What is a Good Age to Start Children In Horseback Riding Lessons
Every little girl always wants a pony but at what age should you start her in riding lessons? Horses and even ponies are very large and potentially dangerous animals so before you run out and buy one for your child be sure that you are prepared and more importantly that your child is prepared.
When I was a kid I begged my parents to let me take riding lessons for as long as I could remember. Finally when I was seven my mom decided that I was both physically capable of handling a horse/pony as well as able to have a long enough attention span to listen to my instructor. I began riding at seven and have continued to ride and own horses well into my adulthood.
Sadly when I mention I ride to people I get one of two responses, either:
1. I love horses! or
2. I am terrified of horses, I had a horrible experience!
This always makes me sad because so many people have had negative experiences on horses primarily because of their own lack of knowledge. Although trainable, horses are still highly unpredictable; even the most sane pony can have an off day and go on a bucking spree or bolt with its young rider.
Beginning riding lessons in a controlled environment with a professional is the key to success and will provide a positive experience in the saddle. I would suggest waiting until your child is at least five to enroll her in lessons, most reputable barns will not begin lessons with children younger than five anyway. If your child still has a short attention span then wait until you are absolutely certain they can follow instructions and listen to their instructor. Ignoring instructors and disregarding safety is leaves a window open for disaster.
After you have determined whether or not your child is at an age appropriate to start lessons then you need to find a reputable instructor and barn. The best way to do this is word of mouth; ask friends, family and coworkers if they know of anyone who has taken riding lessons from a local trainer. Also be aware that a lot of the major show barns will not accept beginning riders or have a limited program.
After you have narrowed down a few trainers go and meet with them in person, see how their barn is maintained and if their horses are in good health and happy. I would also suggest watching a lesson of a child close to your childs age so you can see how the trainer interacts with a younger rider. Ask to see a few of the lesson horses that a trainer has, even if you aren't a horse person you can tell if a horse appears to be gentle and mellow.
After you have found a suitable trainer your child will need a few basics for her lesson. Boots with a heel are a must as well as an ASTM certified helmet. Both of these items can be purchased fairly inexpensively at a local tack store or on websites like www.doversaddlery.com. Make sure that the helmet fits correctly and is not too big. You can also buy a pair of inexpensive breeches that will help to prevent saddle sores that often occur if riding in jeans.
If you find a good trainer and start your child off in lessons they are much more likely to have a good experience with horses and not become fearful of horses and hopefully become lifelong riders.