Horses are a part of countless fairytales, so much so that horseback riding for kids can be a magical experience. Yet, the sheer size and visible strength of a horse can be a daunting first encounter. Participating in pony rides or horseback riding lessons near you can help ensure a positive first encounter. A positive introduction is vital in creating a life-long love for horses and riding.
What Age is Good to Start Horseback Riding?
When considering horseback riding age limits, the younger the better. It gives children the chance to become comfortable in the presence of a horse. Pony rides for toddlers can be a great starting point for helping children understand proper behavior around such large animals. Of course, for toddlers, it is more about exposure to the animals than actually learning to ride. But no matter the age, exposure is vital in helping a child understand how to interact with horses safely.
4 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Horseback Riding Lessons
Many kids dream about their first horseback riding lesson. However, children need to understand that there is more to horses than what they have seen in their favorite movies. To ensure all their horseback riding dreams come true, try following these guidelines before putting them in a saddle.
1. Establish Safety Rules
A child must understand that they need to remain calm and speak quietly, so the horse does not spook. They should be informed of a horse’s basic needs. They should know that when a horse feels unsafe, they tend to try to run away. A horses instinct to escape can be dangerous. Making the dangers clear from the start will help children better understand the responsibility of being around a large animal. Approaching a horse from the side will give the animal a clear visual of you, and your child. This will help prevent them from being startled.
2. Find an Instructor with a Horse that is Comfortable around Children
Horseback riding for kids has many benefits, making it easy to find barns with kid- friendly horses. Many stables will have an instructor that teaches horseback riding lessons for kids. If your child does not ride horse their first day, having an instructor around is always a good idea. The instructor can focus on the horse and explain the horse’s behavioral cues while you focus on your child.
3. Take it Slow
While meeting a horse may be a dream come true for your child, it could also be an overwhelming experience. Be sure to recognize how your child is feeling in the presence of a horse. They are usually excited and intrigued; a child’s relationship with a horse should never be forced. It is not bad for a child to have a healthy fear of horses because being around such large animals is a big responsibility, and children should know to respect the horses and the safety rules.
Too much fear could mean that it is best to start at a distance and allow your child to observe the animals from afar. Once your child feels comfortable enough to approach a horse (from the side), they can start by petting the horse and then brushing or feeding the horse. Even if your child has a love for storybook horses building confidence can still take time, so it is best to let the child set the pace.
4. Be Encouraging
If your child is ready to begin horseback riding lessons after a successful first encounter, all that is left to do is to show your support. Your positive attitude will contribute to your child’s confidence, helping them to feel more comfortable around a horse. Being encouraging and showing interest will also help you recognize if your child needs more time learning the correct way to behave around horses or if they are ready to get into a saddle.
Whether your child’s first encounter with a horse is a pony ride or just observing from a distance, finding horseback riding lessons near you with trained instructors is always a great route to take when introducing your child to horseback riding. There are many ways a child can benefit from horseback riding, both physically and mentally; setting them up for success will ensure that your child can discover the joys of horseback riding.