How Training Horses is Like Raising Kids | Win a Trip to Pine Ridge Dude Ranch!

Have you ever wanted to visit a real-life dude ranch? We did! And the most striking thing about the whole experience was how I kept learning that training horses is like raising kids…. more or less. But back to that in a second…

We went to a dude ranch! If you’ve been a MomCaver for any length of time, you know I’m a city girl at heart. While my husband grew up in the country riding horses, my horseback riding has been limited to pony rides at the county fair. But I’m always looking for unique getaways for our family. So when I stumbled across the website for Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, I was totally game!

The main selling points for me were that it was all-inclusive. (My family eats A LOT) and even had a day camp aka daycare. The holy grail of family vacations is some alone time for mom and dad! I was sold. And so we headed to the New York ranch for a weekend.

The resort is charmingly decorated in a Western-theme and the employees are all super nice. My kids were psyched to find two pools (one indoor and one out) with waterslides, a climbing wall, a bouncing pillow, archery range, paddleball courts, basketball courts, laser tag, paintball, an arcade… oh yeah, and stables of horses.

After checking into our room (which had two king-sized beds and a set of twin bunk beds), we headed to see a presentation called “Raising Juniper” where the head of the ranch’s equine programming, Micheall Canfield, introduced us to a yearling (that’s a year-old horse) and gave an interactive talk about training horses.

Remember, I know next to nothing about horses. And I feel like I know nothing about parenting. You may recall, my youngest child is a bit of a handful. Not that my oldest, a 9-year-old boy, is perfect… But let’s just say that if my 4-year-old daughter had been born first, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence or energy to have a second.

She’s what you’d call a spitfire. When she’s grown, her confidence and bravery will serve her well. But right now, it’s driving me insane. She doesn’t listen and none of the discipline techniques we used with her big brother seem to work.

So, back to the horse talk. Several families are seated on the grass, listening to the expert talk about horse training. There were families were more kids and younger kids than I have. They were, for the most part, paying attention to the presentation.

My daughter, on the other hand, was somersaulting down a hill, showing strangers her undies on purpose, and chasing chickens. I’d grab her by the hand and lead her back to us. I tried to hold her in my lap and quietly whisper in her ear that she needed to behave like a big girl so that she could ride a pony the next day. But my attempts to reign in her crazy energy were not working and I really wanted to enjoy the presentation myself.

So, I did what I call “lazy parenting.” I didn’t feel like missing out on the presentation myself by taking her away from the group.

As Mr. Canfield shared stories of training very young horses, so many of the things he said resonated with me. The horse training techniques were all the things I was doing wrong with Ava.

Over the weekend, I kept coming back to this theme. My husband, son, and I went on an awesome trail ride while Ava stayed in the daycare. She didn’t mind at all. She loved all the toys and the day care provider was amazing.

On the ride, my horse kept stopping to eat grass along the trail. The woman leading our ride told me that I had to pull back on the reigns firmly and tell the horse that it was NOT snacking time. Sound anything like parenting young children to you??

Here are just some ways training horses is like raising kids:

  1. Consistency is the most important thing.
  2. You have to be very clear in your expectations. Don’t expect that the horse or kid knows what you want them to do–tell them.
  3. You have to make doing the wrong thing uncomfortable.
  4. You have to reward them for doing the right thing.
  5. BUT don’t reward them TOO much. They need to know that they are expected to behave well as a baseline.
  6. When they are very small, you have to pick them up and hold them to demonstrate that you will protect them and you are more powerful than them.
  7. You can’t let them get away with being disrespectful.
  8. If you feed them junk food, they won’t behave as well as if you fed them a proper diet.
  9. They need to be outside and “run” often.
  10. If you let them snack whenever they want, all they will do is snack and ask for more snacks.
  11. You have to help them groom themselves.
  12. You have to let them make mistakes in a safe environment in order to learn from those mistakes.
  13. At some point, they will be too old for your training to have much effect. Train them as early as you can.
  14. But don’t RIDE them too early. I learned that you really shouldn’t ride a horse until it’s 4 or 5 years old!
  15. There’s A LOT of poop to clean up.

So by visiting a dude ranch, we had a great family vacation AND I walked away determined to be more consistent in my discipline. We’ll definitely visit again. They have all kinds of awesome winter activities, too!

To win a stay at Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, watch the video below and comment. You can earn extra entries using the giveaway tool below.

LIVE video from Pine Ridge Dude Ranch

Win a Trip to Pine Ridge Dude Ranch

Winter Update! We Visited a Second Time

Our second trip to the dude ranch was in February. I expected it to be quite slow and was pleasantly surprised that the ranch was hoppin’ with families from all over. The indoor pool (with waterslides) was a huge hit. And there were winter-specific activities like tubing and ice skating.

training horses is like raising kids momcave



  • Allyson Tice

    awesome!! i want to go now with my family!!

  • Anne Lehnick

    I wish I had something like this a little closer to me, but I’d totally be willing to plan a family vacation here!

  • S.Hines

    Sounds like fun – even though my kids are grown. Everything you said makes sense and resonates with me


    Thank you for sharing. The next trip to consider with the family.

  • Great Stuff!!!!

  • Andrea s

    Need to win the New York lottery so I could buy a home here & drive around looks cool & breezy!! Gotta love that

  • Marsha

    Looks like so much to do and a great family vacation. I would love to take my boys there.


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