So the time has come and you feel you child is ready to own a horse. Let’s take a moment to go over a few questions that will help gauge whether your child is ready, or should wait a little bit.
Has your child taken riding lessons, been raised around horses or worked around horses in the past?
If the answers to the above are NO then finding a good riding instructor is the first step and the most important one. Ask horse owners in your area who is a reputable riding instructor giving lessons and start your child’s path to horsemanship there. Make sure your child has a real interest in riding and not just a passing fancy. There is a lot more to horses than just riding.
My reasoning for lessons and not buying a horse first is simple….MONEY! Good riding lessons not only teach your child how to ride but, prepare them to take care of a horse. Depending on your area lessons run about $35.00 an hour. That’s $140.00 a month. Compare that to the cost of a horse (more on that later) plus board of say $350.00 or more a month. Add in vet bills, farrier bills, and any other expense not included with board and the cost of lessons is your best option.
Always Think Safety First
BIG ONE “SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY“. Your child’s safety is first and foremost. I have, as a trainer and a farrier, had the opportunity to work and ride some of the very best horses and some of the worst horses and many in between. I know many horse lovers would beat me with a wet noodle when I tell you there isn’t a horse born that can’t hurt your child. Maybe not intentionally but….
I recently saw on Facebook a picture of a child maybe 3 years old leading a nice gentle horse on a snowy, icy lane. Looked so sweet. Quickly my horse mind clicked in and I thought WOW, what if that horse slips on the ice or snow. Scrambling to catch its footing the child is caught under the horse’s feet or worse under the horse. So much for the pretty picture.
Child Proof Horse? Think Again
I have had so called “child proof” horses spin and kick with both hind feet as I hit the ground instinctively. A child without training would have been hurt badly.
Picking up a horse’s foot is also part of the training, but what happens when a fly or bug bites the horse at that same time and the horse tries to kick or bite it off letting go with his hind legs? Riding on the trail and a rabbit or pheasant jumps and your horse bolts? These and many more incidents I have seen happen. Although I realize there is no way to prevent things from happening, being prepared with the proper guidance and training should be on the very top of your list.
Find the “child proof” horse is a little like winning the lottery. If you do get lucky that horse will have a few years on it. Keep in mind an older horse may need the services of a Vet more often also. You will probably need to have a trainer work with the horse because no matter how well the horse has been trained they will pick up bad habits from inexperienced riders. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Is He/She Ready For The Responsibilities Of Owning A Horse?
Does your child want to ride Western, Huntseat or English. Keep in mind each method requires proper equipment for the horse that fits properly. (Fitting equipment on your horse will be discussed in another segment). Remember the horse needs daily care which means trips to the stable regardless of the weather or other commitments. Responsibility plays a big part in any aspect of learning to ride and care for a horse.
I realize it sounds like I’m discouraging anyone from learning to ride or own a horse. Not so! I just want to help you make the right decisions regarding horse ownership for your child. I have owned horses, rode, and treated horses all my life. The rewards are bountiful, the pleasures endless and the people who love horses and ride are the greatest.