I’m a mum. I’m a mum to a very active, very outdoorsy 18 month old daughter. The one who isn’t happy if she’s not out of the door within an hour of her breakfast every morning. She doesn’t care about the weather. She just wants to be outside, taking in the fresh air, and getting a bit muddy, jumping in puddles in her wellies, or picking grass and flowers (and occasionally stinging nettles… bad move!) She doesn’t care about a bit of dirt (as long as you brush her hands off!) She just wants to explore, discover and run around like a bit of a loony sometimes. She also loves a wheelbarrow ride…
It was easier when she was a baby. You can read my take on that part right here. Eliza is a pretty easy going happy child, and luckily she was quite an easy baby too! That’s my disclaimer right there.
I just want to put it out there that it is possible to have this wonderful little person in your life and still get to enjoy your horse too. Rio has learned to accept this little ball of energy rushing around his field in the mornings. When we get to the yard, and hats, coats and wellies are all in place, we set off into the barn. At the moment, this is usually via collection of half a dozen acorns that have to be collected from the floor, but we get there in the end.
Find out what works for you, and what your little one likes the most. Eliza started going for my broom and doing her best version of sweeping (not easy when you’re a toddler and the broom is wooden and three times as tall as you!) so I purchased a small plastic one which she sometimes uses, and other times still opts for mine. The other thing that I mentioned earlier, is that she loves riding in the wheelbarrow. This is great for me, as if she starts wandering off it’s easy to get her back just by calling out “time to go in the wheelbarrow!” and she’s there in a flash!
On the way up to Rio we have to say good morning to all the horses we pass, and sometimes give them a little wave. Eliza will sit on top of the hay in the wheelbarrow, either on top of a rug or my tricklenet haynet so that she doesn’t get totally covered. Just a word of warning though – no matter what’s between them and the hay, theywill probably still wriggle around and try to get some of it out!
It’s worth trying to establish ground rules with your horse regarding food before this becomes routine. For a long time now, even before I was pregnant, Rio has been asked to show respect and patience around his food. No barging, shoving, space invading, biting… Usually the bowl goes down and he backs up and we play some target practice with him touching his nose to my hand a few times in succession before he’s permitted to his bowl. Because of this, I’ve had no trouble in introducing Eliza into the equation as he knows what’s expected of him.
One of Eliza’s favourite things to do is to “feed” his hay to him, and she will take handfuls of hay and very helpfully place them in his feed bowl whilst he’s trying to eat his breakfast. I don’t recommend this for everyone – you know your horse best, and there are some rare days where I will take her away from doing this if he’s not in the best mood, but ultimately it’s lovely to see them together. She will sometimes sit on his back and give him cuddles, other times she will just come up in my arms and give him a pat on the neck.
Just don’t let them get their hands near to your horse’s mouth – of course this goes without saying, but they’re so darn small your horse could easily chomp and do some damage without really intending anything other than to eat whatever it is they were holding! As we all know, things can change in an instant, and it’s up to us to keep all parties safe.
I haven’t quite got a hold of how I will run the winter yard runs, when I’m mucking out stables, but I’m hopeful that Eliza might start helping me out soon – if her love of sweeping is any indicator, she should be a perfect yard hand in no time at all! I’m very lucky in having a number of friends at the yard who are more than happy to keep her entertained, so fingers crossed to a smooth Winter!
Of course, if you can get a free pass to get to the yard without your little one, life is a lot simpler… but where’s the fun in that??
What are your experiences of having toddlers at the yard? I’d love to hear from you.