FAQ Riding Tips

6 Parent-Friendly Reasons to Let Your Child Ride Horses

horse riding lessons kids
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Written by Annabelle A.

Why say ‘yes’ to your son or daughter’s equestrian dreams

Many parents have been in your shoes (err, boots). You know little about horses, and your closest encounter with barn life was riding the pony at the county fair when you were a toddler.

Then one day, your son or daughter starts begging to take lessons.* Your initial thought might be “no way.” But, as you’ll learn in this article, there are actually numerous reasons to consider saying “yes!”

By allowing your child to explore his or her interest in horseback riding, you are offering them the opportunity to learn valuable life skills while doing something they love. Riding helps support healthy physical and emotional growth, and it teaches kids to work together, support their friends, and take on more responsibility.

*They’re going to beg for a horse of their own soon, too. Brace yourself…

Thanks to Sarah Harris for our feature photo!

Benefits of Horse Riding for Kids

It gets them moving.

Many people assume riding doesn’t require much work from the rider, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Your son or daughter will be getting outside, working up a sweat, and exercising during each lesson. Grooming horses, lifting tack, and staying balanced in the saddle improves muscle tone, burns calories, and improves coordination.

child riding horse

Photo Credit: Brittney Chambers

In fact, don’t be surprised if your kiddo comes home completely wiped out!

Furthermore, you can help your child to establish healthier habits like eating well, going to the gym, and practicing yoga in the context of improving their riding.

(Later, riding lessons may even improve their driving: “Look where you want to go.”)

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It teaches responsibility.

Your child will quickly learn that there is a lot more to riding lessons than hopping on a pony and galloping into the sunset.

Horses need to be cared for and exercised regardless of the weather. They need their stalls cleaned and bedding changed, even when you feel like staying home.

The wellbeing of the horse comes first — all day, every day — and that’s another valuable lesson.

And, of course, the possibility of losing barn time because your child slacked off on chores or homework can be a major motivator!

Speaking of responsibility, check out: 

Click to see this kids guide to horsemanship at Amazon

It teaches goal setting.

Learning how to ride is a lifelong activity, and dedicating yourself to the sport takes time, patience, and a desire to learn.

No matter how good you are, you can always improve and learn more.

Riding gives kids the opportunity to set attainable goals, then work towards them, year after year.

Speaking of goal setting, check out: 

It improves kids’ mental health.

We’ve seen many reserved kids come out of their shells (ahem, stalls?) once they get comfortable around a horse.

Parents and kids, alike, find joy in spending time around horses.

trick riding on a horse

Photo provided by Angie Misaghi (@angisaghi)

The fresh air* is mood booster, horses force us to stay present, and riding is a great way to relieve stress.

*OK, some areas don’t smell as fresh…

Speaking of mental health, check out: 

online horse courses

It teaches kids about teamwork.

While horseback riding isn’t a traditional team sport like soccer or basketball, teamwork is critical.

Ask the riders at your barn whether or not they feel like a team, and we bet you’ll hear a resounding “yes!”

Kids learn to cheer each other on during lessons, celebrate each other’s successes, and support each other at horse shows, even when they’re competing against each other.

Plus, and maybe more importantly, your child will learn the most about teamwork from his or her equine partner.

They can’t force these huge animals to do their bidding. They must communicate and work together!

Speaking of teamwork, check out: 

Click to see our favorite book for learning about acceptance, friendship, and body image.

It can be more affordable than you think.

One of the most common questions parents ask is “Aren’t horses crazy expensive?”

It’s true that horseback riding can get costly, especially if you buy a horse of your own.

But taking riding lessons on a barn-owned school horse can be surprisingly affordable.

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kid with horse

Think of all the amazing memories they’ll make together.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should kids start riding horses?

There isn’t a clear right or wrong answer to this question.

Many lesson barns will have their own policies around this, typically requiring students to be 5 or 6 years old to start lessons.

Like most things in parenting, the “right” time also depends on your individual child.

Riding a horse is a huge responsibility, and your child should be old enough to understand and follow directions, have impulse control, and be trusted to behave and respect safety rules.

Is horseback riding too dangerous?

Horseback riding has risk

, without question.

But it’s important to remember that there are many things you can do to mitigate risk and protect your child.

Here are a few ways to keep your kiddo safe:

  • Enroll your child in lessons at a reputable barn with qualified instructors.
  • Begin with older horses who are healthy, well trained, and used to working with young students who may be unpredictable or unintentionally rough with their leg and hand cues.
  • Always use quality safety equipment including a helmet, boots with a heel, and riding vest.
  • Teach your child safety rules for working with horses, like not walking behind horses, not touching horses they don’t know, and never startling a horse.
online horse courses

What is the best horse for kids?

While lots of people have strong opinions about which breeds are best for kids, ultimately it comes down to the temperament, skill, and experience of the individual horse or pony.

A common rule of thumb is that the age of the horse and the child should add up to ~30. For example, if you have a 10 year old rider, you might consider a horse in its early 20s.

Younger horses tend to be more excitable and less experienced, making them a less ideal match for new riders.

“Schoolmasters” (i.e. calm lesson horses with years or experience) at a reputable barn are accustomed to dealing with new riders’ mistakes and will be more patient.

Can toddlers ride horses?

Ultimately, this is a personal decision.

Many trainers will not work with toddlers, and those who do may only allow toddlers to ride ponies on a lead vs. in a traditional lesson.

Horseback riding is a big responsibility that most toddlers are not quite ready to take on, so additional safety precautions need to be taken. Many parents opt to wait until their child is older.

(Note: If your little one is too young to ride, bring some country into their lives with a pair of infant cowboy boots!)

Listen to Your Child (And Your Gut)

Supporting your son or daughter’s love for riding can result in memories they’ll cherish for life.

If you are still unsure, consider reaching out to your local riding community. Talk to some of the trainers and parents to learn about their experiences before making your decision.

At the end of the day, keep it simple: listen to your child — and your gut!

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About the author

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Annabelle A.

My parents owned a boarding facility and ran a lesson program throughout my childhood, so I was quite literally raised in a barn! As an adult, I've owned and shown two horses and now love watching my own children learn to ride. I also loved watching my sisters show on their college equestrian teams.