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Riding a horse can be an exciting and exhilarating experience. Many of us went through a phase in our childhoods where we wanted a horse or pony of our own or at least watched people ride them in movies and wished that it was. While these dreams may or may not have come true, it raises the question of when a kid should be riding on a horse alone.
Riders in their teens may take short horse rides unsupervised. Young children should never ride a horse unsupervised. Falls and injuries can happen to even experienced horse riders, and they tend to happen more often with inexperienced riders or ones without the strength to handle a large horse.
While it might seem like a fun idea to have a child ride a horse on their own, remember that horse riding can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. Here we will take a look at when horse riders can be considered to have enough experience to ride on their own. We will also take a brief look at issues and lawsuits that may occur if proper precautions are not taken.
When Can a Child First Ride On a Horse
Children are often excited to be around horses. They may have read stories or watched movies where the heroes ride around on horses. Or, like some of you, they may have grown up in households where horses were ridden or used for labor around the home.
If you have children of your own they may have asked or begged you for the chance to ride a horse of their own. Due to this, you might be wondering when is the earliest that someone can first ride a horse.
Younger children are going to have trouble riding a horse. This is due to a couple of issues, some of them related to the horses, and some due to their own bodies.
Children’s bodies are still growing and do not have a fully developed skeleton as well as the strength to handle a large animal. Remember, that even the smallest of ponies is still going to be several times the size of a small child.
When determining whether your child can ride on a horse, the first thing that you should look at is the horse in question. Younger and more spirited horses should not be ridden by a child. These horses are more likely to be spooked, can be rougher to ride, and are more challenging to ride. For this reason, they should be kept for more experienced riders.
For kids, horses should be chosen that are older and more mellow in temperament. If it is your horse you should make sure that this is a horse that does not have a habit of bucking and is easy to ride. If your child is riding someone else’s horse, ask the owner if the horse is safe for new riders.
Children who are first learning to ride a horse must be able to control the horse with assistance from an adult. Many stables will allow children between the ages of 5 and 6 to begin learning to ride a horse.
At this age children will have the balance to stay in the saddle, the coordination to follow their instructor’s guidance on how to control the horse, and their legs will be long enough to reach down the horse’s sides.
The last item is particularly important because this is how a rider can indicate to their horse to start and stop moving.
At What Age Can a Rider Ride a Horse Unattended
Now that we know at what age a child can first start riding a horse, you might be wondering at what age they can ride without an adult’s supervision. There are a couple of things that we need to consider here. The biggest is the age of the rider and their experience with horses.
Young children should not ride a horse unsupervised. Their bodies are still growing and so they will have trouble controlling a large animal like a horse. They are still improving their ability to make good judgments as well, so should not be left unsupervised.
On the other hand, parents should also consider the experience of a specific rider with horses. A 14-year-old with 3 years of experience riding a horse is likely a more confident and safe rider than a 16-year-old with only a month’s experience. A horse rider in their teens, with plenty of horse riding experience, can likely be trusted to go on short rides by themselves.
With this being said, there are still some common sense precautions that should be taken regardless of age or experience. Riders should wear a helmet to prevent their head from injury if they do fall from the horse.
For riders with less experience, it may be a good idea to invest in safety stirrups. These can come in two different forms. The first is stirrups that break away from the saddle if you do fall to prevent you from being dragged behind or underneath the horse.
You also may want to look at toe stoppers that prevent a rider’s foot from going completely through the stirrup and being trapped.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while a rider may be able to ride unattended does not mean that they should. Riding with others allows you to enjoy riding as a group, and is a great safety net in case anything goes wrong.
If you do plan to ride alone let someone else know where you plan to go and how long you plan to be out. This can help people find you if you end up injured or trapped somewhere out on your horse.
Are There Laws About Children Riding Horses
One thing that we will briefly look at is what laws in the US say about children riding horses. If you have a specific concern about laws involving horses, it is best to consult with a lawyer who specializes in questions like these.
There are several lawyers who make a practice just working with horse-related legal questions. With that in mind here are common legal questions parents may have.
My child was injured while riding a horse with an instructor. Even if I have signed a waiver is there any way to hold them accountable?
This will depend on the state you live in. While a waiver can excuse an instructor or stable from some liability it may not be able to cover all behavior. Speak with a lawyer if you would like more details.
Is there a minimum legal age to be able to ride a horse?
There is no minimum legal age for who can ride a horse.
My child came with me to a horse stable and was injured, what can I do?
This will depend on the circumstances. Some states have determined that people accompanying horse riders assume the same risks as the rider even if they never intended to ride a horse. Check the laws of your state for clarity on this issue.