I was greatly pleased to find out that in the Southeast children are not
allowed to compete until age 8. There are many concerns when children are
involved in such a demanding, and sometimes dangerous sport. Before this
age most children are not mature enough to react to situations with clear
thinking. Even at age 8 there is no guarantee that the child can "think"
his way through situations. Although there is an adult sponsor, the
child's horse can potentially spook and run off with the child before the
sponsor can react, or the sponsor can be thrown and knocked unconscious
leaving the child on his own until someone else comes along. If the Jr.
is riding at the back of the pack, this could be a very long wait.
JR.'s are the future of the sport. But beyond that, even if they do not
want to ride, children at races can make a contribution to the sport and
learn valuable lessons. Helping to sponge, running errands, learning the
importance of listening to the horse, learning common horse sense of how
to act around animals, holding the lead so the rider can attend to
personal needs if necessary, offering hay, bringing cold drinks to riders,
walking people's dogs in camp, etc., etc., etc.... The list is absolutely
endless. These lessons give children a feeling of importance and worth.
They also learn respect and compassion for the horses and riders. They
develop social skills in talking with adults. And most importantly, they
are involved in a productive, safe activity that builds their self esteem.
So at rides, if you see a child perhaps ask them if they could get you a
drink or wet a sponge for you. When you answer them with a big THANK YOU
you will realize how important it is to them as individuals to feel
needed, not in the way.
As a mother of 2, one who competes and one who isn't old enough yet, but
has been helping me crew at rides since he was three, these life lessons
have been the greatest reward I feel they have received from Endurance.
As a footnote, after 3 year of competition, always finishing in the top
10, and finishing 1996 as the top Florida Jr., my oldest son was forced to
pull from the last race. We have realized that his horse, Hickory, who he
has trained and raised since he was 2, has degenerative joint disease and
is being retired. I made the decision to pull the horse at 40 miles.
Anticipating tears and arguments, I was met instead with a calm mature
response of "I don't want to hurt Hickory, I agree with you Mom." The
horse could have finished at a walk, but we opted not to push the
situation. After realizing the severity of the problem, I was then forced
to tell Daniel that Hickory was permanently retired from Endurance. Again
I was met with the mature response of the necessity to do what is best for
the horse. Daniel is only 11 years old, and had hopes of again being top
Jr. in Florida, and hopefully ranking for the Southeast region. The race
was to be his first 2 day 100.
I ask you, how many adults handle the situation as well? How many cry,
argue and push at the expense of the horse, to be allowed to continue? I
firmly believe that his participation in the sport, conversations with
vets and other riders and explanations from both us (his parents) and
other riders have given him this maturity, compassion and self confidence.
Needless to say I am VERY PROUD of Daniel. And I want to thank all the
other riders who have also been patient and instructional to both of the
L. M. Crespo, PH.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology