How to introduce your child to horses
As a parent, our children’s safety is of the utmost importance to us. A parent’s worry is what can hold our children back from getting the most out of ponies. Horses are unpredictable, large and unaware of where they are putting their own feet; so being worried is natural. But have no fear, some simple rules about respecting horses, and the right equipment (from good boots to a comfy pair of trousers to ride in) will have your child ready to ride in no time.
There are some rules you can enforce and teach your child to help them be able to look after themselves:
- Where to put their fingers:
- Their little fingers + big scary horse teeth = trouble! No matter how much you trust your horse not to bite, little fingers can easily be confused for little carrots. It is important to teach children that horses do have sharp teeth – and the classic flat hand with thumbs tucked underneath is an important lesson even adults need to keep in mind. Or you could teach your child to keep their hands away from a horse’s mouth until they are a bit older to understand the flat hand rule.
- Wear a helmet all the time:
- Horses are also notoriously clumsy, that is why it can be a good idea to plonk a well-fitting riding helmet on your child at all times – even when they aren’t riding! This saves accidental bumps on the head, from the horses or just from general yard duties! Those wheelbarrows can be clumsy too! Kids are curious, let them be curious, but teach them fundamental safety rules from an early age, like staying away from horse’s legs – especially their back legs.
- Learn basic horse body language:
- Basic understanding of a horse’s body language enables them to start to understand when a horse is saying: “stay away from me”. Turning their bums towards you, and ears going back is a good indication that you should keep your distance.
Now the basics are down, it’s time to ride!
- Make sure you have the correct equipment:
- Make sure your child has the correct equipment for riding – any hat has to be up to a certain safety standard! A comfy pair of trousers is also important, there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable in the saddle, and we know how children get when they are uncomfortable; this one bad experience could put them off coming back. Good riding boots are also vital for this reason. However, if you don’t want to splash out yet, a shoe they already own with a decent heel would work for their first go.
- Find a pony you know and trust:
- A well-behaved pony will do wonders for your child’s confidence. Find either a friend’s pony or a well-established riding school that has endless ‘worth their weight in gold’ type ponies in their stables. Give them a positive first experience, it will make them want to come back for more!
- After a few rides:
- Little ponies can be great for learning to ride on, so make sure your pony is size appropriate. Remember to let your child find their own balance (when they are old enough), encourage their independence, let them fall off (within reason, of course!) Pick them up, dust them off, and stick them back in the saddle. Don’t make a fuss, you’ll most likely end up worrying them. Everyone falls off, it’s how we become better riders.
The most important thing:
Let them enjoy themselves! Let them fall in love with horses the way you did. It’s all about having fun. Give your child space to learn themselves what being around horses means, and you’ll end up getting your little riding buddy a lot sooner than you thought!