Hang onto your seats folks this is a long one...
Seriously I'm not exaggerating when I say go buy your kid a horse (if it is within your budget and a long term care plan is involved) it's one of the very best things my parents ever did for me. I still VIVIDLY remember my mother & father giving my sister and I a halter and saying the words "you now own a horse." My life changed in a moment. Seriously it was amazing.
Now my parents didn't just run out and buy a horse and then teach us to ride. They invested in almost 8 years of me taking lessons and 5 for my sister before they bought AJ our first horse. I even remember my mother apologizing that they could only afford to buy us one horse to share at first. I actually kind of tear up a little when I remember that moment. I was just so happy to have a horse sharing with my younger sister was not even a blip of a concern on my radar.
So we owned AJ effective the Christmas from when I was 12 until now. He's still kicking around in a pasture and bless his little mixed breed - no special pedigree heart he must be approaching 30 or past it already. We don't know for sure, he was just some little backyard pony that my trainer found and who's bucks I could ride out before my younger sister hopped on. That horse taught us so much and occupied so much of my mind. Even at 12/13 nothing mattered more than lesson day and playing with AJ.
2 years after AJ came along I had A) outgrown him and B) he kind of despised me and loved my younger sister. Enter a chestnut Saddlebred mare named YoYo. This mare was and is still the coolest thing I've ever had the privilege to own. She is a pistol - a now 26 year old pistol - but a pistol none the less. She breathed fire, had no whoa, and was generally pretty angry all the time. But she liked me, I liked her, and she jumped stuff. So what if I couldn't ever control her canter, had to ride in a twisted wire, and if she occasionally kicked other people? She never kicked me and I never got tired of riding her. She's now a retired pasture puff due to ringbone and it's fine. She's earned a relaxed life of eating grass and bossing other horses around, she put up with my clueless self for 15 years now.
And now I own Liam - who most of my large life choices are based around. Seriously - I picked the barn where he lives (kudos to Zeb for putting up with his grumpy self) and then picked a home to rent within 5 miles of him. Those are my priorities and my sweet fiancé puts up with that and drives 40 miles one way to work everyday, because I want to live close to my horse. He truly is too good of a man for me. But I digress...
You should buy your kid a horse - I am constantly photographing children with their horses and the constant is that these are extremely well behaved, well mannered, and HEALTHY children. I never catch any of them speaking back to their parents, they are all absolutely obsessed with their horses, and they are constantly going outside to play and thus are super well balanced people. They're all doing well in school - planning for college (seriously Madie pick Kentucky!) and very socially well rounded.
I literally have never once experimented with drugs, I didn't have my first kiss till I was 16, I didn't drink till I turned 21, I made a concerted effort to behave so I wouldn't get grounded from my horse, and (as my mother would say I'm probably too independent) I'm very independent and have been from my parents for a very long time. I have no extra money to get in trouble, I'm constantly saving for another item for the horse, and I am going to marry a man who tolerates me, my horses, and is a wonderful person. I know he's a wonderful person because he has been bitten, kicked, and body slammed by my horses and still offers to pay their vet bills. He's wonderful and I'd like to thank my horses for reminding me of that on a daily basis.
So go take your kid(s) to the barn, get them lessons, LEASE a pony for them first, then buy them a horse the same age as them and watch them grow up together and become wonderful human beings. I can't guarantee you won't raise a barn princess or that you'll have grandkids (sorry mom enjoy the grand-horses!) but I can almost guarantee that your child will always thank you for the moments and the memories. There's no way I can ever repay my parents for investing in my dream and setting me on this path - but I can continue to be grateful every day that they did.