Growing up, when I got in trouble I had things taken away from me--horse shows or rodeos (whatever was coming up that weekend), use of the Internet, etc. I was never punished with time at the barn or riding lessons. However, it seems one girl in the U.K. has been "punished" with just that--horseback riding lessons. According to The Daily Mail, a 17-year-old girl accused of robbing students outside a school of their money, school blazers, and cell phones at knifepoint. And it wasn’t the first time for this girl--she was cited for breaching her bail conditions of a house curfew three times.

Magistrates in Blackburn altered her bail conditions the third time so the young thief can attend a three month riding course at the Northern Racing College in Doncaster--basically an all-expense paid trip funded by taxpayers. The government will pay the cost of the course (£ 300), food, and accommodations. It is a 12-week course that involves yard duties (working in the barns), looking after racehorses, riding them, studying, and attending lectures. The course is a charity which receives funding from the government, European Union, donations, and horseracing industry grants.

Taxpayers don’t believe it’s fair that they will have to pay for the girl to play with ponies all day when she's in trouble. One spokesman said doing so sends a message that she won’t have to face the consequences of her actions.

I'm conflicted on this one. I can see both sides because, to me, I’d love to be sentenced to a life of "hard labor" spent working at the barn for three months. I used to do that every summer when I wasn't in school--spend as much time as I could, from sun up to sundown in the summers. (Best weight loss program I've ever found, by the way!) But, it wasn't necessarily punishment.

I have seen horse programs do a lot of good for convicted criminals, and minors needing a different path in life. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Tascosa, Texas, is one example where sending boys to work on the farm has had a positive influence on their lives. Some have even been rewarded with trips to big AQHA shows, including one young man who got to show in halter at the American Quarter Horse Youth World Championship Show in Oklahoma City.

Just think of the positive future that can come out of sending troubled teens to "play with the ponies."

What are your thoughts on horse work and riding lessons as a form of punishment? Do you support the magistrates' decision?