Most of us, from children of our own to others in the barn, are somebody’s role model. You didn’t ask to be a role model, but there will always be someone looking up to you. Everything you do from how you tack up to how you clean a stall is being watched by someone.

Too often we post stories about millennials who sit on their butts, who do nothing, who want it all. I don’t say that’s false, but I do say that’s only relevant to how they were raised. I “technically” am a millenial, on the age line for it by a year but do everything to avoid being called it as a negative term. I was raised in a barn by folks who set my standards high, who taught me horsemanship, who I still work for after all these years. They taught me hard work, to pick every single piece of poop from a three acre dry lot, to clean tack after every ride, and to spend all day at the barn for an hour lesson. Why? Because we may not have had the nicest barn (That was up the road and they had hired helpers) but we valued what we have. Rules were strict, no riding without proper gear, NO flip flops, and helmets always regardless of age.

I am a role model. To a variety of kids, from those who attend the same pony camp I did as a kid while I pick stalls with excellence. To the select group of kids I now teach, to the kid who is leasing my horse that I know inside and out.

I watch the Olympics and see scores of riders even US riders in top hats. I don’t cringe for their safety, they are grown adults and if they want to risk their death then let natural selection battle that out. I cringe for the kids they inspire, that they would willingly choose to inspire a kid to go helmetless “Just that one time”. Kids who don’t understand that falling in a helmet wrong can still kill you, kids and parents who don’t get proper helmet fit and protocol. It’s hard to expect the next generation the “Millennials” to do right when we watch riders dismount at the out gate, hand horses over to other attendants, not even bother to pet or bond with that horse, have those attendants cold hose, wash, braid, bathe all so they can show up tomorrow and mount up and take the glory.

I am a role model. I wear a helmet, In a sport where in some classes judges are told they are no longer allowed to mark me down for it. In a sport where fashion and color rule, where helmets are impossible to look classy. But regardless I wear a helmet. At group lessons I’m normally the only helmeted one, and that’s fine, again personal choice. But my kids have NEVER seen me on a horse without a helmet. And they never will.

I am a role model. I care for my own horses. Yes, I show multiple horses in sports, working up to three off the trailer with a friend who may help some. But I care for my horses myself. I tack them, braid, warm them up, cool them down, ice, cold hose, load, pack and everything myself. Why? Because I am a role model to the kids who watch me, we put them in 4-H and pony club to learn how to do it all themselves. We serve as their role models for the sake of creating the next generation a little better than ourselves.

Today, I watched what being a role model does for kids. My kid who uses my pony tacked up and went for a workout. It was a non-lesson day just having fun. Her horse was stung in the sheath about 5 minutes into her time, he began to buck around. She was calm, we gathered him up, untacked and tried to figure out what exactly happened. She untacked him in a matter of seconds for an emergency, she was calm with him and talked to him and used her bond of a whole year of caring for him to calm him down while I checked for issues. See I don’t charge lease fees, all horses must be earned with work, hours and discipline. When clearly her day had ended instead of going home she used her two hours to clean tack, do stalls, fill water, hand graze her horse (all still with a helmet on) and be a role model to me.

You’re always being watched, so make every move count to better our riders, our horses, and our future.