I hate it when someone tells me "I told you so."
I particularly hate it when they say it smugly and have a real reason to support their insistence on being so darn right. Of course when it is MY turn to say it, well, that's completely different!
And this week it is my turn. Before you all flip the page and just move on to someone less annoying, let me quickly say that I don't often get to say "I told you so." I am often so behind-hand in my opinions that the rest of the world has already left me totally in the dust and I have no reason to say anything at all. So usually no one to listen when I say it except a bunch of old fogeys just like myself and we have already heard what each other has to say.
I have said that it can be important to get kids involved with an animal that needs them. I realize that it is almost impossible these days to have a horse because of the cost of the animal and its upkeep. However, there are lesson programs around. Those lessons can be had at as reasonable a price as any other form of organized child care and education.
A horse teaches responsibility. A cat is relatively easy. Kibble, water, clean litter pan and there you have it. Cats are almost too easy because once they have what they need it's sort of a "Well, thanks, I need a nap, see ya later," sort of thing with them.
A dog needs more but with a dog there are other family members who can be cozened into helping with the care. If not by the child, by the dog itself which turns sad eyes upon whomever is the most likely to give in and deal with it.
A horse is something else indeed. It is too big for the easily frightened family member and too dusty for the histamine-challenged family member. Riding lessons seem to be the easy way out but they are so rewarding that most kids love them. If you remember what it was to be a kid and have to do everything that you were told to by just about everyone else, think of the power trip you get from telling a 1,200-pound animal what to do and being obeyed. Wow! What a rush!
OK, here comes the "I told you so" part, but bear with me. In a time when drugs and other forms of abuse seem to lurk everywhere awaiting the innocents that wander by, caring for something that needs constant care and solid direction shows a child that communication and intelligent direction (inclusive of self-direction) can be key to a successful life.
It is not only the less well cared for kids that are at risk. Virtually all kids of all economic levels are at risk these days and often those with the most expendable wealth are among the first to fall. We see it in the papers and on the news casts every day. This child or that one has fallen prey to this peril of our society.
What I watched on television this week, however, showed two of the most privileged young women in this nation who have beaten the odds. Jessica Springsteen (The Boss's kid, you know?) and former mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg's daughter, Georgina, went head to head in the brand-new version of the Central Park Horse Show's Jumper Class. To enter a Jumper class at that level you have to have put in years and years of dedicated riding. Sure, daddy had the money for the horse and the trainers but it is often enough those daddy's girls who find the drug dealers instead of the stable. Just as with riding instruction there are all levels of drug dealers available to the youth of this nation. Where would you rather that your child be?
Even the peerless Dr. Phil recommended a pair of desperately spoiled and darn near terminally parentally enabled young girls to enter a program at a place called Turnabout Ranch which uses horses and other ranch animals to teach kids self-respect and self-direction. Check it out for yourself at http://www.turnaboutranch.com/ The program worked for at least one of the girls involved, and she attributed it to what she learned about dealing with the horses there.
Like many other kids in this rough old world I did not have a great youth. Things went wrong a lot in my house — often really, really wrong. I know that the horses were the things that saved me from living the lessons that I learned in my family, so maybe I can be forgiven for saying "I told you so" just this once.
Hope Holland is the Times' equestrian writer. Her column appears every Sunday. Reach her at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.