So your little one got off the bus today asking for a pony? While a pony might not be the best idea, why not sign them up for riding lessons? This is a great way to see if they just want a pony as a pet, or if riding is the sport for them. If you have never ridden, or aren’t sure how to get your child into the hobby, we are here to help!
Riding is more costly than many other sports kids are interested in at a young age, so it is important to make sure this is really what your child wants to do. If you know someone with a horse, it may be a good idea to take them down to the barn and expose them to everything riding lessons entail. If they are really nervous or uninterested in the horses when you get there, they may not be ready to hit the saddle. Like many kids I knew growing up, if they jump right on and are ready to go, looks like Mom and Dad are in trouble!
Do your research
If there are a lot of barns in your area, call them all—literally! A phone call can’t hurt and you want to be sure you are finding a place you can afford, but that will still be fun, and most importantly SAFE, for your child. Ask for a price list, what lesson programs are offered, and available times for new students.
Price is one of the big things to consider. At first, it will be the major cost associated with your child’s hobby, but down the line more expenses will pop up. Make sure that you are very comfortable with the weekly lesson cost before your sign up. Many barns offer package deals for multiple lessons. Inquire about what the options are since this can cut down on the cost sometimes.
Also, ask about summer or winter camp options, schooling shows, drill teams and other activities available for children outside of weekly lessons. Your kid is going to want to show off the skills they are learning, but it is a little too soon to hit the show circuit so in-barn activities are important.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, schedule visits to the barns you are interested in. Try to be there during a busy lesson time to get a better idea of what the atmosphere will be like for you and your child. Try to talk to the other parents that are there with their kids to see how they are progressing and what they think of the staff.
If possible, bring an experienced horse person with you. They will be able to pick up on little things like cleanliness and the quality of the lesson horses that you might not notice right off the bat. Watch a lesson or two and let your child interact with the other children.
Kids are finicky and change their minds constantly at a young age. When they first get started, you want to limit the amount of equipment you have to buy until you make sure this is going to last. Ask the barn manager or instructor if helmets and all necessary tack are available for use.
If they do have all the equipment you need, make sure they are no charges outside of the lesson fee. Lessons should include tack, grooming and helmets. There are still some things you will have to supply for your child, though. Ask the instructor what sort of clothing is required. In general, they will need long pants, preferably jodhpurs that have the necessary padding on the inside of the knee. Boots with heels are an absolute must! The heels on the boots are required for safety and some barns won’t let you ride unless you have them.
That’s all you should need to get started! Riding is a very fun and rewarding sport for young kids to get into. It can blossom into a long-time career that can offer college scholarships, job opportunities and more. Make sure to give your child the start they need by doing your research and finding the perfect place for them to ride.
Do you have a child who rides? What did you consider when they got started?