The Riding School: Is your child ready to own a horse?

Just because your child wants a pony doesn’t mean he or she is ready for a pony. Before you take the plunge, check out The Riding Instructor’s list of childhood horse ownership prerequisites.

From The Riding Instructor:

After last week’s interest in that largest of purchases, I thought I’d share my own personal checklist of requirements for childhood horse ownership.

How to Know Your Child Is Ready to Own a Horse

1. He or she has been taking consistent riding lessons for at least two years.

2. He or she makes your life hell when he/she must miss aforementioned riding lessons for such insignificant reasons as a sibling’s wedding or a family vacation to Disney.

3. He or she can comfortably walk, trot, canter and jump (if in a jumping discipline) on multiple different horses. Cantering beautifully on Old Lightning doesn’t count. In short, must be able to ride horses that are not actually stuffed animals or that hang out in front of Wal-mart.

4. He or she has mastered leading, grooming, and tacking. Use of a small ladder is permitted, but child must be able to carry said ladder by herself.

5. He or she has learned the parts of the horse. And the tack. And the major diseases. Describes sheath cleaning as a part of polite dinner table conversation.

6. He or she has fallen off. More than once. And re-mounted, as appropriate. Nothing tests a child’s commitment like hitting the dirt.

7. When the horse pushes at the child, the child must be able to push back. Children who have been trained by horses to move away when the horse enters their space are not ready for ownership.

8. He or she has cleaned stalls. Without saying, “EEEwww!” excessively or worrying about just what he or she is stepping in.

9. When it is time to leave the barn, he or she does the following:

* If under 10, hides in a stall with her favorite pony.

* If over 10, magically finds two or three chores that she “really has to do before she leaves because the horses need her…”

10. Her room may not be clean, but her boots are polished, her grooming kit is spotless, and her helmet is treated with great care.

11. As a follow up to number 11: vacuuming no, but ask him or her to sweep the barn aisle and it’s spotless.

12. He or she has learned that the words “It’s the horse’s fault” have no place in his or her vocabulary.

13. The car must be slowed down when any large four-legged animal is sighted, just in case it’s a horse.

14. “A pony” appears at the top of every Christmas, Hannukkah or birthday list. Heck, he or she asks the tooth fairy for a pony.

While I am an enormous fan of low-key recreational riding as a tool to build children’s confidence and persistence, I view ownership as something reserved for the dedicated and passionate child, even if money is not an issue. In fact, giving a horse to a child who is less than fully committed undermines the lessons that riding can teach; the horse needs to come as a result of hard work, not as a way to encourage it. The responsibility of the heath and well-being of a large, yet delicate, animal is not to be undertaken lightly. Owning a horse as a child can be a life changing experience, but it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure the change is for the better!

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