Age for starting a young rider
I know someone who is considering starting their child off with riding a horse. What are people's views on the youngest age that someone should consider this??
Like a great many things with horses, the answer is "It depends."
But let me put some framework around that and make it a more useful answer.
MOST children are too young to start formal lessons before the age of 7. In order to get anything out of a formal lesson, a child has to have body awareness (If you tell them to move their lower leg, they can identify, isolate and move just their lower leg) a pretty good attention span and the ability to follow directions. 7, in general, is an age where those things come together, some children will be ready at 6, others not until 8 or even 10. In addition, before you start formal lessons, you want to know that they can graduate to independent control over the horse within 3 - 6 months. If you keep a child on a lunge line or lead line for too long, it's much harder for them to become independent riders later.
Children that start younger than 7 without the body awareness and attention span have to be "babysat" and monitored constantly. My own daughter rode in front of me on the saddle and was leadlined from my horse practically from birth; and I gave her casual instruction and "mini-lessons" all along; but she still wasn't ready for "real" lessons until 7.
If you have a friend or neighbor whose child is taking lessons at 4 or 5, don't panic or assume it's unsafe. It can be safe, with the right horse and supervision. Whether or not it's a good use of time and money is another question entirely.
Oh, and welcome to the forum! :wave:
I bought my daughter a pony when she was two. She rides on lead line about once a week, and now at 3 she can trot about 100m non stop, kinda just bouncing along!
I've just started teaching her rising trot, which she manages for a few strides before she starts bouncing again!
My son (who is 18months) absolutely insists that he needs a ride too, so he always gets a ride after Zara - only at a walk, and i hold his leg, just in case he 'dives' off!
They both love it though!
My daughter has been getting lessons since she was 2, but w also showed leadline. They were short in the beginning, but have increased in length over the years. At 4.5-5yo, she started getting real lessons at 30-45 minutes each. Now at 6, she's going in for the full time to get ready for walk/trot classes next season.
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I think young children can ride, but it depends on the child's individual personality how much they learn and retain from formal lessons. Some children seem to pay attention and retain knowledge better younger. Susan
I was plunked on a pony when I was about 6. No lessons (until I was at least 10). I was probably watched for a little bit, but I had a saint of a pony, and off we went. However, I have been a very independant person my whole life. My Mom even likes to "complain" that I was not that huggy, cuddly little girl.
But I am also the kid who "helped" Grandpa at 3 with barn chores, and "drove" a few Standardbreds on his lap while he was jogging them.
I was in the 2-3 range, of course I had someone leading the horse, and someone walking along side supporting my back.
Maura had a wonderful post.
Like she said, it depends. I was riding alone by the time I was 3 (on a 34 inch tall mini-burro) and graduated up to a real horse at the age of 4. However, I had been on horses since I was old enough to hold my own head up. My Dad used to put me in front of him in the saddle while he warmed up his show horses so I spent a lot of time trotting and loping circles with a very secure person holding on to me.
I was also one of the fortunate ones that had a perfect kid horse. He could judge who was riding him by the way they felt and if he didn't believe you needed to go faster than a walk, then you couldn't beat him into a trot. With him, I was comfortably walking and trotting around by the time I was 5 and could lope for short distances before muscle fatigue caused me to start flopping a bit.
I started when I was 8 on my cousins horses. Like most young girls, I fell in love. :P I got 5 lessons before getting my pony when I was 9. :D
I think it is a lot better to start off younger; you just have more confidence with horses and have a natural seat as you grow as a rider, although there is a greater risk of a child who started younger growing out of horses as they become a teen.
I do also agree with Maura a young child such as 5 or 6 would not have the attenion span to sit and listen to what the very patient instructor would have to say.
I just recently attended a 3 day school lesson, where the girls riding where at least under 10, and they were giggling, talking and just being silly, and not listening to what the instructor wanted them to do. It was very frustrating to watch as the instructor lives 4hours away, and was there on special request.
I think you should start your child young, but only do lessons and such when she is mentally and physically ready to handle the pressure and the ideas that the instructor put across.
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