Congratulations; your child wants to ride horses! If you are not a horse person or have been away from horse for a while, this can come as a surprise. But your child has been bitten by the equine-bug, and so, you go looking for riding stables that offer Children’s Horse Riding Lessons. Once you have found a few stables in your area, how do you know which is the right place for your child? Do you go to the large barn that hosts shows, or a small private place where the owner is the main riding instructor? Should your child start with private or group lessons?
Children’s Horse Riding Lessons Guide
These types of questions can go on and on. For many good reasons, selecting a riding stable can feel daunting. Must you randomly choose a riding stable and leave a good experience up to chance? No, you don’t. About 20 years ago my non-horsy parents went through this with me, their horse-obsessed-daughter. From our been-there and done-that experiences, here are nine insider-tips to empower you in evaluating and choosing the best riding stable for Children’s Horse Riding Lessons.
Where to Start?
1) Watch at least one riding lesson and observe the instructor.
Do you like how he or she teaches? Does the instructor create a good learning environment? The two most important things in beginning riding are safety and good communication. A good riding instructor, no matter the riding style (and there are many!), always focuses on having a safe and positive ride for both the rider and the horse. If you feel the teacher would be a good fit, then consider a riding lesson for your child to meet him or her.
2) While watching lessons, notice the students and their parents.
Do they look happy? Are they taught to respect the horses, as well as to have confidence when handling the animals? Talk to them and to their parents. Ask them why they ride at this particular barn or with a particular instructor.
3) Ask about the policy on helmets and other protective equipment.
Helmets and protective footwear are essential. Ask if there are helmets to borrow or purchase. Never let your child ride without wearing a well fitting (ASTM/SEI or CE approved) riding helmet. If you need to buy one, basic sport or schooling helmets for horseback riding are very reasonably priced (about $40). For a little more in price, you can buy one in your child’s favorite color! Anyone working around or riding horses should also be wearing close-toed shoes or boots.
4) Ask to tour the stable.
While touring, consider the subtleties of the place. Things do not have to be new or flawlessly clean, but gates, fences and equipment should be in good working condition. Stalls should be well maintained, the tack room (which is the storage area for bridles and saddles) should be dry and organized, and the riding arena should have soft sand or other soft ground cover. Smoking should not be allowed in the barn.
5) Take a look at the horses used for riding lessons.
You do not have to understand anatomy, conformation or breeds to notice a few things. The horses should look generally healthy, relaxed but alert, friendly and even-tempered. Overall, they should not look sick, scared or wild.
6) Ask about the instructor’s qualifications.
In the U.S., the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) is a well-respected and popular accreditation association; American Riding Instructors Association (AIRA) and Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) are other reputable associations that certify instructors. Certification through one of these organizations is a good sign that the instructor knows how to teach horseback riding in a safe way.
7) Expect to sign a release form
This form will state that you have been informed of the risks associated with horseback riding when your child begins lessons. In many places, like here in my home state of Oregon, the law requires this. Look also for a posted warning sign stating that the management recognizes the inherent dangers associated with horses. While Oregon law does not require it, such a sign posted could indicate that the management is responsibly aware of the risks.
8) Inquire about price.
One misconception is that horseback riding is expensive. While it can be, the costs for basic riding lessons are usually comparable to the costs of other athletic sports. Keep in mind that some stables offer discount packages or other scholarships that help defray costs. As a bonus, group lessons, which usually cost less than private lessons, are often more fun than private lessons!
9) Finally, relax and trust your instincts.
Even if you know very little about horses or are scared of them, you are the parent, and you know about general safety. Pay attention to your hunches. If at any time something does not feel or seem right, ask about it. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer, leave. There are other barns.
Riding is a fun activity for all ages. You might even want to join in and learn to ride as well. (The Queen of England started at age four and still rides at age ninety-one!) Using these nine tips, you can find the right barn for Children’s Horse Riding Lessons and ensure that both your child and you enjoy the experience of finding the right place to ride. From there the once overwhelming world of horseback riding can open wide!