If you spend any time at all on equestrian social media, news, or lifestyle sites, you may notice a trend — “kids these days can’t clean a bridle!” “They won’t put in the time or the work!” “We didn’t grow up like this!” “Does she even know how to tack up?”
Eh … bullshit.
You’d think kids never do much around horses but show up, have the reins handed to them, ride in a very structured lesson, and hand the reins back to a groom so they can go get a latte or a manicure or whatever. From my perspective, from what I see at multiple hunter/jumper barns in my area, this simply is not true. It’s not true for kids from a variety of income levels.
What I do see? Young women as very professional working students, soaking up every ounce of information they can get from their mentors. Even younger women waiting for the day they are old enough to be working students. I see kids showing up early, and staying all day on the weekends to help with all kinds of things, like feeding lunch, clipping, turnouts, and tack cleaning. I see kids caring for their own horses and the lesson horses with equal amounts of love and consideration. I see girls helping each other, riding bareback, asking their trainers questions, following their trainers’ instructions diligently. Even better, I talk to parents who want their children to be sure to get those horsemanship lessons along with those riding lessons. Yes, it may not be everybody. But at the barns that I am familiar with, it is the dominant culture — knowledgeable trainers teaching their students everything they know, and students wanting to learn all they can, from how to ride a rollback to how to poultice and wrap a hoof.
Perhaps part of my experience is due to selectiveness: I wouldn’t want to ride at a barn that wasn’t like the barns I know. I was a barn rat and working student, too. Even into my twenties, I spent hours at the barn, probably helping a little too much to be honest, trying to ride everything I could get my hands on and expending considerable amounts of energy on my own horses (and still made it to class most days). And every time I see a kid like that it makes me happy. I see lots of kids like that.
There is no shortage of work at any barn, but just the same there is no shortage of barn rats who want to learn.