English Riding for my 6 year old... let's talk safety
My daughter has been obsessed with horses since she could say the word. She's young, age 6, but I found a woman who gives lessons and so we started her up about 6 months ago. She goes once a week and there's only her and another little girl in that lesson, so she gets a lot of personalized instruction. Well Allie fell off her horse last week and got a pretty nasty scrape inside her ear. I guess the horse decided to trot too close to a tree and she got caught in some branches. Thank goodness for helmets, because her helmet was scraped up pretty badly as well.... Anyhow... I spend the next day or so kind of shooken up wondering how safe this type of riding is. And what types of injuries might she possibly encounter. 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:
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?
Thanks for letting me vent and for possibly answering my Q's. 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.
my mom had me on a horse before i could walk, haha but that was just sitting and sorta being led around. i dont think six is too young.
i have learned so many life lessons from horses its amazing, i have cryed because i messed up in the shows ring, my horse taught me to laugh at my mistakes. my horse tauht me to not care what people think of me,no matter what.
i have learned almost everything that makes me,me from horses. :) they truly are amazing creatures
This is one of those "how long is a piece of string?" questions, riding is as safe or dangerous as you make it ... things influence what dangers there are, the horse/pony you're riding, where you are riding, the weather conditions, what you are doing, how often you ride ...
I'm sure everyone on here can regale you with "horror stories" about injuries they've sustained while riding/being around horses, only thing you'll notice is, very few of us have given up riding/being around horses! :D I don't think it's any more or less dangerous than gymnastics, ice skating, riding a bike ... If she's wearing a proper hard hat (ie one designed for horse riding) and a body protector they will lessen the risk of injury when she falls off (yes I said when, falling off isn't an optional extra!) odds are she'll get straight back up and get back on the pony again - biggest problem is her getting a fright.
Your daughter's age isn't necessarily a problem if she's the type who'll listen and absorb information she'll be fine, if she's the sort who has the attention span of a gnat then not so much - I've seen 8 year olds fall off because they were too busy admiring the scenery to pay attention to the lesson! I would advise 20 to 30 minute lessons for her tho' as she is very young.
best of luck!
Welcome to the Horse Forum!!
Let me tell you my story... it might shake you up a bit, but hopefully my story can calm your fears a bit.
My name is Allie :) I'm in my early 20's and have been horse-crazy since I recognized what a pony was. I started lessons when I was 4, and by 5 I was showing in the nervous novice circuit in my area. I had my first fall just a couple of months (if that) after I started riding, and though my memory isn't great, I think we had been practicing trotting in a circle when something spooked my horse... I'm positive now that he just stopped in his tracks and didn't move a muscle otherwise. I distinctly remember shaking like a leaf, but getting back on, which was a very smart move.
Once you have your first fall, you realize it's not a big deal.
Since that first fall, I continued riding, and falling -- haha! I've fallen off more times than you can imagine, but it all led to me becoming a better, more confident rider. While I have had my share of injuries (broken arm, and a few concussions) the ride has been worth it and more.
Through my teens, I have to say that riding kept me on the straight and narrow. Nobody wants to go to the barn at 7 am to muck stalls with a hangover from an underage party the night before. I had goals much bigger than any parties or boys, and I do attribute my "goodie two shoes" teenagehood to my riding. Riding has given me something that I'm not sure I could get out of life otherwise.
Being with horses has taught me to be humble; there's nothing quite like having your ego knocked down a couple notches by a horse with a good "whoa." Horses have taught me patience; lessons aren't learned overnight, but there is an "aha!" moment at the end of the tunnel. Horses have taught me compassion; staying up all night with a sick horse rubs off on you. Riding has taught me balance; you have to give and take in life to make things work. Being with horses has taught me that there is something bigger in life than my here-and-now problems. I learned how to deal with people, from dealing with horses and their (sometimes crazy) owners. I learned how to apply the lessons I learned from riding to my everyday life as well.
There are so many life lessons I learned by being around horses, I cannot begin to express them adequately. What I do know is that for better or worse, I would not be the same person I am today if I hadn't had them in my life.
There is a fantastic little anecdote that really does the job that I cannot of voicing what horses have done to my life:
*Quote removed at request of author* http://www.trinityapp.com/
Unfortunately, I am unsure who the author of that story is.
I really hope that gives you some insight into the mind of a girl who has had the opportunity that you are giving to your daughter.
Now... let my put on my instructor's cap and tell you a few things from that side of the fence. Falls happen.... eventually, everyone falls off, and 99 out of 100 times, it's nothing major - which is why we don't want to make a big deal about it. We will make sure that the child is okay, but I personally won't coddle them, I will move on with the child and get them back on the horse. This is not because I want to be dismissive of the situation, but rather not make a big deal of it. Leading by example, if you will - not making a big deal of it, so the child doesn't think it's a huge deal. It's something you learn with working with horses, that is, don't over-react in a situation. Dealing with it calmly and rationally will get you a lot further ahead with a spooked horse (or child :P ) than running around scared half to death.
That's just an instructor's point of view :)
1. Is 6 too young to start riding? Not one bit. The youngest child I taught was 3 years old.
2. What life lessons will learning to ride a horse give her? See above :D
3. How do I emphasize safety to her and the instructor without being too alarmist? You can approach the instructor about your concerns, and by all means, voice your opinions, but please please please don't be one of those "smother mothers." I've dealt with my fair share of "smothers" and they over-react to every small situation. The child falls off? They're right there, hugging and moving the child and assuring them they'd be take to a doctor and never be allowed back on that horse....etcetc... you get the idea. There is a reason that we don't move a child - we assess how bad the fall is and if there is any reason to be concerned about a c-spine injury... once injury has been ruled out, we try our best to get them back on the horse - preferably the one they fell off of.
I hope my answers have helped!!
I am 37 years old and I learned something about falling off from another mom last summer. My family and I were at a local fall "fun" show. Some kids ran up to us in the middle of the show and said a little girl's horse had started to buck. We thought she had fallen off her horse. So another Mom and I started racing out there to see how the little girl was. The little girl was on her pony, but you could see the fright in her eyes and she was definately visibly shaken. Before I could say anything, the other mom walked up to her and said, "Wow? You stayed on? High five!! What a great job!!"
That just stopped me in my tracks. I thought, wow..had I said anything to the little girl, I would have run up to her and asked her if she was ok, give her a hug....but I realized that the best way to have dealt with that was the way the other mom handled it. It took the fright completely off the little girl's face. She lit up with pride and distracted her enough to high five and get her composure back. Then she and her friends took off riding again. It was amazing transformation to witness.
Your daughter will probably fall off. More times than you'd probably like. Try to ensure her safety with helmets, a proper horse, proper riding area, and give her the strength and encouragement to get back on when she falls. It's amazing how different a child can react depending on how a situation is handled.
I didn't see your post before posting my post...but I hope my post reaffirms how important it is a parent's attitude when they see their child fall off. How they handle it makes all the difference in a child's eyes.
Thanks for all the replies. Allie's lessons are actually an hour and a half, much of that time is spent grooming, tacking, untacking etc. She's actually on the horse for about 40 minutes. She is a quick learner and has a good attention span. So maturity-wise, she's fine. I'm not a smother-mother... lol. When she told me about her spill, I just said, "wow, that happens, it's the first of many falls". She didn't cry or get spooked by the fall. But she did say that she doesn't want to ride that horse again. He's kind of hard to ride and somewhat lazy. So she may request a change of horse. We'll see.
Thanks esp for the bit on the life lessons. I've heard before that girls who are horse crazy tend to stay out of trouble. While that's not my first intention, it's a bonus for sure. We feel fortunate that we can give her this opportunity. It isn't cheap, but I think it's well worth the money, if she is reaping the rewards from it. She definitely wants to continue, and so I'll support that, but the last thing I want is a kid in a wheelchair because I let her choose a risky sport. But it can happen in nearly any situation. I do enjoy going to the barn with her, watching her groom and get on this gigantic animal. It's definitely a trip, I've never been a horse person myself, but I get it. I really get the appeal. Thanks again.
I absolutely agree with the last paragraph too. My mother swore off my riding for a decade as I had a bad fall and she didn't want to see it happen again. That was fine, but a big rift happened between us that really hasn't repaired itself... I guess I'm still upset that she wouldn't watch me ride through my childhood.
You can minimize the risk, for sure. You can make sure she has a properly fitted helmet that is replaced every few years. You can buy her a body protector. Make sure she's on an age and experience appropriate pony or horse. Check out the instructor and ask tonnes of questions... but falls are going to happen, it's part of the learning process -- I was told as a child that "you're not a real rider till you fall off at least 100 times!" and I've lived by that.
2. Respect for all creatures, responsibility, patience, friendship, etc Horses are such a huge comittment, I think there is so much to learn from them no matter how young or old. If you take her to a riding school where they learn how to care for the horses and equipment she will learn so much more than how to ride.
3. Go watch a lesson or two at some local riding schools you are considering. Make sure the students are wearing helmets and boots, that arena/stables/equipment is well maintained, that the people are friendly and caring towards the horses and are actually interested in teaching everything to do with horsemanship, not just how to sit pretty on a pony. A stable like that I am sure will understand any concerns for safety you may have. Maybe even go and have a lesson your self :)
There is just so much to learn and love with horses. I love to share my passion of horses with everyone who is interested :)
I can't vouch for a good starting age, but your post reminds me of my little sister's friend when they were young. She had a 7 year old friend. I don't know what made this girl the nervous wreck, but the poor thing would drop and glass and just go to tears. She was a mess! A year later, I came home from college and saw the same girl. She was completley different. She was calm, self confident. The change was amazing. I asked her what she had been up to, and she said she had been taking dressage lessons the past year. Something about riding horses gives (most) children a sense of self worth and respect for both themselves as well as the horses. It just does wonders for them.
Yes horseback riding can be dangerous, but if you find the right instructor, one who doesn't measure her success on how many riders her horses toss, I'm sure it will be a great experience for your daughter.
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