I was 9/10 when I had my first horseback riding lesson. I rode a dark bay mare named TB who was on the smaller side of a horse. I was so excited and had been waiting for what seemed like years to be able to start training. I was with my sister who was on a much larger white horse. My competitive spirit made me want to do better at our lesson then she did in hers (which we did, TB was awesome!). That was my beginning and how I got started with horses, which has now lead to be training at an Olympic qualified facility, NTEC. Growing up with a prosthetic proved to be quite challenging in the horse world as most barns wouldn’t let me ride claiming I was too much of a liability. My training in my teenage years declined drastically, and while I had a horse of my own at our property, she was only used for recreational purposes. It wasn’t until I was an adult and learned about Para-riding that I felt doors open for me and chance to improve my riding skills and further my career in the horse industry. In this post, were going to talk about 4 surefire ways to get your child started with horseback riding in a way that will make their competitive spirit happy, but also build confidence in themselves to take them further.
1: Find the right facility and trainer
Finding a good facility and trainer should be at the top of your list when thinking about horseback riding. There are a variety of facilities that offer many disciplines of riding, as well as trainers
that have different styles of teaching. In this day and age, a simple Google search will tune you into the facilities that are located around your area (as well as reviews!). I would suggest setting up a tour of the facilities to get a chance to meet with the trainers and get a sense of the atmosphere and the people that train at the barn. Ask questions! Is it safe? Clean? Professional? Is the trainer certified? Is the facility insured (accidents do happen)? Cost of training? Look at the programs they have to offer and see if it’s a place your child is interested in going to. After you’ve found a handful of facilities, give them a test run and schedule a lesson with a trainer at each one. And again, ask questions! Does the trainer have a plan for the lesson? Are they focused on your child? What’s their teaching style? Does your child interact with them well, and how do they interact with your child? Were safety protocols taught? What was the trainers attitude like? After giving a few facilities a test run, you and your child should be able to make a decision. Once you’ve decided, follow through! I can’t tell you enough how many people like a facility and want to have more lessons, but they never come back! You have to follow through in your child’s training if this is something their interested in and you’ve both agreed on a place to start training at.
2: You don’t have to spend a ton of money
I’ve heard over and over again about how parents have poured money into their children’s sports to just have their kids quit within the first few months and never touch it again. I personally, can’t
help but feel bad for the parent. When starting out, don’t feel like you have to invest all your money into the sport at first. I know when I was a kid, I wanted to play basketball, and then the next week it was biking, and then the next week was swimming and so on and so forth. Kids change their mind ALL the time, as they should! They’re experiencing all these new things and want to give everything a try, so don’t feel hurt if they’re not into horseback riding or another sport that you hoped they would be into. If you’re just getting your feet wet with horseback riding, just grab the basics: shoes and breeches (that might even be a stretch). Most facilities have helmets on site for riders and you can always check in advance to make sure. Heeled boots you can buy almost anywhere if your going for basic western type boots. If your going for a more English style I would suggest your local tack store, or even online where you can probably get them for a bit cheaper. I personally buy everything used because although I’m very committed to the sport, I’m a young adult that is in college and only works part time, and my budget isn’t as large as someone who might be older and has a career. And that’s ok! I take anything I can get my hands on whether it’s discounted, gifted, in the good will pile etc. Don’t scared that you’re not wearing the latest breeches from dover or the newest paddock boots form ariat, you’re there to get a job done, and as long as your dressed properly and your gear will keep you safe and do its job.
3: They don’t need their own horse
Every year, thousands of little boys and girls ask Santa for a horse for Christmas. And while it’s a lovely and expensive gift, many of those horses end up being sold a few months after. If you’re new to the whole horse world, owning a horse is not the first thing you want to do. The care and commitment its takes to own a horse is huge, and most aren’t ready for it when their only beginning lessons. Yes, you’re always going to see those few really lucky kids that have their own horse to train on, but don’t feel obligated to buy your child one; chances are you’ll be the one caring for it. Use the horses that the facility provides. They are safe, trained and have probably been doing this longer than your child has been riding. They have horses for young riders to train on for a reason, so that you don’t have to spend all your money. As well, it’s very common for your child to be with one horse until they’ve outgrown them, or are needing a horse that will help them to go further in their training (and guess what, they have those horses too!). A suitable horse will average around $3,500-5,000; and that’s on the low end. That’s a lot of money to pay for an animal that your child might not even ride for a long time! Plus, the added expense of boarding, feed, farrier, vet, and dental bills will pile up very quickly (trust me, I’ve done it before!). If your child has been riding for quite sometime and has done a few shows and is committed, consider leasing a horse first. With leasing a horse, you’re only paying for the care and use of the horse, and they can range from around 200-1000 a month depending on the type of horse it is, how much you want to use the horse and other factors. I would utilize this option first before going into being a full-time horse owner. You’re still able to take them to shows, or clinics and if you have a full lease you’d be the only one riding the horse so it’s practically like it’s yours, but with added costs that owning a horse brings.
4: Give your child time
Nothing happens overnight. Your child is not going to be the next Kent Farrington or our very own Katie Jackson after a few lessons. Any new sport or skill your child pursues is going to take time to develop. Be there to support your child as their skill and training develops. Riding isn’t your average sport and requires a lot physically, mentally and emotionally. Your teammate is a 1000 lb. animal that has a mind of its own. You can’t make a horse do something it doesn’t want to do, it’s a partnership. Developing a strong relationship with a horse takes time, and developing the skill to ride a horse takes even longer. Your child is going to have great days, good days, bad days and it’s important to encourage them every step of the way. Horseback riding takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but it will be worth it! This is a wonderful adventure you and your child are about to embark on, so enjoy it, cherish it because not everyone gets the chance to do this! This is an exciting time for you guys and it is something that should be fun and something that the both of you enjoy!
I hope this post helped you in your decision to get started with horses! I hope you use the tools I’ve given you to make a well-educated decision on what could be one of your greatest journeys ever!