Convincing parents to let kids ride! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 08-25-2012, 11:32 PM Thread Starter
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Convincing parents to let kids ride!

Why Riding Lessons?

as first published in Riding Instructor, Fall 2002

Those of us bitten by the equestrian bug may need no other reason to ride than “because we can.” For non-horsey parents of a child interested in lessons, however, it may take more than that. For a moment, consider the issue from their perspective:
They may never have spent any time on a farm, unless you count that class field trip in first grade, where they tried not to touch anything. They associate large animals with being dirty and smelly. They like to keep their own feet firmly on solid ground. Still, they’ve looked into riding lessons for their child’s sake, and what they’ve found is that it costs significantly more than, say, joining a bowling or baseball league. The child is persistent, so they schedule a meeting with a local riding instructor, but can’t imagine what she might say that would change their mind.
If you are the riding instructor this parent has called, or the child wanting to ride, you need some ammunition! How can you convince this parent that riding is worthwhile? The facts are on your side! Read on:
Riding lessons have been a time-honored tradition among kings and aristocracy since the Renaissance, and not just for transportation. It was recognized then, and it is still true now, that an education that includes horses is the best way to cultivate the qualities of a good leader. Think for a moment about the qualities you admire in the people around you – the people you like to spend time with – whom you respect and trust. Think about the qualities you would like to enhance in your own child. What follows is an incomplete list of the traits that have been observed over hundreds of years to be nurtured or revealed through regular contact with horses.

Compassion. By caring for an animal – getting to know it as an individual personality – one can’t help but begin to feel something on an emotional level. This is compounded by the fact that, though horses are so big they rely on us to meet their needs. Awareness of the horse’s vulnerability rarely fails to trigger a sense of…

Responsibility. Feeling needed is quite foreign to most children, for they themselves are dependant on others. But it is important for a child to feel important. A good instructor will encourage development of this trait by offering the student opportunities for act responsibly.

Sensitivity to body language. The more one cares, the more one notices the subtle gestures of the horse indicating pleasure, discomfort, or annoyance. The ability to recognize and interpret such communication is a very useful, but generally underdeveloped skill. It will by learned in the barn by necessity due to lack of other means of communication and will transfer to relationships, job interviews, and life.

Honor. The relationship between horse and rider grows very intimate over time. When the above qualities become strong, the horse becomes a physical representation of the rider’s conscience. The student will come to realize that regardless of input offered by others, she ultimately answers only to herself. She will want to make decisions that will make her proud.

Magnanimity, or generosity of spirit. The desire to do something nice just for the satisfaction of knowing that you make life a little more pleasant for someone else is depressingly rare in our society.

Work ethic. Your child will begin planning in advance to get his or her chores and homework done in order to have more time at the barn. He will look forward to the work he does there, and he will take pride in a job well done. In so many aspects of life, the phrase “you get out of it what you put into it” holds true, but requires delayed gratification. Children and adolescents are not good at waiting and frequently cannot make the connection between effort and results – even when the results are good. In riding, the connection between effort and results is very clear and usually immediate, in addition to the positive results that happen over time. This makes it easy for the student to make the connection and encourages continued effort.

Respect. Even kids who have a habit of being disrespectful suddenly feel vulnerable their first few times on a horse. They instinctively respect the size of the horse and, therefore, the people who confidently control them. They realize that they are dependant on their instructor, and they suddenly develop the ability to listen and to be humble.

Courage. Not cockiness (see above), but true courage – the kind that comes from conquering one’s fears and discovering one’s inner strength.

Self-confidence. A 70-pound child controlling a 1000-pound animal. Need I say more? This is frequently noticeable within the first few lessons.

Decisiveness/Assertiveness. Riding requires a great deal of decision making. How big will this circle be? Do I want to make a transition here or at the end of the ring? If the rider fails to decide or to be assertive in making her decisions clear, the horse will make a decision that the rider may not appreciate.

Valor, or level-headedness in times of turmoil. Sometimes things get a little scary around horses, but riders quickly learn to keep their wits about them in order to maintain control of the situation.

Judgment. This can take many forms: judgment about oneself, the environment, and others, to name a few. The student will learn to respect her own limitations as she grows in knowledge and ability, she will learn to evaluate the surrounding conditions in making decisions, and she will learn to analyze advice for soundness before acting.

Moderation. The importance of regularity and consistency is magnified in regard to the horse. It may be more fun in the short term to just jump on and gallop away. But it won’t have been worth it when the horse is lame as a result and can’t be ridden at all for a couple of weeks.

Patience with oneself and others. It takes a long time to learn to ride well. Muscles need to be stretched and strengthened, old habits need to be broken and new ones formed. Disobedience on the part of the horse is usually the result of either fear of confusion. Patience is required to determine the basis of the problem and to formulate a solution.

Students learn many of these qualities from the example of the horse himself. Noble, generous, and forgiving are adjectives frequently applied to horses. Others such as valor, courage, and moderation are generally learned by the student rider to make up for the horse’s lack of these qualities, though certainly there are horses that display these traits as well. A good guide will help make the most of the experience, so it is important to choose the best - not necessarily the most costly - instructor available.
So powerful is the horse’s influence that he is being used to rehabilitate criminals – both adult and juvenile offenders. The relapse rate for such programs is a fraction of that for similar convicts in other rehabilitation programs. Increasingly common, too, are programs for at-risk youth that utilize horses to teach and promote self-esteem, life skills, and strength of character.
So, parents, take your child to ride if that is what he wants. Riding is a sport that can be enjoyed throughout a person’s life. However, even if your student decides after a time to put away his boots and helmet, the life lessons will stay with him.

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post #2 of 3 Old 08-27-2012, 10:30 AM
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Those are some good points, but I doubt they would have had any significant impact where my mother was concerned. She was overprotective to the nth degree when I was a child. She flat-out told me she did NOT want me riding horses, for fear I would get hurt (which was very strange, considering that she used to ride at a public stable whenever she got the chance and never got hurt).

Fortunately my dad was more sympathetic and "sneaked" me often to a place where you could rent horses and ponies by the hour- not formal 'riding lessons', but fun regardless. I learned to ride on my own. But it felt dishonest, since I couldn't tell my mom about it.
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post #3 of 3 Old 08-27-2012, 10:42 AM
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All good points to ponder, but some people simply don't have the finances available to allow their children the opportunity to ride.

Plus, not all youngsters who have been given the opportunity see it as such. Some never wanted to be around horses and were pushed by parents, while others just want to RIDE and not bother with the other aspects of horse responsibility. You can't make someone care. You can give them the tools, but the desire has to come from within.

It's just as wrong to push a reluctant child into horses as it is to push them into any other sport. Parents trying to live vicariously through their children or trying to artificially force 'character building' onto their offspring need to take a step back and ask the child for what they have a passion.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!

Last edited by Speed Racer; 08-27-2012 at 10:45 AM.
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