Some of us are born with horses in our blood because our parents loved them too. For many, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. But what about those parents who seem to have a horse crazy kid, even though there are no horsey apples in their family tree? Here's some information to help you figure it out.
Start in a Lesson Program
Even if you know a friend who has a horse or a friend of a friend, you want your child to learn from a professional who knows the appropriate progression of teaching lessons and how to emphasize safety.
So find a nice lesson barn, and enroll your child in lessons. Group lessons or privates are normally offered at beginner lesson barns, and it's up to you and your child to decide which way to go.
Children who are a little shyer or timid usually prefer one-on-one lessons. If your child is outgoing, they will probably really enjoy group lessons, but at the end up the day, it's up to you and your child to decide which option is best.
Once you've decided, commit to a session or a season. Ideally, you want for them to ride long enough that they are able to understand basic skills, safety, and that riding isn't always easy. Doing so will help you better understand whether or not riding is something they want to continue with. This is especially important because a lot of kids go into lessons thinking the horse is going to just jump around the ring, which is not the case.
Some kids rise to the challenge and continue on their horsemanship journey, while others decide it is too hard and not as fun and easy as they had first thought it was.
You Don't Need to Spend a Ton of Money on Equipment
Most lesson barns will let you start as long as you have some sort of boots and an approved riding helmet. Some barns even have helmets that you can borrow. You can find cheap riding boots for kids on Amazon or at a local consignment shop.
Don't invest in more than the basics until you know that your child is going to stick with it. In other words, don't buy a lot of riding stuff until your child knows that riding is hard work and is still eager to continue to learn.
You Pay, so Why Doesn't Your Child Get the Horse They Want?
Each horse has it's own lessons to teach the students. Instructors chose horses for their students based on what they need to work on and what horse is best suited for that lesson.
Most likely, if your child is given a more challenging horse, the instructor thinks they are progressing and ready for the challenge. So instead of asking us to give your child the horse they want, help us out by encouraging them and telling them how much progress they have made!
Watch the Lessons
Be involved, bring a chair and sit and watch the lessons. This way, you'll know what's going on. Not to mention, you'll begin to learn a lot about the horse world just by watching the lessons and being in the barn environment.
Take Advantage of All the Program Has To Offer
If your child's instructor offers clinics, summer camp or fun days, take advantage! Participating in these sorts of things is how your child will learn how much goes into horse care and that there is a lot more to horses than just riding them. If you are the parent of a horse crazy child, you want them to learn to be good, well-rounded horsemen and women, not just good riders.
The two really go hand-in-hand, though kids riding in weekly lessons tend to not get as much of a feel for the horsemanship skills until they start getting more involved in other barn activities.
Understand That Riding Is Not Like Other Sports
Riding is not like soccer or lacrosse. You only can practice it when you come to the lessons regularly. Since you can't practice it at home, missing lesson after lesson makes it impossible for them to continue moving forward with their riding skills. In the early stages especially, missing a lot means you'll have to start over again each lesson, which can be frustrating for both the student and the instructor.
They Will Fall Off
If your child is still really into the lessons after realizing it is harder than it looks, that is fabulous. I'm sure by now you are starting to feel more comfortable in the barn environment.
The time will come, though, that your child will fall off. It happens to the best of us and is inevitable if you ride horses. Hopefully, after your child falls off for the first time, they can dust off and get back on. But if not, they just need to take it slow and take the time to build up their confidence again.
For some kids, falling off causes them to go into shock and never want to ride again, which is perfectly okay. I usually insist that they at least try to get back on and ride a few more times. I don't want anyone to give up because of fear. If they are able to get back to where they were and still not enthusiastic about riding, then it's fair to say it's just not for them. Again, that is totally fine.
It isn't for everyone and is a lot harder than most people think it is when they first sign up. Unfortunately though, falling off comes with the territory and if your child (or you) aren't okay with that, then riding isn't going to be your thing.
The Barn Can Seem Intimidating to New Families
When you first start lessons and aren't familiar or comfortable with horses, the barn can be an intimidating place. Hopefully, you will find a nice family barn where you will quickly feel at home and feel comfortable enough to ask questions if they come up.
We Don't Expect You to Know Everything
As instructors, we know that not all families come to the barn with a background in horses. We expect you to ask questions when you have them and we work hard to make everyone feel safe and comfortable in the barn environment.
We look forward to sharing our knowledge with you and we hope that, even if your family comes to the farm with no horse background at all, you will love it and join with us in this crazy horse life!