English Riding for my 6 year old... let's talk safety - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 27 Old 01-30-2010, 12:24 PM
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I'm a strong believer in letting her make some choices and helping her follow her dreams of riding. I guess my questions are the following:
Horse riding is a lifelong hobby and for some folks an obsession.

1. Is 6 too young to start riding?
No a friend of mine put her son on a horse's back at 3.

2. What life lessons will learning to ride a horse give her?
So many that they can't all be listed here. It is not just the riding it is the handling and taking responsibility for another living creature.

3. How do I emphasize safety to her and the instructor without being too alarmist? You can't easily but nevertheless you must tell your child of the risks of hurting themselves. It is there and with horses it will never go away. Undeniably horse riding is classified as a dangerous sport. But life is like that. Make sure that your child always, repeats always wears a proper riding hat - with the kite marks to confirm it is up to the latest standard. Buy a padded body vest and make sure it is flexible and it fits. Get her to wear it when she is learning to jump.
If she goes out trail riding buy her a cell phone.

Choose your instructor carefully

I really want her to understand that riding horses is not easy, but that she can get a thrill by the challenge. Spending time at the barn has made me realize how special these animals are and I can understand why people fall in love with the sport.
Maybe you should get some horse riding lessons yourself - you are never too old to learn - except maybe me.

If I had children to bring up then I personally would encourage them to learn to ride, It is a unique sport. The child might one day fall off and break some bones here and there but most children heal quickly. There are plenty of other dangerous pursuits in this world and one has to learn to cope with them - and to avoid some of them.

If she ever loses the urge to ride, then don't push her on. But the younger they start, the better the rider in the longer term.

Buy her some horsey books and read them together.
Best of luck.

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post #22 of 27 Old 01-30-2010, 03:54 PM
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Sorry I glanced at most of the posts but did not read all of them.

No 6 is not to young. I have been on a horse since I was 18 months, my kids much earlier then that. My daughter is going to start showing in lead line classes this year and she will be 3 in April.

Safety is important and I know this may sound weird but has she ever been taught HOW to fall? I had a trainer as a kid who stressed the importance of not trying to break your fall but rolling into the fall. The worst injuries I have seen are when people try and break their falls with their hands, feet or knees . My friends and I would push each other off our horses to practice falling ;) Thats kids for ya.

I have fallen many times, 2 times in 26 years of riding I got hurt but not because of the actual fall, I feel on something and I still never broke anything.

My son has broken both his arms, 1 time falling off the couch and 1 time at an indoor play area. UGH, so accident prone but he has bounced back both times thank goodness so I really believe there is danger in any activity (evidently even sitting on the arm of a couch).

I'd also suggest she stick with the horse she's on. Some of those old stubborn schooling horses know what they are doing and she will learn to be a strong in charge rider if she is pushed to tell him what to do. Many of the most difficult horses I have ridden have been my greatest learning experiences.

~Horses aren't a hobby, they are a lifestyle.

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post #23 of 27 Old 01-30-2010, 04:12 PM
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I don't consider 6 too young for riding in general, but it isn't the age I would completely 'hand over the reins' just yet. She should be fine walking/trotting on her own, but I would only canter w/ a lunge line and a trust worthy horse at that age (I tend to air on the caution side, maybe because I started around 7-8) until you are absolutely certain she is comfortable with it. 6, to me, is too young for galloping or jumping. 6 is a great age to start lunge lessons: an instructor holds the lunge line while the rider is on the horse without reins and later without stirrups. The rider learns to balance themselves without their hands/stirrups by doing different stretches, and this will help a lot when riding alone. She should also know basic ground work rules because this can help with riding, ie making the horse back up and follow the leader while establishing her space. A few things you can also do for safety:
-Helmets and maybe a vest. If your daughter falls off, she will need her helmet checked and/or replaced to make sure it isn't damage. A vest can reduce the risk of back injuries during a fall, but it isn't as important as a helmet.

-Safety stirrups. There are different models of these, from bent metal to snap off, but they all have the same purpose. These stirrups will let go of the foot after the rider falls. A lot of injuries can occur when the rider falls but is still caught in a stirrup, and these safety stirrups will prevent this from happening.

-learn the pulley rein. This will be her 'emergency break' on a horse when the horse is spooking/needs to stop moving. She will need to practice this at the walk, trot, and canter if she is up to it to make this even more effective when it is actually needed. Once she masters this skill, she will not only have an emergency break but she will feel more confident knowing she can stop any horse at any time. Any excerpt from: Julie Goodnight Natural Horsemanship / Horse Master TV Show "
The pulley rein is executed by shortening one rein as tight as you can and pushing your knuckles into the horse's neck, with your hand braced and centered over its neck (it is important that this hand is pressed into the neck and not floating free). Then you slide your other hand down the other rein as far forward as you can and pull straight back and up with all your weight. Since the first rein is locked and braced, it is preventing your horse's head from turning, so the pull on the second rein creates a lot of pressure.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are certain and the intelligent are full of doubt"
-Bertrand Russel
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post #24 of 27 Old 01-31-2010, 08:51 AM
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I forgot something and reading the other posts reminded me.

Teach your youngster how to lead the horse correctly.
More than once I have had my foot trodden upon and as a result several of my toes have been broken. Some folks say steel capped boots are dangerous - other like me say they are appropriate safety gear. But there is upwards of 3cwts/336lbs of pressure in each of the horse's four steel shod feet.

Holding the lead rope incorrectly is also highly dangerous if you can't let go in case of emergency.

In 35 years of riding I have had only one serious accident - when the horse bolted down a steep tarmacced lane. Another story. But even then I got up and walked groggily away.

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post #25 of 27 Old 01-09-2013, 04:10 PM
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Just had to say that this thread was VERY encouraging! I have a six year old daughter who LOVES horses and just started riding lessons. I rode when I was younger and owned a horse for a couple years in high school until we moved out of the area and I couldn't continue. Anyway...my daughter, Ally (common name on here!) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 3 months ago and I am hoping that riding will give her confidence and a sense of control that I know she doesn't feel like she has often because of her diabetes. Thanks for all of your info!!!
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post #26 of 27 Old 01-09-2013, 04:41 PM
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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.
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post #27 of 27 Old 01-09-2013, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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Funny, this thread is so old, but I thought I'd update you all on our horse adventures. Allie is now 9 and continues to ride twice a week and has done a few competitions. She loves it and doesn't want to do anything else. She is saving her money so she can lease one of the horses for the summer. Our trainer (she's so awesome) is trying out a short leasing program to some of the kids who are interested. This will give her a chance to see what it's like to own her own horse. We are far from horse ownership for sure. But we are at a place now where I feel ok with her cantering and jumping. It was freaky at first to watch, but it gives her a sense of accomplishment and pride to be able to handle such a big animal. I get it now
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