This is how it starts.

That’s what I thought last night when a past colleague told me about her young daughter leasing a horse for the first time. The girl is horse love struck, having graduated from summer pony camp to weekly lessons to leasing her own horse. The next step for this family, obviously, is ownership.

(As we talked, I could almost hear the Colbie Caillat song “Brighter than the Sun” in the background. This is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart … brighter than the sun. Isn’t that kind of how it felt when you got your first horse?)

“I don’t know anything about horses!” mom Andie said, looking a little panicked. “Farriers are so expensive; do we really have to replace her shoes so often? I mean, they still look shiny to me.”

The setting of our conversation didn’t take place at a barn, a horse show, or a feed store. Instead, we were at a cocktail hour hosted by the local chamber of commerce. I used to go to these things all the time when I worked in marketing, which was just three short months ago. Yesterday, I went to see old business contacts and friends and support my husband’s new business venture. I mean, why turn down an evening of appetizers and wine at a beautiful private resort, right?

At this event, though, instead of pulling out my business card to network with local business leaders, I handed Andie my The Horse business card as part lifeline and part invitation into the horse world. “Check out our website, TheHorse.com,” I told her. “We have a ton of information about horse care that will help you out. And call me anytime you have questions or need anything.”

Talking to Andie also made me realize just how overwhelming entering horse ownership is for the uninitiated, especially parents of horse crazy kids. Not only are you joining a new culture with its own jargon and etiquettes (no wonder we call it a horse “world”!), but you’re also suddenly responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of an expensive and seemingly fragile 1,200-pound animal.

Thirty years ago most people learned about horse care hands-on, on the ranch or farm, or (like me) in grandma and grandpa’s backyard. Today, those rural experiences are fewer and farther between, and entry points into the horse world are narrowing. Many new horse owners are urbanites (like Andie and her daughter) who’ve never had hands-on horse experience. Because of that, I believe it’s more important than ever for experienced horsemen and –women to welcome new horse owners into our world with open arms and minds.

Whether you’re a lifelong horse owner or just starting out, I hope that TheHorse.com offers a map to caring for your horses. I also hope we can convince newbies to our industry to come on in, kick off their boots, and stay a while.

When did “lightning strike your heart” with horses, and who helped introduce you into this world? And, if you’re a horsey veteran, how do you help those who are just starting out on equine adventures? I’d enjoy hearing your stories.

Until next time, may you ride in sunshine.