By Chris Churchill, Five Star Ranch Staff Writer
What child doesn’t love horses? Boys and girls alike dream and play pretend games of riding a horse.
Why the attraction? Is it the power and freedom a horse represents to a young child? Maybe. Or it could be the sheer fun of having a friend who is six feet tall. There are many reasons kids are attracted to horses and there are good reasons why we should introduce our children to the world of horses.
Benefits of Horsebackriding
Those of us who ride are keenly aware of the many benefits of riding. Sure, horseback riding is recreational and good physical exercise, but there are many intrinsic benefits as well.
My non-horsey friends look at horses as an expensive habit or obsession. Personally I feel I can’t put a price on what I get back from a horse. It’s a life long love and activity that brings different rewards at different phases of our lives.
I know many adult riders who tell me similar stories about how having an interest in riding kept them out of trouble during their teen years because they spent all of their time at the barn instead of hanging out with the opposite sex or getting into drugs.
I recall a comment my mom said once when someone mentioned horse expenses. Her wise retort was, “I can use the money for horses now and keep the kids active and out of trouble, or I can use it later on therapy or anti-drug dependency programs. I chose horses.”
Horses keep kids active. With so many kids suffering from weight problems, parents are looking for ways to add healthy activity to a child’s life. Horsebackriding may be the perfect remedy. Riding horses is good physical exercise and fun. It gets kids outdoors in the fresh air and in tune with nature.
In addition to physical exercise, horsebackriding has great side benefits. Riding improves balance and coordination. As a child progresses in their skills they develop confidence and a sense of freedom.
Horsebackriding can also be a great social sport. Many children take riding lessons together at stables. In fact some stables cater to youth riders.
There are many horse organizations that teach kids about horses. Two of the most popular are 4H and the United States Pony Club. Both are excellent organizations whose goal is to teach kids how to ride and care for horses, so even if you didn’t grow up on horseback, your child can.
Taking care of a horse teaches kids responsibility. Learning how to properly care and feed an animal prepares the child for caring for others.
Horses are big animals. Even a gentle one could hurt a small child if it accidentally stepped on the child’s foot. Safety and proper horse handling techniques must be taught by a knowledgeable person.
Enforce the wearing of helmets while horsebackriding. In fact, if you go to a stable to enroll your child in lessons and none of the kids are riding with helmets, go elsewhere. Safety comes first. Since kids will climb in and out of your fences, good safe horse fence is extra important if you have kids around.
Keep It Fun
Riding is fun. Give the child the knowledge and skill set to do well with a horse and you’ve given them a life long hobby. Don’t forget to capture the memories in pictures. Here is a related article to give you some tips on photographing kids and horses. Enjoy.
Horse and Children Books
There are many good horse books for children that stimulate interest in horses and teach at the same time. The following are a few of my favorites.