“Mom, I want a horse!” – Does this question sound familiar to you? Then you will find all the important answers about learning to ride for children here.
Is Horse Riding the Right Hobby for Your Child?
Riding is a great hobby in many ways and is suitable for every child. A horse can be a friend or a comforter. Dealing with the horse requires and promotes a sense of responsibility and independence, observation and empathy. Because horses are living beings and must be treated with a lot of respect.
Every horse works differently. Children will quickly learn to readjust to each individual pony or horse and to be careful first. At some point, all children have to independently prepare their ponies for riding and ensure that the horse or pony returns to the box satisfied. The hobby of horse riding gives children a great job and they spend a lot of time in the fresh air, which is very valuable in today’s digital age. A study by the German Equestrian Association shows that riding shapes character and that riding children benefit to a large extent from their hobby. Horses can have a positive effect on your child’s development. Your child can make friends and play sports with other children. Because riding can be a wonderful hobby, which gives children a task and a lot of joy in addition to school!
From What Age Can Children Learn to Ride?
When children should start riding varies from child to child and should always be decided individually. Here are a few pointers you can use as a guide.
Learning to ride in kindergarten
Even in kindergarten, many children talk about horses all day. Often older siblings have already had riding lessons or even have their own horse. But is it really right to put children on a horse or pony at such a young age? You can see it either way. Most of the time, children aged three or four do not have the strength of their own to hold on to a horse without help. Nevertheless, there is the possibility of giving the children their first riding experience with horses or ponies through guided pony rides or vaulting lessons. In vaulting, it is important to have a good balance. If this is not yet fully developed in your child, the vaulting lessons will still be fun, as there are many easy exercises to promote balance. However, if you don’t want to put your child directly on a large horse, you can first let them take part in courses that focus on handling horses in the form of grooming and leading. A great chance to give small children their first experiences with horses!
Learning to ride at elementary school age
At elementary school age, children can start riding. The first riding experiences often take place on the lunge, a long leash. Your child can concentrate fully on the seat and the aids because the riding instructor controls the horse in a circle using the lunge. How many lunge lessons your child needs in order to ride freely later in individual or group lessons are very different. It is advisable to consult with the riding instructor and the child.
What Makes a Good Riding School?
A good riding school and a professional riding instructor are important criteria for the fun, success, but also safety of your child. However, it is not easy to find the perfect stable with suitable trainers. There are a few criteria that you should consider when choosing a riding school.
THE RIGHT SCHOOL HORSE
You should first make sure that the riding school has a suitable horse or pony available for your child. If your child is very young and small, the riding school should also have ponies to choose from. It is important that children do not become insecure or frightened, especially at the beginning. Trust in the horse is the be-all and end-all when riding and is often quicker with small horses or ponies.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with horses yourself, here are a few simple tips to help you quickly and correctly assess the nature and spirit of the horse. A suitable school horse is always nice, curious, and easy-going. They have their ears pointed forward while cleaning, which is an expression of positive attention, and they enjoy being petted. However, if the horse has big ears, snaps, kicks, or is constantly restless, it is most likely not a suitable beginner horse. Note, however, that horses are living things and not robots. If the horse gets frightened or scared every now and then, that’s fine as long as it calms down quickly.
A GOOD RIDING INSTRUCTOR
Finding a suitable riding instructor for your child is not that easy. You can recognize a good riding instructor by these characteristics:
He has a recognized qualification (trainer A, B, C, or horse manager). Every riding instructor with this qualification has a certificate / ID and must attend courses or seminars several times a year in order to maintain this title.
He has sufficient experience in training with children
He is patient and makes time for the children
He is imaginative and makes the lessons varied because fun is the most important thing in the first riding lessons.
THE RIGHT RIDING FACILITY
If you haven’t had much contact with riding stables until today, you can still see with a few glances whether the equipment of the riding facility is good or not. Here are a few things to watch out for:
Safety aspects must be given: It can always happen that a horse remains stubborn, your child is overwhelmed, and quickly loses control of the horse. Then it is important that the riding arena is fenced in so that the horse or pony cannot leave the arena. Wide stable aisles also have a great advantage. Because if stable aisles are too narrow, there are not enough alternatives in dangerous situations.
Child-friendly equipment (children’s saddle, children’s helmet, small stirrups)
Which is Better: Individual or Group Lessons?
It all depends on how you introduce your child to horse riding. Both guided pony riding and vaulting lessons usually take place in groups. In vaulting lessons, your child is in a group with other riding students of the same age. A good way to introduce children to the horse in a playful way. While your child is sitting on the horse, the other children are usually occupied with certain games in the riding hall or in the riding arena. The vaulting lessons are varied and the children can concentrate fully on the horse or pony at the right moment.
Lunge lessons always take place individually and usually last 30 minutes. During the entire lunge lesson, your child sits on the horse or pony, which is controlled by the riding instructor on a lunge in a circle. So the riding instructor can only concentrate on your child. If the riding instructor is of the opinion that your child has the horse or pony well under control, feels safe, and can ride freely in a group, the group lessons follow. The group lessons usually consist of 5 to 7 participants, depending on the size of the hall, and last between 45 and 60 minutes. However, there should not be more than 7 participants, otherwise, the riding instructor quickly loses track of things.
Vaulting lessons, lunge lessons, and group lessons usually take place once or twice a week. If your child enjoys riding, they can of course go horse riding more often. Because “You only learn to ride by riding!”
What Equipment Does Your Child Need in the Beginning?
Before your child goes to riding lessons for the first time, you should get a few standard things, depending on the type of riding, so that your child is well prepared for the riding lesson.
A riding helmet is an absolute must. In equestrian shops, you and your child can get advice and choose the right riding helmet. If the riding helmet has fallen on the ground or your child has fallen off the horse, for safety reasons you should have the helmet checked or, if necessary, replaced, as it could have cracks or breaks in the inner shell. Incidentally, a bicycle helmet does not replace a riding helmet, as it was not designed for falling from a horse.
Shoes and boots
No riding boots have to be purchased for the first riding lessons. Nevertheless, it is important that your child wears both chaps and ankle-high riding shoes with a small heel so that the lower legs and ankles are well protected and the foot does not slip through the stirrup. For vaulting lessons, however, your child should wear sneakers and flexible leggings.
Riding breeches should fit well and be tight. Jeans are not suitable, however, as the fabric is both too hard and too inflexible and the seams can chafe the skin.
In every equestrian shop, there are riding gloves that are equipped with a non-slip material or rubber studs on the inside.
A safety vest is not necessary for the first riding or lunge lessons, since the children are restricted in their movement by the most rigid construction of the safety vest. However, if your child goes out for a ride or later jumps over obstacles on a horse, a safety vest can be useful, as the dangers in the open air are often unpredictable. When buying a safety vest, it is important to ensure a good fit and quality.
If you learn to ride, you can sometimes fall off your horse. This is completely normal! Nevertheless, it is recommended that your child has private accident insurance and that the riding school can provide liability insurance for all school horses. If your child is a member of a riding club, they are usually also insured through the club. Feel free to ask directly at the riding school!