Welcome to the Contributor [C] series on Life Equestrian. I love collaborating with other writers and influencers and started this series to curate a source of helpful tips from our equestrian community. Thank you Kenny Johnson.
So, you have this little request from your child. The little devil wants to join a horse-riding class. You are happy that he hasn't expressed a strong desire to own the latest iPhone or perhaps a Playstation. You don't want your child to sit glued to the sofa all day. This could be a great opportunity for him to make new friends and learn a great skill. But how do you begin? Let's find out:
Group Or Solo Lessons For Your Kids?
This is the very first question that you will have to ask yourself. Should you go for a solo lesson for your kid or something that can be done in a group and a healthier environment? This decision is going to be very important because it will impact the conduct of your child and his/her social circle significantly. You will have to take the personality of your child as the main criterion to determine whether he would flourish more in a solo session or a group lesson.
When it comes to flexibility, a solo horseback riding lesson has more of that. You also get more of the trainer's attention in this kind of session. There are fewer distractions and it saves you and your child a lot of time.
When we talk about a group lesson, there is minimum flexibility and very little trainer's attention. There is also a higher degree of distraction but your child gets ample opportunities to make more friends. However, a very practical determinant here is the lower cost.
Now that you have chosen the most suitable horse-riding session for your little one, let's come to the safety precautions that you must take.
Top 6 Practical Safety Gear To Pick When Saddling A Horse
You can never miss this one piece of safety. Buying a helmet is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make for your child when he finally signs up for a horse-riding class. You have to take horseback riding-induced head injuries seriously. Even Olympic-level athletes are advised to invest in a strong and dependable helmet when riding their horses over hurdles. Regardless of whether the horse is old or young, quiet or aggressive, well trained or not, it is essential to invest in a comfortable and strong helmet for your child. Period.
2. Safety Vests
Safety vests are also a very important part of the entire safety ensemble that you will have to invest in. It is going to protect the torso of your little kid at all times. It offers necessary support to their internal organs, ribs, and also their spine which can get heavily stressed during a horse-riding class. The biggest stress is that of different acts that the horse performs during the class including jumping, fast galloping, twisting and turning, and even halting abruptly which can result in a muscle spasm if there is no safety or crash vest in place. In case the child falls off the horse, the safety vest is going to protect them from any potential injury as well.
You may not be as convinced about a mouthguard as you were about the saddle or the safety vest. But they are also an important safety gear that you must invest in. These are worn by professional athletes as well spanning various other sports such as football, hockey, boxing, and other rough and aggressive activities. You may need a special moldable mouthguard depending upon the terrain that the horse is going to run and jump across. These are especially helpful for children who exhibit symptoms of bruxism and may help minimize its ill effects or escalation.
Another layer of safety comes in the form of English jumping saddles and you can never go wrong with them. These are perfect for kids for not one but several reasons. They are lightweight and distribute the weight of your child evenly whether they are seated on a grown horse or a small pony. They can be found in various unique designs and colors and can be firmly secured to the midriff of the horse.
If your little one is not able to balance as well as other kids, these saddles are going to help them a lot. The right saddle also helps your child maintain proper form and position that prevents them from contacting any back pain at an early age. These are designed in such a way that your kids will not have to strain their legs to maintain their grip on the animal.
Your child is going to need gloves because it is the only way to grip the leash without bruising their palms. The horse is going to pull hard and jerk unexpectedly at times and this may lead to injuries and blisters in the soft hands of your little ones. Gloves are going to protect them from these issues. Make sure that they fit just right and invest in something made out of vegan leather because winters are approaching and it seems to be a practical choice.
If you want to protect your child's legs from injuries and scrapes and scratches, you must invest in chaps without fail. The horse-riding class is going to last for at least 45 minutes or maybe an hour. You don't want your child to have their calves and knees badly rubbed against the harsh fur of the animal. Chaps are useful in protecting their legs and you should make this investment carefully.
Choosing The Right Instructor/ School
In the end, what makes the most amount of difference is the horseback riding instructor/ school you choose. A bad experience is going to spoil your child's mood and steer them away from wanting to learn horseback riding ever. Therefore, you must choose the right constructor/school for your child.
Visit and compare several horseback riding facilities and schools before you make a final decision
Have a look at their certificates
Also, make sure to have a look at the animals in their stables
Ask for a demo class if they allow it
Observe the way the instructor responds to the queries of the students
Assess the safety rules and protocols being followed at the facility
This skill is going to stay with your child for the rest of his life. It is not just spending money to have fun after school. This could be one of the most enriching learning experiences your child could ever go through.