and his safety needs to be your top concern.
    In addition to this, I would also add the same stipulation as with the other choice. He must RESPECT your choice and your rules. If he is caught riding without supervision (for any reason) the privilege will be revoked and he may also be asked to stay off the property depending on the circumstances.
    I think it would also be in your best interest to get his parents’ permission before he rides any of your horses and also make sure they understand the “rules” as well. Drawing up a waiver and having them sign that would also not be a bad idea (when I was a kid, my parents had to sign waivers for some of the farms I “helped out” at).

    I think if I had a ridable horse that I thought the boy would have some fun on — I probably would do it….but I would be VERY strict about “the rules.”
    ….and I would make him wear a helmet when mounted! 😀

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