Have you noticed the faces of children during their first pony ride at a birthday party or the fairgrounds? For many, it is one of two possible experiences; the joy and laughter of excitement or absolute terror followed by tears. Unfortunately, the latter could have been avoided if parents slowly introduced their children to what must appear as a strange and scary animal with unfamiliar characteristics. It is sad to think that some people will never enjoy the pleasure of equestrian sports due to negative encounters when young.
For kids comfortable in the saddle, their development and personalities often mature more quickly becauseof the special bond between them and their steed.
There are many important reasons to introduce and encourage children to become familiar with horses and the wide variety of sporting specialties.
Being around a horse is a social experience; those involved in the sport will quickly be introduced to people they might never meet. The grain and hay supplier, a veterinarian, stable hands, trainers, the farrier, and others with similar interests found at training sessions and shows.
If you board at home, your kids will quickly learn what hard work is; up in the morning to muck out the stalls, clean the corral, feed, and water the animals—then put them to pasture for the day—all before going to school.
In the afternoon, it is time to saddle up and get some exercise. It might seem easy, but proper riding is not effortless and is a task that takes time and training. At sunset, it is time to return the horses to the barn, provide more food and water, share some attention and praise, and call it a night.
Such a demanding schedule teaches more than working in fast food, and a lot more enjoyable.
Being charged for the care of any person or animal, especially when it requires an awareness twenty-four-seven, can be life-changing. Being accountable builds character, teaches scheduling, and improves one’s organizational skills.
A benefit of hard work is an appetite followed by a better understanding of proper nutrition for horses and riders.
Being a primary caretaker will result in a child learning about diet, exercise, and preventative care for each of them.
To excel at any interest takes focus, goal setting, and motivation. Regardless of how good we are at performing, it seems there is always someone better. Equestrian sports teach humility, commitment, and endurance. It takes time to reach near-perfection, and even then, it is not guaranteed. The practice of achieving an objective will stay with a child their entire life.
Something is calming about being with animals. They depend on us for everything, and because of this reliance, a personal bond is quickly established. Horses are great listeners, they might not offer much advice, but they are non-judgmental while providing feelings of security. Being around horses is a stress reliever, and a barn is a private place that feels safe.
Riding horseback is inherently dangerous and has risks. You must discuss the importance of following instructions, adhering to protocol, and staying alert at all times.
It is crucial to periodically check in with your kids and ensure they are not taking shortcuts on wearing protective equipment and attire. Boots are always a good idea, and the avoidance of sandals should not have to be explained but may need to be reinforced.
No one should ever take a mount beyond their ability to stay in control. And, younger children should not ride alone. Particular caution is advised when near or approaching all motorized vehicles—horses spook easily—and their reactions are unpredictable.
Start your child’s journey, search organizations that produce horse shows, and offer volumes of helpful information supporting and promoting the sport.
It is always a good idea to allow youth to ease into a hobby or interest, and it will not hurt if they believe it was their idea. Happy trails.
For additional information, visit New England Horsemen’s Council, nehc.info; New England Dressage Association, neda.org; and US Equestrian, usef.org.
Click the cover above to receive a free digital subscription