Which horse for a tiny child? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 11:03 AM Thread Starter
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Which horse for a tiny child?

My nephew is almost three. At some point, I thought it would be fun to put him on one of my horses. My SIL is very enthusiastic about this. My brother does not like horses at all. I would go as far as to say he’s probably afraid of them. So it needs to be a good experience.

Each horse has its own plusses and minuses in this respect.

1. Teddy. Teddy tries super duper hard and is extremely gentle and respectful. Out of all of my horses, he is the gentlest and, in my personal experience, least likely to ever hurt a human. Having said that, he is very sensitive and does have constant low-level anxiety (which he’s definitely getting over). I got him free because he freaked out (once or twice, I’m not sure) with an anxious kid on his back and couldn’t be used for lessons after that. He doesn’t do well with multiple riders. Supposedly he also reared a lot when they were training him to canter. The worse thing he’s ever done with me is light head tossing. He’s around 15 hh, so an easy size to walk next to.

2. Mooonshine. Essentially bombproof but grumpy mare. Has a very slow, plodding walk. If you get in her way and she steps on your foot, well that’s YOUR fault you stupid hooman, not HER fault. I think if she were kicking at a fly and made contact with a person (which has never happened that I know of) she’d think the same thing. In other words, while she has no intention to ever hurt a person, she also doesn't go out of her way to avoid doing so. Unlike Teddy, who hesitates to even raise a hoof if someone is nearby. She doesn’t care what you think, so rider (or other nearby human) anxiety really doesn’t affect her. I would have said she’s the obvious choice, but at almost 16hh I don’t feel like her height is quite as suitable as the others. It’s just not as easy to watch out for someone on her back.

3. Pony. Pony is full of surprises, and he could be an absolutely AWESOME children’s horse, or he could be terrible. He does shy at things sometimes, so I’m thinking a small child on him wouldn’t be the best idea. Also he tends to try to eat people. Even though, unlike Teddy, he’s super chill and nothing bothers him. He just has a deep reservoir of calmness. He’s about 14’2 hands.

4. None of the above. The lesson pony here has toted around little kids all the time, but she belongs to the barn, not me. Also she’s really girthy. I mean, it obviously causes her a *lot* of pain to get girthed up, and I always feel terrible doing it to her, even though I am super gentle. I actually stopped riding her because I couldn't stand to look at her face when I saddled her.
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post #2 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 11:05 AM
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As a three year old what matters is how the horse is in hand. You would not turn this child loose on a horse nor be able to expect him to ride without a walker as balance is precarious to such a small being on such a large animal.

Mine was put on our drafts as his first experience from the time he could hold on to the hames. One of us was always walking next to him but the hames provided a good solid place to hold onto and help him keep his balance. He didn't know horses came in any other size until we purchased his QH mare. We were well told he didn't want no pony. He wanted a REAL horse. He has progressed over the years but I spent many a mile walking next to that mare or with him in a small pen so that he could "ride". Walkabouts she wore a halter under the bridle and I had the lead but he did have reins and over time effectively learned how to control where she went. She was under no impression that she could ever gain control until he was older.

Last edited by QtrBel; 09-16-2019 at 11:10 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 11:15 AM Thread Starter
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They're all fine in hand, no real difference between them except that Pony will sometimes stop and make sure you are still the boss and still able to make him move.
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post #4 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 11:44 AM
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There is no perfect kid horse. Keep that in mind. I'd say no horse is a 'kid horse', even an old and slow one. A horse is a horse and any horse can get a small child hurt or killed, not even meaning to.

I'd say the one with the calmest disposition that's the closest to the ground, but also capable of taking evasive action if the child falls off... meaning able to hop to the side in a split second to not step on a fallen child. Horses by nature don't like to step on people - we're squishy and make for poor footing, and the horse that steps on poor footing is the horse that risks falling down and being eaten by wolves.

But bad things happen all the time. Think this one over carefully before choosing - AJ and Supes are our choices at the house because AJ, while big and somewhat tall, is also suffering from an arthritic knee. She gets grouchy when she's hot and tired, backs her ears and pulls faces, but handles the discipline for her actions well. She will not buck or bolt - her knee won't let her. But the flip side is, she's heavy, she's slow, and not capable of bouncing away from a falling child. Superman, OTOH, won't make faces at the wee ones, he actually lowers his head for my not-yet-2 year old Gbaby to love on him, but he still has some get up and go, he can take evasive action - he's still pretty catty, so there's the trade off. Both horses, with the Gbaby on them, will have to be closely supervised and walked in hand for now, and when gbaby hits 2ish and has the strength and balance to stay in the saddle, she'll start being ponied just a little, but again, it's all going to depend on HER and the horses.

Like everything else - this sort of decision is highly variable and the situation will probably always be fluid. So.. again. Choose wisely, not just now, but every single time you put a wee one on a horse.
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post #5 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 11:49 AM
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My drafts are well over 16HH. Having worked as a walker in a therapeutic program taller horses were easier to to be assigned to because as the walker I needed to be able to stabilize the rider with a hand on the leg if necessary. It will depend on your relative height to the horse and as Atoka said careful consideration paid needs happen.
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post #6 of 12 Old 09-16-2019, 02:51 PM
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I raised 5 kids and found that none rode at 3 4 or really 5. When we got a first pony for the kids to share he was a rescue - he had been previously foundered - pretty seriously and had basically one speed and that was a slow walk. The kids rode him in the round pen and in the yard. None of my kids really showed an interest in real riding until they hit the 7-8yr old age. By then they had plenty of lessons on my and my husbands horses in the round pen and a very old paint they rode around the hay fields. At 3 pony rides are all the child is up to and most any well trained horse will do for a pony ride.
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post #7 of 12 Old 09-17-2019, 10:12 PM
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I agree with what has been said. However, my green and hot but VERY sweet and loving gelding has done pony rides, but is really not my first choice as he gets stressed.

I'd just wait and see what happens that day, maybe he'll be afraid of the taller horse or something.

Basically you need a horse that leads well and doesn't mind fussing. Someone should be walking holding the child too. At 3 it's really a pony ride nothing more.
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post #8 of 12 Old 09-17-2019, 11:38 PM
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Moonshine would be my pick. Super slow walking is a big plus. Any horse that might spook or run away, or even step sideways would be inappropriate.

I have an old old mare here. Up until her retirement, she was my pick. Super slow walking. She loves children, always has. She would get a soft doe eyed look around kids. The lady we got her from had a 4 yr child who would walk under her belly. Anyhow, one time i put a 3 yr old up on her, but was distracted by the other sibling. Turn around and the 3 yr old had put her feet in front of the saddle, almost sitting on her neck. Desy just stood like a tree. I really only looked away for a couple seconds!
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post #9 of 12 Old 09-17-2019, 11:41 PM
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I'll share a story here: I used to have a 20+ y/o quarter horse mix breed. She was only 12 hands high (if that), and SO sweet and very cute - built very long with short little legs. Most anybody wouldn't have anything to fear - this little horse was slow and bombproof. One day, a friend of the family brought over her young kid and wanted 'horsie-ride' pictures taken. So I tacked up, got the daughter in the (big old western) saddle, and held my horse for the photo. The mom insisted that I give the reins to her daughter and not hold my horse - didn't want me in the photo and didn't think it'd be an issue. (I was 12-13 at the time and obeyed the adults.) Camera goes 'snap' and ... my horse starts walking off...then trotting...then doing her bouncy little canter...and *pop*s the smallest little awkward 'buck' you've ever seen. And *pop* goes the kid, up and down to the ground. Everything was fine, but lesson learned.

At 3, this kid isn't going to bail off on his own ... at least not in any graceful way. Also, kid might accidentally 'kick' a little bit or get excited - what will that translate to in horse language? No matter what, this is dangerous. Honestly, without a little mini or a very small pony (8 hands or less), I still wouldn't have a good feeling about a 3 year old sitting alone on a horse, saddle or no. I'm not worried about the horses so much as I'm worried about the kid just falling off because he's moving around so much or can't balance. And once that happens, what will the horse do? (There goes all my effort spent in trying not to envision worrisome equine-related situations, oh boy!)

If you must: I like the sound of the lesson pony. Perhaps you can just hold the pony and the kid can sit and hold on to mane? Or perhaps Moonshine really is the best option - because you can prepare her, and then 'set' your nephew on her back without much issue, yeah? OR you hop on and drive, and hold your nephew in the saddle in front of you?
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Last edited by Feathers7; 09-18-2019 at 12:00 AM.
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post #10 of 12 Old 09-18-2019, 02:00 AM
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When my nieces were young I didn't have a pony for them to sit on. I only had horses, - racehorses in fact.

Both girls, would be eagerly waiting for me to get back from exercise to have 'a ride' I would then proceed to lead them about the yards and then around the block (about a mile) I give credit to the horses that they understood they had a small child on board and needed to take care.

A three year old needs nothing more than a short walk. They do not need teaching and told what to do other than holding the reins correctly. They just need to feel the movement and find their balance. On a taller horse I would have a side walker ready to grab the rider's leg if necessary.
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