Amateur Hour

Humoring a Horse Crazy Child in the Suburbs and On a Budget

If you’re a parent with little-to-no interest in horses, little-to-no money for the expensive hobby, yet were blessed (cursed?) with a horse-crazy child, you have my sympathy.

I write this not as the aforementioned parent, but as the horse-crazy child who probably put my non-horsey parents through a very specific type of hell because of my equine obsession. Let’s face it: whether you’re the parent or the child in this scenario, life is rough. It can be…dare I say, miserable?

That may sound harsh, but I remember well.

As I approach my 25th birthday, still as horse-crazy as ever, I can remember with perfect clarity crying myself to sleep at night because I couldn’t be with horses. My dreams couldn’t come true. I was hopeless. And although I never told my parents about these fitful nights, they must have known. And they were probably just as heartbroken as I was.

My parents had no poor intentions when it came to dealing with me, their middle- and only horse-obsessed child. They wanted to give me the lifestyle with horses that I desired so profoundly, they just couldn’t.

We were a middle-class family living in the Suburban sprawl that is Los Angeles and Orange County. In that part of the world, where undeveloped land is scarce and cost-of-living is through the roof, it seemed that unless you were born into the horse world, it was nearly impossible to attain unless you were a multi-millionaire.

While they didn’t have the means to give me a horse, endless riding lessons and horse shows, (and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pray into existence a life identical to the characters in my favorite book series The Saddle Club), my parents got creative with ways to get me near horses.

Photo courtesy of the author

At the time, I was frustrated and exhausted by my passionate longings for a 24/7 lifestyle with horses. But I will be forever grateful for all my parents did to help keep their horse-fanatic daughter sane. These are humble examples of the ways my parents humored me—maybe you can relate?

  1. Driving 60 minutes roundtrip in the never-ending rush hour traffic for to let me enjoy ten minutes petting horses at a tiny boarding barn off the side of a busy Orange County road. We did this too many times to count. Miraculously, no one ever got upset at the strange little girl and her dad taking carrot hunks out of their pockets and feeding them to horses we didn’t know. (I cringe now when I think about that!)
  2. Letting me get on a “horse” at every carousel we ever found.
  3. Buying me Breyer horses, horse books, tee-shirts, magazines, ANYTHING WITH A HORSE ON IT for every birthday and holiday for my entire life.
  4. Humoring me every time I yelled “Stop! There’s a horse!” Thanks Mom and Dad for pulling over and letting me pet random horses near the road on every single road trip we took. I suppose I should also thank my sisters for that. Sorry to further prolong those tedious road trips and “scenic routes” of which Dad was so fond!
  5. Taking me to ranches countless times to go on trail rides when I know that riding horses (especially at the trot) was always…painful…for you, Dad. Thanks for dealing with that…er…pain.
  6. Long afternoons spent wandering a local University campus where they bred Arabian horses. That never got old! Thanks, Mom!
  7. And let’s not forget the time we took a vacation to Pennsylvania to see family and went on one heck of a detour to Kentucky so that I could finally see the state of my dreams. We visited race tracks and the Kentucky Horse Park and it was a DREAM COME TRUE. (A dream for me, that is. I’m not sure it was too great for my non-horsey sisters who were along for the ride). What a lucky girl I was!

There are many more examples of the ridiculous lengths my parents went to to get me near a horse in my young life.

So when you’re a hopelessly horse-obsessed child living in what can only be described by you, at the time, as a suburban nightmare, sometimes it can feel like the whole world is against you. But as I can clearly see now, the light among that perceived darkness is sympathetic parents—even if they can’t fulfill your dreams.

Photo courtesy of the author

My wish now? Kids, have pity on your parents and let them know that life is good even without a pony in the backyard. And parents, have pity on your horse-crazy kid and just know that the extra mile you take, while perhaps not perfect, is appreciated.

About the Author

Diana Rose Lindahl lives in northwest Washington with her perfect husband and three quirky cats. She works with a rescue horse, an OTTB mare who—next to her husband—is the love of her life.