With the summer holidays on the horizon, the weeks seem long ahead in entertaining children and finding them interesting and fun things to keep them amused.
Why not introduce your children to the wonderful world of horses this summer? Horse riding has many health benefits including physical exercise but also gives children an insight into life outdoors and being around ponies by riding them or simply looking after them. This can give inherent qualities in children and give them a lifelong love of the outdoors and being around animals making them confident, responsible and generally happy young people!
How old should my child be to start riding?
There is no written rule on how old a child should be to start riding but a rough guideline would be from around the age of six. However, some children who are lucky enough to grow up with horses are in the saddle before they can walk! If your child has not had contact with ponies before, it is probably best to leave it to later on when they have the physical maturity to enjoy riding lessons. This will hopefully lead to many years of horsemanship.
How to find the right riding school
Finding the right riding school with professional instructors is key to making sure your child has the safest and correct introduction to riding ponies. Word of mouth is a great way of finding a good riding school where parents can give you an honest opinion of an instructor and how the school operates. You can also contact the British Horse Society who has a list of approved schools where these have been checked for the highest standards of equine welfare and health and safety in teaching children and adults to ride.
Many riding schools will have a minimum age of six to start riding lessons and will usually teach in small groups to start with. This will be probably the cheaper and better option in starting out with the first few riding lessons. Once you know your child has really harnessed the horse riding interest, then it will probably pay to move on to individual lessons.
Do I need to use an approved riding school?
You may know someone that has horses and ponies, where you are able to go with your children and enjoy more freedom in riding. There are advantages and disadvantages to not using a riding school and the health and safety stance in this modern age would recommend you to use an approved riding school to start riding lessons. This may be the best route to start initially teaching the ground rules and basics of being around horses. This will also give your child confidence and correct understanding of how to be safe at all times around horses and ponies. Time may be limited at a riding school, so to spend time with ponies on a farm with friends is also a great way to learn more about the equestrian world. This will give your child a thorough insight into life with horses but you will have to be aware that accidents can happen with potential falls, bites, kicks together with incidents within a stable environment. However, this could also happen at professional school, so you need to make the decision what is best for your child overall and be aware of the risks.
By introducing your child to the love of horses and ponies secures the next generation of horse riders keeping equestrian sport alive which is much needed! You never know perhaps you have another William Fox Pitt in your family or a young Charlotte Dujardin in the dressage arena. Whether it is competing at an Olympic level, taking part in local shows or simply enjoying a canter around our countryside, the love of riding horses and ponies will certainly become a lifelong passion.
Written by Samantha Hobden
Image credits: Big thanks to Beth and Charlie with their super ponies being photo models for this post!
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