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When helping a child get used to horses and graduate to riding them eventually, it’s a good idea to avoid rushing both the horse and the child into interacting with each other. If someone wants to help their kids learn how to ride horses, how old do their kids have to be before they start the process? After doing extensive research, here are the best ways to get a child ready for horse riding, and the best ages for them to begin!
Kids can start riding horses as early as one, two, or three years old with assistance! Children will only be able to ride horses unassisted at six or seven since they have grown physically strong enough to balance alone. Every child is unique, so some may be able to ride a bit sooner or later.
What makes horse riding difficult for children to master? What else should parents and adults be aware of as they are helping their young kids learn how to ride? Let’s go over what to look for and how to learn horseback riding in the safest way possible!
Youngest Ages of Toddlers Learning at Ages One to Five
Some long-time or hardcore horse-riding families have said online that they started riding horses as early as age one or two. If kids this young are horseback riding, they need to do so accompanied by a teen or adult since the child is too young to balance. At ages three and younger, kids are still too young to be able to ride alone since their skeletons, muscle coordination, attention spans, and balance are not fully developed yet.
All of these physical and mental elements and abilities are important elements that contribute to successful horseback riding. When kids are as young as about four or younger, it is best to introduce them to riding through short pony rides on a lead or through lunge training with the horse or pony. When children start out they will need to be led by an adult rather than being left to ride free.
Of course, every child’s developmental timeline is different and unique, so each child should be assessed on if they are ready to be exposed to horseback riding earlier or later in life.
Scientific studies have shown that children roughly five years old or younger often cannot hold their attention or focus on an activity for longer than roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Traditional riding lessons usually last between 30 to 40 minutes long, so this is also why it can be hard for very young children to learn the skills needed.
Three-year-old kids who are horse riders are far and in between, but it can happen! If some children grow up on a farm, have grown up with a family horse, or have parents who have been horse riders themselves, they may be able to start learning and riding at earlier ages such as these.
Children Learning at Ages Six to Eight
Most horse riding lessons accept enrolled kids at ages six to seven at the earliest. This is because kids at around six to seven and older can start following instructions from teachers and adults. They can also control their body movements well enough to be able to signal a pony or horse, and their legs are now long enough to read down along the sides of the animal. Kids this old can also begin to understand that horses are not toys, something that immature or younger children are not likely to understand yet.
Why Young Kids are Great at Horseback Riding
Most all kids between the ages of three to six can learn how to ride a horse with the proper teacher and gear. The kids are usually outfitted with a helmet and ride well-trained ponies that are being led by someone experienced with a lead rope on the horse. Oftentimes kids will only start learning at these slightly older ages and in these ways because most barns carry insurance limits for what ages of children they can teach.
On the plus side, kids this age often learn very quickly, especially when put into groups and classes, since the more kids that there are, the more they will be encouraged by and learn from each other. Not only can children in this age range learn very rapidly, but their young bodies can also absorb the tough shock and bucking motion of rhythmic horseback riding that adults may have difficulty with. Young kids are also great at horse riding at early ages because have less fear, maybe because they are always very short and thus close to the ground!
Tips and Tricks for Helping Kids Learn Horseback Riding
When beginning horseback riding lessons, many families and individuals start the process by enrolling their whole family or just their children in a local equestrian center. Centers or camps focused on horse riding can be very beneficial and help to give kids positive interactions with horses through well-structured lessons. Starting riding lessons at an early age is the best course of action since kids can develop muscle memory quickly, which will help serve them well in all future lessons and encounters with horses.
Things to Avoid
If a child really is not comfortable with or fearful of riding a horse, never force them into the hobby! Some kids will have one bad interaction or experience with a horse, and this will color and darken their perceptions of horses. Don’t try to just toss the kid into informal interactions either, it is a good idea to lead up to interacting with horses in small steps too, so a child doesn’t get scared, overwhelmed, or intimidated.
Lunging a horse is good practice to be able to help a child get used to a horse and help the horse itself get used to and ready for riding with a person on its back. The following video is a great guide to use for how to lunge a horse, and why it is important to ensure the comfort and safety of the horse while learning to ride!