Things to Look for When Buying a Horse for Your Kids to Ride
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I have taught horseback riding to kids as young as six or seven years old. There are things you need to look at when picking a riding horse, whether or not it is for the kids to ride.
The soundness of the animal is very important if it is for the youngsters. Look at the horses chest. A horse with a narrow chest does not have good lung capacity, and will wind very easily. This can be a disaster if the animal is run. A look in his mouth will tell you how old the animal is, for they get certain teeth at different ages. Try not to get a horse with three white socks. Many people think this is just a superstition, that means bad luck, but on the contrary, has very logical reasons behind it. A horse with a white sock, will also have a white hoof, which is a softer hoof than a dark hoof. A white hoof or soft hoof will throw or lose shoes often. A grey or dapple grey horse will always have four dark hooves, making them have stronger feet, and will have less shoe problems. In fact, the dark hoof horse, if not ridden on pavement or other hard surface can go "barefoot" without having problems. An older horse will have a slight sway back, but steer clear of an animal with an exceptionally swayed back. Walk the animal around on a lead and notice if it clips, which means that the front of the back hoof hits or nicks the back of the front hoof. This is a very bad thing, as the horse will injure itself over and over, just walking.
After looking at all these things, take a look and see if the animal is head shy. This means that when you move your hands quickly, or towards the horses head, he shies away, or flinches as if he were going to be hit. This usually indicates that the animal has been abused. See if the horse stands still when you approach him on the left side, the side you get on him/ Also note if he is basically calm when you handle him, and if he allows you to handle his feet and legs, or when you are grooming and brushing.
It is a good idea to get a horse that is the right size. Do not misunderstand this to mean that a pony is the right pick for a kid. Ponies tend to be feisty, and sometimes ill tempered, and are not good around kid who have not ridden much. You want children to have confidence while riding, and a bad experience will spook a child making the experience of owning a horse not as good as it would otherwise be. . A horse that is between 13 to 14 hands is a good size for a medium sized child. A horse that is too big might intimidate a smaller child, making him afraid, and therefore causing the horse to become nervous in return.
Remember that when a person is riding a horse, there will always be a connection between the horse and its rider. If the person is fearful, the horse can and will always sense this and will either become skittish, or will take advantage of any inexperience. In turn, if the horse acts up or causes the rider to have a bad experience, like being thrown, this will make the person nervous, so both must be comfortable with the other.
Allow the child to spend some time around the animal before taking him home and make sure that they are both comfortable with each other. Be sure that your child has lessons, and knows the right and wrong way to do things to and with the horse, for bad habits can be quickly learned, and are bad for both the child and the horse.
Finally, make sure that you have plenty of time to spend, for a horse is not a dog or cat, and takes much more time in many ways, not only exercising, but in grooming, stable cleaning, and in building friendships. Owning a horse is a responsibility for there are many things that have to be done every single day for health reasons, and because it builds the bond between the horse and its owner and rider.
Once a child gets to know their horse, and they become close, I think you might find that most children will want to spend time and learn things they can do. They will have fun and learn that the more time they invest the better the riding experience gets. For safety sake, an adult should always be nearby and supervise so there will be less chance of accidents that could be avoided.
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