Anyone have tips/advice on how to go about teaching 5 yr olds to ride? I usually just train horses, or give adults some pointers.. Kind of lost on how to get the basics across to kids and how much to expect them to be able to do or comprehend
I love teaching kids, they have no bad habits to change.
I start with having them meet the horse, then lead it ( with me right there of course) This lets them know that they can control a big animal. Grooming is next with emphasis on always keeping one hand on the horse & watching where feet are.
Knowing right from left is important but is easily mixed up so colored tape on reins will help. Also thin reins for small hands. I start with them in a leather halter-no bit.
Riding starts with being led to get the feel of the movement. Then hands free walking (the rider) with the arms doing different things while the body stays following the horse.
I encourage use of words that the horse knows.
At 5 they have incredible balance but it's too soon to use legs aids. I teach them to "look ahead, plan ahead".
When they can walk the rail (with a side walker) I set up 3 cones & have them first walk around them on foot, weaving in & out then they try it on the horse. For a while I will say which rein to use but then I make them figure it out & fix mistakes themselves.
Keep the lessons easy & full of praise. When the child starts looking around at dogs, sheep or other interesting things they are done with that riding lesson.
The other day & I had a first lesson with a 6 year old. At one point she asked if she could "talk" to the horse. I said of course & the girl quietly stood in front of the horse, looked into it's eyes & never said a word out loud. The horse stared back & I swear something was going on there. The Mom then asked the girl, "Are you speaking to her without words?" She answered "yes."
I admit it gave me a shiver. We'll see what comes of that. Future animal communicator?
I sent her home with homework, which was reins attached to a bit, & she is to put bit the bit under her bare foot & practice picking up, holding the reins & gently using right or left pressure.
At 5 they should always be on a line with a side walker or 2 as their legs are too short if they should lose balance.
I think you'll like the kids, they absorb everything like a sponge. Sometimes I have to make sure I don't do things that I normally do while horse handling as they are watching.