Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Invaluable Spirit

“There is a quality about horses that captures the attention. Once the student is paying attention, then teaching can begin.”

Those are the words of acclaimed author Donna Campbell Smith, who also answers to the titles horse-lover, grandmother and great-grandmother.  From her home near North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Donna spends a portion of her time in elementary and middle school classrooms, using her historical fiction works and her non-fiction books on horses and mules to engage her young audiences in learning.

Looking around our house and examining topics of conversation, room d├ęcor, contents of bookshelves, focus of play and the like, there is little disputing Donna’s claim about the captivating qualities of horses.  I’m not the wisest Horse Dad out there, but I recognize and forever will appreciate the deep and lasting value of the lessons our daughters have learned through the years because of their passion for and involvement with horses. 

From time to time, I am going to try to tap into Donna’s insights.  There is a lot to be learned.  You might be interested in having some of her work on your children’s bookshelf – or their Kindle.  Learn a little more about Donna Campbell Smith and let me know what you think.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cowboy Man

I was pleased to read the cover story in the December/January issue of Equestrian magazine, featuring Lyle Lovett.  The Texas singer/songwriter is a friend of mine from our college days.  Between us, we have four Grammys … These days, Lyle can be spotted with some frequency participating in reining events across the country.  In the article, he shared with writer Kitson Jazynka some personal insights on growing up around horses – and growing up with a father who appreciated horses. 

“My dad was very hands-on with the horses,” Lovett tells Jazynka.  “When he passed away in 1999, there was something therapeutic about doing his barn chores for him.  I still miss my dad every day, but having the horses around and knowing that I was doing something that would have made him happy helped me get through a difficult time.”  Read the entire article here.

Whether you are a Horse Dad or are related to a Horse Dad, I’m wondering, what therapeutic value do you find in the barn chores you do?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saddle Up


Because you are reading these lines, I suspect you might know someone like me.  He probably lives in your house.  You've seen him: as you performed your craft, he was off to the side, taking in all in.  Smiling - on the inside if not the outside - and finding ways to cope in those times when his heart almost leaped out of his chest when you and your partner executed some feat of daring that caused his pulse rate to spike and everything within him to want to rush to your side and assure your safety.  From your lofty vantage point, you have seen the gray in his hair intensify or the bald spot expand ever so slightly.  He is awfully handy to have around, hooking up trailers and writing checks ... lots of checks.  He may or may not be adept with the hoof pick.  But he is the master of the muck rake.

He is a Horse Dad.

In the Sports Parent kingdom, the Horse Dad may be the most unique creature of all.  The platypus of the bleachers, if you will.  For unlike the Little League Dad, say, who probably grew up playing baseball himself and is reasonably self-confident when tabbed for the parent pitch start, observation informs me that the majority of Horse Dads did not grow up riding competitively -- and likely don't know anyone who did.  We are out of our league here.  We understand halfbacks, not half-halts.

Unlike the Hockey Mom, infamously glorified in the 2008 presidential campaign for her tenacity, make-up and implied ruthlessness in the face of all competition, most Horse Dads who I know are quiet - bordering on timid - and uniformly comfortable with their place in the shadows.  This set of behavioral characteristics likely formed over time, shaped by more than a few caustic glances from instructors, directed at those fathers who dared to express an opinion or offer an observation ... Adapt.  Survive.

Ah, but the Horse Dad is a fortunate member of the kingdom, indeed.  And here, from time to time, we will explore some of the reasons why that is so.  We will marvel at the beauty that graces our world, and examine some of the inevitable heartbreak.  We will count our blessings and give thanks for their abundance.  We will extol the virtues of our spouses - the true conductors of this symphony-under-saddle - and praise our children for their commitment to the equestrian enterprise.  (They think it is fun; don't tell 'em there is learning and character building taking place here.)

So come along for the ride, fellow Horse Dad, even if you never otherwise swing into the stirrups.  And invite those who know you, who love you, who rely upon you - even if just to muck an occasional stall.  It should be fun.