There’s no denying that horses make fantastic companions for children as they tend to be very intuitive pets. Keeping a horse for riding is also an excellent way for children to learn new skills that will not only keep them active, but also offers them responsibilities and insights into exactly what it takes to look after a horse.
It goes without saying that we absolutely adore horses and know from first hand experience that they make great companions for everyone from children to adults and even dogs. It has to be said, horses are just great.
So when is the right time to introduce a children to horses?
It may be that you already keep horses and that your child is very familiar with the nature of them. However, it may be the case that your child has never interacted with a horse before and this is something you’d like to encourage.
Lots of children begin riding lessons at around 4 years old as at this age, they tend to be able to follow instructions and understand how to behave appropriately around animals. Of course, if you are keeping a horse for your child to ride, it must be of an appropriate size for them to ride safely to avoid any dangerous situations.
If your child wants to take part in horse riding at an accredited riding school, you are paving the way for them to make friends and try new things, as well as experience equestrian environments such as the paddock and stable yard. All of this contact, whether it’s with your own horse, or someone else's, will give children a new found confidence in the presence of horses.
Did you know horses can also help with children’s development?
Horses have been known to particularly help children with autism, as interacting with them can help build confident, trusting relationships. Because of this, spending time with horses may help with social anxieties and flourish social interactions with family and peers.
Equine therapy is another way that horses can help children and their development - for example, sensory skills can help improve motor skills. This can be achieved through encouraging children to brush the horse, or pet them gently. Horses can also help with emotional and situational therapy which will teach children how to look after a creature and their basic needs. Horses require a lot of care and by involving children in looking after their basic needs, you are showing them how to do a job with meaning that they can be proud of.
How to safely introduce horses and children
- Stay vigilant when your children are around horses. Ensure that you keep your eye on them at all times and don’t approach the horse with a child if the horse is seen to be distressed, or feeding.
- Enforce some ground rules when it comes to spending time with horses. For example, inform your children not to perform any erratic movements or loud noises in the presence of the horse.
- Set a good example on how to interact with horses safely. Children learn a lot by watching, so show them how to behave and interact with the horse.
- Involve your child in an equestrian organisation or horse riding club.
- Children are obviously quite small in height, so be sure to encourage your child to stand at the horses shoulder and not in their blind spot to help them to not become spooked.
By giving your child the responsibility of handling, riding and caring for a horse, it gives them a level of self-discipline, accountability and empathy they may not otherwise have discovered at a young age.