My daughter has been taking riding lessons for about six months. We have a neighbor a few doors down that has a horse in a barn in their backyard. Their kids have grown up and gone to college and the horse doesn't get much attention anymore. The other day, they must have noticed we had a horse sticker on our car and walked over to talk to us about their horse. Evidently, the horse was a good kids horse but has not been ridden for a few years on a regular basis. They offered to let us use the horse whenever we would like to. I thought this was super generous but wasn't sure if my daughter was ready for riding on her own or not. Is this a good opportunity for a rider at her stage? Or should we pass for now?
- Not Sure About The Neighbor's Horse
Dear Not Sure About The Neighbor's Horse,
That is super cool that you have horses in your neighborhood and even cooler that they are willing to share the horse with your family. Whether or not it is a good idea really depends on the horse and how much time you are willing to commit to taking your child and supervising her riding.
I would suggest you go over and have a meet and greet with the horse. Ask if you can groom him, lead him around, maybe feed him a treat or two. You should be able to get a general feel of whether or not the horse is calm and gentle, as well as if your child responds to the horse confidently or timidly.
I would never recommend that a child ride unsupervised. If you think you have the time to commit to going with her, that's great. My next suggestion would be to set up a time for your daughter's instructor to come out and give her a lesson on the horse.
Then your instructor can advise you as to whether or not the horse will be a good confidence builder for your young rider or not. At this stage, it is all about confidence and a bad experience could really set back a young rider. If your instructor doesn't think it is a good match just yet, maybe you could arrange for your daughter to go over and groom the horse regularly. That way the horse would get some love and attention.
Your daughter could also help to take care of the horse. Cleaning and feeding is a good experience that she may not get at the lesson barn.
If the instructor thinks that the horse is a good match for your child, that's great! Not many kids have a horse they can ride in their neighborhood! I would encourage you to still take your child to the lesson barn for lessons. Riding a variety of horses is so important when learning to ride.
I would also recommend every so often having your instructor come back out for another lesson on the neighbor's horse, just to make sure everything is going well, and that neither horse or rider are picking up bad habits.
You want this to be a fun and educational opportunity that helps improve your child's riding and horsemanship. It takes us, instructors, quite a while to build up confidence in our young students. If lost, it can take even longer to get back.
If it is the right horse, though, it could really be a great opportunity for your child. I definitely encourage you to at least discuss it with your child's instructor and go and meet the horse. Even if it turns out it isn's a great riding match just yet, your child could still get a lot of enjoyment out of "the horse next door" even if she isn't riding him.
So, I definitely think it is an opportunity you should look into and then make a decision with your child's instructor about whether or not it is a good fit at this time.