Originally Posted by allieloveshorses View Post
1. Is 6 too young to start riding?
2. What life lessons will learning to ride a horse give her?
3. How do I emphasize safety to her and the instructor without being too alarmist?
1. Absolutely not too young, as long as she loves horses, is enjoying herself, is being taught in a way that teaches her horsemanship (riding, care, safety), and it's something she wants to do. If it's something she's being pushed to do, then it's a bad idea - that does not sound like the case.
I started when I was 4, in my Mom's English saddle. I have a dear friend who was so young that her mom tied her to the saddle (though I wouldn't recommend that technique). My daughters started at 6, and there were younger kids in the class. The instructor needed to be able to keep the lessons interesting enough for their attention spans.
2. Life lessons: hmmmmm..... Here's what horsemanship has taught me through life.
-If I can handle an 1100 pound horse on a "naughty day", then that little punky boy who wants to be a schoolyard bully really just seemed comical to me.
-Never give up. When working with horses, you take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Work through it. Keep going.
- Responsibility. That horse isn't going to de-ice its own water when it's -20 out there and I'm cozy in bed.
-An appreciation for the intelligence, emotions, capabilities, love, and ability to bond that animals have with their humans.
-Physically, it's great: balance, strength, agility, reflexes are all improved by riding.
Not a life lesson, but a great benefit: Teenage girls at more interested in their horses than in boys (at least up to a certain age).
3. Safety. I'm guessing you were much more affected by her spill than she was. My daughter went on her first trail ride last year, at age 7. She came up on a low branch, and we all yelled at her to duck. She just stared at the branch and did nothing. The branch caught her at the neck and pulled her off the horse. Her feet came out of the stirrups, because she had boots and the irons were sized correctly. The leathers came off the saddle, because the latch on the stirrup bar was open. Her helmet protected her head from the other branches. She got a nasty scrape on her neck. We brushed he off, and she climbed right back on and kept going, with a bruised ego. When we got back, I showed her how her equipment had worked correctly, and we practiced laying flat along the horse's back to avoid overhead obstacles.
Don't be embarrassed to ask to see the equipment and make sure everything is adjusted and functioning correctly. Safety is BIG. Don't be worried about what someone might think if you ask to review safety procedures with the instructor. Things to ask might be whether she's learning to groom with one hand on the horse. What about walking behind the horse? Observe how she's being taught to hold the lead-rope while leading - can her hand get tangled?
Rather than harping on the instructor to the point of being annoying, go ahead and make some keen observations, take notes, and then if you have concerns about anything, bring it up to her all at once - in a friendly way.
Working with horses is not safe. If a child is taught correctly, it can be quite safe, and very enjoyable. If a child is not taught correctly, or if the tack is faulty, it can be very dangerous, so you are right to be concerned. For the benefit of the child and instructor, please don't be alarmist.