A Child’s Safe Start to Horseback Riding (Part 2)

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A reputable instructor will require that your child wear a protective helmet from the very first lesson. Ask if the instructor has helmets that students can borrow for their early lessons. Once you know that your child is going to continue riding, it’s advisable to go to the local tack store and get an approved helmet for your child.


The age at which your child starts riding can vary, depending on the child’s size and maturity. Generally, however, most instructors require children to be at least seven years old before accepting them into a lesson program.


The first lesson will ideally be a private lesson and will cover such things as the correct way to approach the pony, leading and working around the pony safely, mounting and dismounting, position etc. Children that are old enough will probably be taught about grooming and tacking up too.


Early riding lessons will be on the lunge line or lead line and will cover skills such as maintaining position at the walk, the basic aids to turn and to stop the horse and exercises to enhance balance and confidence. Once the child can apply the basic aids to stop and turn, lessons will be conducted in an arena or other confined area, allowing the child to practice and hone those skills and learn new ones, such as rising to the trot, in relative safety.


Once the child is confident and capable at the very basics, some instructors like to group two or more children together in a group lesson. Group lessons introduce the element of friendly competition, as the children each strive to do their best in front of their classmates and cheer each other on as they learn a new skill.


Some stables run informal “Schooling Shows” or play days where the children can enter competitions on the school horses. Even beginners can enjoy these shows, entering walk and trot classes and having the chance to win a coveted ribbon. More experienced riders can compete in games and jumping classes.


Some of my earliest ribbons were won at these types of shows in England, in classes such as “Best Child Rider” (hard to imagine that now!) and “Peter Pan Jumping” (nothing over 18 inches high).


Children can gain so much from riding lessons. They learn patience, compassion for another being, responsibility, sportsmanship and a lot more.  As I mentioned earlier, they can result in a life long passion for horses and the enjoyment of riding.


Born in southern Germany in 1972, Thomas Jessberger Co-owner of Rocky Acres Rescue and Sanctuary,  began working with horses at the age of 7.  He worked a team of his grandpa’s drafts, pulling logs.  He discharged from the Military in 1998 and began Professional training horses.  He trains horses according to Natural Horsemanship.


Rocky Acres Rescue and Sanctuary

Paradise Valley Trading Company


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