Dear Care and Feeding,
We’re expecting our third child and looking to move from our two-bedroom condo to a house. So far, we’ve only found one that checks all our boxes: good school district; big yard; slightly out in the boonies, but still convenient to town; no HOA; older, character-filled, but not a dump; and last but not least, affordable given the current insane market. The problem is the backyard directly borders a farm with at least 20 horses, and the second time we drove by, the riding ring was full of little girls with pink and purple helmets and saddle blankets, galloping gleefully around and jumping small obstacles on ponies.
Our oldest daughter, 8, has been obsessed with horses since she was probably 2, and begging for riding lessons since 5. Money is not a problem, but my wife is absolutely inflexible in saying no, as she considers it too dangerous—even if the kids wear helmets, even if they ride an old half-dead horse, etc. I don’t agree, but she puts her foot down so seldomly that I try to respect it when she does.
I feel it would be too cruel to make our daughter look out her bedroom window every day at what she can’t have, and if my wife won’t bend on the riding-lesson issue, we need to pass on this house and keep looking. But she thinks it’s too good to let go, and our daughter just needs to learn to deal with disappointment. Thoughts?
— Neigh on the House?
This is a totally bizarre situation, and also the plot for a sitcom episode of some kind. Surely your wife, as committed to disappointing her daughter as she is, has to see that at the end of any such sitcom episode, she would have an encounter with a kindly riding instructor, and end up bending on the issue? So that your family ends the half-hour with both your nice new house and a pony-riding, over-the-moon elementary-schooler who happily runs over to the barn every afternoon, finding a new community of Horse Girls who become her best friends forever? Cue the credits!
But seriously, your wife isn’t wrong that horseback riding can be dangerous. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents can forestall injury by making sure that the stable takes good care of the horses, and that the professionals on staff check equipment before children ride; that equipment should be appropriate for children; and of course, helmets are a must. I don’t think you should pass up this house just because of the attractive nuisance next door, but I also don’t think you should give in to your daughter riding without a good sense of what the situation is at this farm.
I can see how this could be hard to figure out from an outsider’s perspective. Do you have any experienced riders among your friends? If that person is willing to visit this stable with you and take a look to see that the equipment, horses, and staff seem right, and that certifications are up to date, that would be very helpful. If things don’t seem up to snuff, your wife might be correct: your daughter may have to learn a new lesson about disappointment.
More Advice From Slate
I have a 4-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter. We were overseas when my daughter was born, living in a very small apartment. Although it took a month of living in hotels, we are now back in the U.S. in a much larger, semipermanent living situation. We’ll be in this home for 11 weeks total and have been here three weeks so far. My son has done a fabulous job adjusting to these changes, with one exception: He seems to be developing phobias related to our current home.