By: Cassie Sprenger
Keep your eyes up, heels down and heart on the target!
There are many wonderful ways for kids to spend time with horses safely. But as kids and horses can turn into a disaster very easily, it is imperative for children to learn as many safety precautions as possible when around horses. If your child is interested in horses, getting help and guidance from a professional will help make your child’s time with horses much more enjoyable, safe, and rewarding. By learning how to handle, ride, and care for horses, your child will also learn responsibility, trust, leadership and respect. The bond that starts to form with the horses will become one that lasts well into adulthood.
Many programs that offer a lesson program for children take into account the fact that children can get bored quickly with how challenging it can be to learn to ride. Good programs are designed to create fun ways for children to learn, from riding games, groundwork games and extra-curricular activities involving horses. Having fun while learning is often the key to long term success, and before you know it your child will be learning about equitation and many of the finer points of horsemanship, all while having the most fun they’ve ever had.
It’s also important for them to learn safety on the ground before riding. Horses are very large, can startle easily and children should learn the safe ways to approach a horse, catch a horse, lead, tie, groom, handle, tack up, feed and turn loose. Once the child has learned those skills and is confident with each one then it’s time to start teaching them the safe way to mount and ride.
Once mounted and riding there are many ways to help children learn. Using games, obstacles and fun colors will help keep them engaged. Using reins with colors on them to show them where to hold or have each rein a different color to help explain left and right. Having some obstacles set up like cones to weave, pool noodles to walk over or hula hoops for them to try to get their horses hooves in are all great ways to teach children and have fun. Children love positive reinforcement. When in a riding program be sure the program offers incentives and aids the children in setting goals. Small things like earning a trail ride, a movie night with a friend or a horse figurine will also show the children you care about them. Many programs also offer activities outside lesson times. Attending the workshops, clinics, play days, shows and so on that may be offered by an equine facility with children’s programs will keep the parents and children involved. Before you know it your child will have a great group of horsey friends, will want to clean stalls & tack, and will have a proud sense of accomplishment.