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Image by Alexa from Pixabay
Image by Alexa from Pixabay

by Cynthia Sutton for Equine Info Exchange

I remember learning to ride when I was seven years old when my mom bought me a book of lessons for Christmas. I was thrilled. I smile at the memory when I watch the video of me screaming with delight so many years ago. It was the start to a lifelong journey of riding horses and meeting the amazing people along the way who remain my friends to this day.

So, what do you do when your child shares your passion and wants to ride a horse?
Here are some ways to get the ball rolling:

  1. Check out the Pony Club in the United States to see what they have to offer. Others include Pony Club UK, Canadian Pony Club and Pony Club Australia.
  2. Join local groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations.
  3. Find a place to go trail riding where a beginner can experience a safe and leisurely ride.
  4. Seek out a summer camp where your child can learn to care for and ride a horse.
  5. See if a friend has a horse and schedule a visit with your child. It may at least give him or her a chance to groom!
  6. List a request on the website Nextdoor for recommendations in your area.
  7. See if there is a College or Preparatory school with a riding stable to see if your child can get involved.
  8. Go to the local feed store like Tractor Supply and see if they have a bulletin board.
  9. Go to the local tack store and see if they have bulletin board as well!
  10. Ask your friends for suggestions on places to go!

If you are interested in lessons, you may be looking for a barn. Finding a barn for a child is different than finding a barn for adults. It is highly recommended to check out possible barns before you bring your child with you.

Look for these things:

  1. Is it priced within your budget? You don’t want your child to fall in love with a stunning barn only to learn it is unaffordable.
  2. Is it clean? A well maintained barn is always important and sets a good example for your child.
  3. Check the tack room. Is there a place for you if you bring in your tack or is it messy and overcrowded?
  4. Are there lots of kids running around? It is important to ensure that the kids in the barn are properly supervised.
  5. Look at the refrigerator if there is one. Is it full of wine and beer or drinks appropriate for children? 6
  6. Are the horses receiving proper care? Bad horse care is a huge indicator of bad management, issues with funds or uneducated owners.
  7. Are the instructors kind? We have seen many coaches and trainers in all sports who have an intensity of training future Olympians. Chances are, you are just seeking fun for your child – not a soul crushing experience.
  8. Is it conveniently located? Your child may fall in love with riding and may want to go as often as possible. Make sure it’s convenient especially if you are in the winter months and live in a place which snows!
  9. Is it recommended by people you trust? Word of mouth is extremely helpful and can give you the “inside scoop” about barns you may be considering.
  10. Is there a work to ride program? Some places offer an exchange program where a child can help around the barn to get discounted rides or lessons. We know lots of (now) adults who did that as kids and helped provide a foundation in work ethics.

Other great resources to see shows and figure out a discipline to pursue are the United States Equestrian Federation and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Have fun, be safe and remember – always wear a helmet!

There are other interesting articles in our section on Health & Education.

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