View Full Version : What do you think is the best age to start children?

Aug. 31, 2009, 10:44 PM
My two nieces, 3 and 4.5 years old, love animals. They're at the age where they're in love with Breyers toys and My Little Ponies. I want them to get exposed to horses but at the same time don't want it to be too stressful for the horse. I've seen some terrors around stables I've been at and don't think that its fair for the horse. I don't think my nieces are not well behaved, but like most children, they forget that they're being too loud or have selective hearing.

Some barns seem to start at 2.5 years old while some don't take on children until they're 8. What do you think is a good age to start that's fair to both child and horse?

Aug. 31, 2009, 10:54 PM
First of all, just like anything else, children need to be taught proper barn behavior. My 2 yr old is in the barn for 3-4 hours a day with us ( more in the summer) she knows the rules and can abide by them. All of my kids have been in and around the barn since day 1.
I really start to "teach" them to ride around age 3. My 2yr old can pony ride now her her sisters pony, she can also post at the walk but that is ONLY because she is watching her sisters day in and day out. It works best when they know their left from their right and its easier if they are NOT afraid. My younger DD spent the past 2 years on the lunge line , she just got "free" this summer. BUT she has an awesome leg, great heel, and lots of confidence.
What ever you do, GO SLOW they are young and if they don't spend all day every day around the barn ( like my girls have) they will need time to learn the rules and get used to the routine! Have fun , the best parts of my day are spent around the farm with my kids

Aug. 31, 2009, 11:11 PM
All kids are different. IF they can follow instruction, they can always be started with some basics. I've had 9 year olds that couldn't follow simple instructions!!

Of course, it's not enough for them to just follow a direction, they need to be able to retain new information!!! Repetition is the key. You'll be bored out of your mind, but you'll have to break everything down into much smaller 'bites' for the youngest kids and say it over and over an over untill it all sinks in.

I have come across some programs where it's done "Mommy and Me" style with the younger children. If you aren't looking to do this yourself, try finding a barn that either has something like that or is willing to give it a go.

Some people have very hard and fast rules about age, so you may have to be patient and willing to search around. But nothing ventured, right?

Aug. 31, 2009, 11:15 PM
I think anywhere from 5 to 8 is a good age to start. The child's muscles are more developed and they have more of an ambition to ride.

Aug. 31, 2009, 11:25 PM
Well my almost 3 yr old is addicted to riding. She wakes in the morning, and tells me who she is going to ride that day, and what she will do. ( she always plans to jump. I always tell her she is not big enough,LOL). I think alot depends on the kid. Of course you have to find a baarn to teach them that little. I am lucky, the barn I board my horse at let's me teach my kids on her ponies.(yep VERY lucky).
Find a barn, get a few lessons, and go from there. If they love it, let them go have fun. If tey hate it, maybe try again in a few years, maybe not.

Aug. 31, 2009, 11:27 PM
My daughter started at 4, but she had long legs, otherwise I would say 6.

Aug. 31, 2009, 11:45 PM
Both my daughters started at five. With the oldest one, she started in private lessons with my trainer's assistant. She would help groom and tack up. I She learned to canter when she was almost seven on a super sweet 11 hand pony.

My youngest daughter started at five when oldest daughter's Nanny Pony was getting ready to be leased out to another child (she hadn't shown interest at until that point!) She is six and a half and is cantering on the lunge and helps groom and loves to clean tack. Her progress may be a bit quicker as she has the Nanny Pony whereas my oldest had some slightly bratty or spooky lesson ponies to ride. Her favorite thing is to ride out on trails with my husband or myself walking beside her. She gets a lot of saddle time that way and has learned to leg yield because she often wants to pluck leaves off trees! :lol:

All that to say, I wouldn't rush into things unless you have a patient and competent instructor and a very SAFE pony. It takes a long time for little kids to learn to ride a 700 lb plus pony so safety needs to be the priority. If they get scared when they're really little, it is very hard to get them feeling comfortable again.

Enjoy the journey and take LOTS of photos-nothing cuter than pony kids!

Sep. 1, 2009, 01:33 AM
I think it totally depends on the kid.

My almost 5-yo-son still won't focus when he's on horseback. He spends the whole time telling me that he wants to jump and points to the 4'6" fences around the ring telling me that he doesn't want to jump the "baby jumps." Sheesh, boys!

My 18mo-old-daughter can't get enough and I'm totally surprised that she wants to ride her pony every single day. She puts on her boots and her helmet and pounds on the door until we walk down to the barn. She's a terror and she's totally certain about what she wants. She can post at the walk and she's very good about listening to what I tell her in the barn in regards to safety stuff. My son was so totally opposite than I'm quite shocked by her behavior :lol:

My (now 9-13yo) nieces sound like yours. They were very into My Little Pony and Breyer horses and anything else horse related. They would all come over to my house starting around 3 or 4 years of age and ride the horses. I tried to keep it down to one girl at a time and then it was stress free for everyone. Each of the girls on their own was quiet and respectful and responsible. Together they tended to forget that they were getting loud or wild (as kids can do!).

So maybe you could take one kid at a time to spend time with your horse? My nieces' fondest memories are of the days where they came out and just brushed and played with the horses on the ground. None of them cared as much for the riding as just being around them.

Sep. 1, 2009, 02:56 AM
I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...:D

Sep. 1, 2009, 10:39 AM
I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...:D

I have pictures of my two daughters lunging each other on the front lawn, one was 2 and the other almost 5. Of courses they are both only wearing underpants, so I can't share them. :) It didn't tire them out, they just got more fit, so they can now run for miles. :(

My older daughter started at 4, when we finally bought a pony, and the younger one at about 2. It's basically a glorified pony ride at first, but I think they progress very fast if they have been on horseback from a very young age. They build muscle memory and perhaps brain synapses that help with the actual riding later on.

My girls are now 8 and 5 and the 8 year old is showing in the Small Ponies and the younger one is just trotting off lead and actually jumped a 2'3" roll top backward, from a stand still, and stayed on. Can you say heart attack for everyone around except her? She was standing behind it waiting for someone to finish a course and instead of turning the pony away she tapped him on the shoulder with her crop while he was still facing it, so he figured he should jump. Now she thinks she can jump and wants to all the time.

Make sure to be prepared for things you never thought possible when the little ones are riding. They do some crazy stuff. They are also very literal when they are small. My personal favorite is when you tell them to look up, and they look at the sky.

Sep. 1, 2009, 12:04 PM
Probably around 5 is good, they have some coordination and can move well enough to get out of the way.

I once saw a 3 year old get stepped on that totally did not need to happen. She just did not react quickly enough and pulled back yelling "NO" when mom tried to pull her away from that fly stomping Pony-who was about 40 years old and real slow or it would have been worse.

So it depends.

I see, all the time, little kids that want to love on a Pony forced into lessons where they have to accept some constructive criticisim. So make sure the child really wants those lessons, not just to spend time with a Pony.

They seem to do better with the lessons, and firmer guidance, from about 7 or 8 on up. Less likely to burst into tears too;).

Sep. 1, 2009, 12:26 PM
I would say its good to start kids at around 30 - when they can pay for it themselves - LOL

Sep. 1, 2009, 12:51 PM
I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...:D

OMG! LOL! My 2 yo (human child) is sick today, so it took me a minute. Great thread. I am dealing with this right now. Every barn my daughter sees, she says "neigh, neigh" - especially the empty one on my parents farm. Can you all hear the empty barn calling out to a pony?

My DD has the coordination, but she is very strong willed and while she does follow instructions, there is the occasional "throw herself down on the ground" short lived fit. Still afraid she might do that right underneath a horse. I have noticed that she gets the concept of "Don't do that. It will hurt." which is fairly recent - perhaps because she is falling on her tush quite a bit lately, little daredevil.

Sep. 1, 2009, 05:02 PM
I think most kids are ready to benefit from lessons starting around 6 yrs old -- I think most who start at 7 or 8 catch up quickly to those who started at 6 -- I think the 2-5 age group get about as much as they can absorb from pony rides or well supervised farm time --

Sep. 1, 2009, 05:20 PM
I have noticed that kids that can ride a bike without training wheels, seem to have the coordination in place for riding. Now that can vary with the child from 5 to 7 or 8 years old.

Anything in the 2 to 3 age group is just pony rides. Hey, but if they are happy and enjoying it-why not!

Sep. 1, 2009, 06:01 PM
I think 7 or 8 is a good age.

Sep. 1, 2009, 06:26 PM
My daughter started "riding" (sitting alone with a side walker) at 12mo, and at 21mo holding the reins and turning (where I point), with her heels down etc. She still of course has me leading, she's just too small to really control the pony, but she follows instructions VERY well, and has been around horses since day one, literally! She brushes and grooms ( and knows the difference between the brushes and what order to use them usually) and would stay on all day! We are working on posting at the walk now. Its hard finding little tiny stirrups!

Whitehedge Farm
Sep. 1, 2009, 07:29 PM
I have several kids that I have started at 4- the ones that ride regularly (1 x week) are now posting trot on lungeline at 5. I love these little ones, sure sometimes they have 10 min attention spans but it is so good for them also!

My own daughter was posting trot at 2 1/2- she just turned 5 last month and she is already cantering and jumping x's on her own! :) The pony she rides is our little saintly stallion too!

But now I am running into the problem that she is about ready to and really wanting to start showing, and of course cant have her show a stallion! So now I need to start looking for a small/medium to lease for a year or 2, as all my other ponies are under age 3! We have some fancy ones out the in the field for the future but need to find a solid citizen for her now.

Sep. 1, 2009, 07:30 PM
I have noticed that kids that can ride a bike without training wheels, seem to have the coordination in place for riding. Now that can vary with the child from 5 to 7 or 8 years old.

Anything in the 2 to 3 age group is just pony rides. Hey, but if they are happy and enjoying it-why not!
HA my 2 yr old can ride her bike without training wheels ! and I am no where near ready to let her loose on her pony( of course my fear comes from the fact that she might try to jump a 4'6' fence!)

Sep. 1, 2009, 07:49 PM
My son startyed pony rides around a year, did his first LL class at 2.5, got his pony at 3, and now at 5 can post, trot alone, and does gymkanas on one of my saintly schoolies. I've been known to take students as young as 3, and have a boarders 2 year old that I give 'lessons' to. But by and large, it depends on the kid. I never pushed my son, but have always made the horses available to him, and try not to ever tell him no when he asks to ride.

two sticks
Sep. 1, 2009, 08:21 PM
I would say its good to start kids at around 30 - when they can pay for it themselves - LOL

AHAHAHAHAHAHA :lol: my mother would definitely agree with this and wish she knew it 20 years ago!

Sep. 1, 2009, 10:30 PM
I have some friend's kids who ride my horse.

The oldest is 3 almost 4. She has been out several times, she can help me put on the bridle and clean out his feet. She knows that kick means go, she knows how to cluck, and how to say WHOA. She can also steer by pulling left or right and she can steer in the direction I point. She can do a course of "jumps" be steering between groundpoles when I point her in the right direction.

The youngest is 2 and she hangs on and smiles a ton.

All of this riding is done with me leading my horse on the ground. He's 16.2 and old but pretty obedient to the little person telling him to go faster so he has to stay on the leadrope.

She did go on a pony ride at the zoo where she burst into tears. She rode a 10 hand pony in a western saddle. She told her grandma that ponies were for babies, she rides english, and she is supposed to hold onto the reins because she doesn't need to hold a horn to stay on. :)

Her dad thinks she's going to grow out of it.

Sep. 2, 2009, 12:40 AM
I think 7 is a good age to where they can really learn and be safe.

neutral milk hotel
Sep. 2, 2009, 12:56 AM
I started when I was four. I rode a pony on the longe line but fell off when I apparently wanted to show off to my Mom that I could ride without hands (she didn't know I was about to do that!) and took a break until I was 7. Of course, I played with Breyers and we also had horses at home, so I was comfortable on the ground. I went to the barn and watched old kids (including my sister) have lessons so I knew exactly what to expect in my first lesson. I think this was a good age for me to get serious and by then I could look forward to jumping and really listen in lessons.
Of course, I really credit the reason that I know how to ride to my ponies at home! The lessons were great for position, etc., but nothing teaches you balance and control better than riding around the desert on a pony that bucks!

Hunter Mom
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:20 PM
I have noticed that kids that can ride a bike without training wheels, seem to have the coordination in place for riding. Now that can vary with the child from 5 to 7 or 8 years old.

Anything in the 2 to 3 age group is just pony rides. Hey, but if they are happy and enjoying it-why not!

LOL - DD refused to ride her bike w/o training wheels until this summer. She started jumping cross-rails last fall when she was 6.

I can't speak for all kids, but no one can. It just depends on the kid and the trainer. My trainer is wonderful with kids. She's got several 5 year olds riding right now - they do a lot of games & stuff and make it fun. She really doesn't like to start them much younger but has made exceptions. That said, there were a couple of 5 year olds who I have seen who are totally NOT ready to learn to ride, but others who aren't ready at age 9 either.

She started with DD at 5, but she had already done some riding (mainly glorified pony rides with some instruction mixed in) by that point. By 6 she learned to canter, by 7 she had started trotting cross-rails and doing small courses of them on her saintly pony.

Sep. 2, 2009, 10:21 PM
Actually riding 6 to 7 years. Maybe some leading and lungeline at 4 or 5

Sep. 2, 2009, 10:57 PM
Her dad thinks she's going to grow out of it.

Ha ha! Poor delusional dad!

I've been giving pony rides to a friend's 3yo and her dad is convinced that he's going to get her into golf instead.

Um, yeah. Good luck with that! :lol:

Sep. 3, 2009, 12:28 AM
Her dad thinks she's going to grow out of it.

As if!

My family used to be pretty non-horsey; my aunt was the only one who rode. My older cousin started taking lessons and I was SO jealous. My parents finally gave in :)

I started riding when I was 5 and just starting grade two. I started jumping (glorified trot poles, really) and cantering when I was seven. I have, to this day, never ridden a pony. I learned from the start on reliable old schoolies. I don't think any of my lessons were on a lunge line. They were always with a group of my school friends, anyways. That being said, I'm pretty sure they were the type of horses who kind of lunged us themselves. :lol:

And to think my parents thought I would quit riding and stick with field hockey, my other pastime! Ha! I quit field hockey years ago :lol:

Sep. 3, 2009, 09:36 AM
My 5 yr old won't even take off her half chaps and jods!! I have to peel them off of her when they are ready to RUN to the washer on their own!! I don't see her quitting anytime soon! My poor non horsey DH is amazed at her commitment at this age. She will flat out tell you that all she EVER wants to do is RIDE!

Sep. 3, 2009, 09:43 AM
my daughter started at 5, now at 7 she will show in crossrails this season on a been there done that pony we are leasing from a friend :) I have noticed that the children who are a bit older (9 or so) learn quicker and catch up very quickly.

Movin Artfully
Sep. 3, 2009, 12:28 PM
Depends less on the age...and more on the horse available.

Had several 3 year old/Montessori types that did very well...but they rode a 20 year old Western Pleasure champion packer who I would trust more than any person I've ever met ;) They rode no stirrups and could post and change diagonals on their own.

The 5-8 range is good...but my guiding factor would be- does the child want to do this...or does the parent really want the child to do this? It will make an amazing difference in how things go.

Sep. 3, 2009, 03:33 PM
It really depends on whether you're looking at private lessons or group lessons. It also depends on how often they're going to be riding.

When I was teaching we accepted kids that were in kindergarten for group lessons (2-4 students). They are able to follow directions reasonably well at that age (there are exceptions to every case though).

In general we did not accept younger children unless the parents paid for private lessons because they usually couldn't last through the entire lesson and demanded so much attention that the other students got ignored.

We had 3 & 4-year olds who came to private lessons during the day (not in the afternoon school aged kid rush) and were able to effectively teach them but we were VERY flexible on length of lessons and what was actually covered. We did not expect them to advance as quickly either because some of them just didn't have the muscle coordination......

On the other hand, one of my friends with her own barn has had her (now 5-yr old) daughter on a horse since she could sit up. Since she's on a horse so frequently, she's able to better build up the muscle memory that other kids her age don't get the chance to develop in one or two lessons a week. Her daughter started fox hunting (on a very safe pony) at age three and now canters around and jumps small courses on 16 hand horses!

Sep. 3, 2009, 03:48 PM
My almost 5-yo-son still won't focus when he's on horseback. He spends the whole time telling me that he wants to jump and points to the 4'6" fences around the ring telling me that he doesn't want to jump the "baby jumps." Sheesh, boys!

Mine is seven and thinks I am being unreasonable for not letting him jump the three foot oxers he sets up for himself. I put up an eensy x rail. He says "No, no, no, not like that" and flies off the pony, sets up his own jump and clambers back on. I re-set it back to an eensy x rail and on it goes...

Why do boys think they are indestructible?

OP, it depends on the kid. Mine has been playing around with a pony since he was 3, however, it is only now that he is 7 is he paying enough attention to really learn something. Sort of. However, I don't think the earlier time was wasted as it has really built his confidence. Maybe too much confidence...

Sep. 3, 2009, 04:05 PM
My trainer had his son on before he could walk :lol: They did their first leadline class at about 6 months with one holding him and one leading the pony. Now at age three, he can trot and post on his own. A judge commented at their last leadline class that he has great posture :)

I started taking lessons when I was eight but was riding my aunt's horse since I was three, just like pony rides. Sometimes we would ride double and she'd trot and canter with me. That's what got me horse crazy, bet Mom wishes she'd never went down that road :winkgrin:

Sep. 4, 2009, 07:17 AM
good points have been made about the amount of time the kids will spend riding. My daughters ride EVERYDAY so progress come more quickly, the lesson kids who are the same age and only ride once a week do not progress as quickly.
Just yesterday my 2.5 yr old was watching us ride (as she does everyday) and said " I ride"? I said sure , after I put her up there adjusted her stirrups and got her helmet on tight she said " I JUMP" and proceeds to steer towards the nearest jump. Sarahs pony will jump anything you point her at so I jog after her and suggest she wait a few weeks LOL! In the spring I will start her on the lunge line on a daily basis for a few minutes a day, she is by far my BRAVEST kid but she also has the shortest attention span so we will see where it all goes!

Sep. 4, 2009, 10:58 PM
It depends on the kid, horse, stable and situation. We teach all ages, offerings "equitots" ( a glorified pony ride, and structured barn etiquette) for 3-5 olds. Our regular lessons start at 6.

My niece is 2, we acquired a saddle broke mini for her who happens to be a saint, and she "rides" weekly. She loves it, she grooms, knows all the tools, trys to pick their feet, attempts to post after watching the other girls, and does trot a bit. She went on a trail ride today for almost 2 hours (with grandma leading, of course.) and not on the mini, but on a lesson pony.

I look at this time as a positive and srong basis for the skills that will come later.

Sep. 5, 2009, 09:19 AM
We live on a farm so my daughter is around the horses everyday. She has been doing pony rides since she was very little, but just this summer started taking real lessons (she's 5yrs). We gave her a small pony for her birthday last fall! She's a 10 yr old been there done that saint! My daughter is walk/trot and posting now. She trots small piles of poles. She showed in several local shows this summer in the walk and walk/ 2-point classes. She loved it and was sure that she needed to be in the walk/trot classes! I told her that she can do walk/trot at her next show. I wanted her to be steering really well before turning her loose at the trot with a ring full of little kids. The walk classes gave her a chance to really learn how to space herself in the ring and listen closely to the announcer. She is very aware of where the other ponies are at in her class and knows to circle or pass on the inside to keep her pony away from the other ponies. She has learned a lot! She definitley wants to do a lot more than I will allow her to do at this point! :lol:

Here is a picture of her pony:
She is the only chesnut in the offspring page (picture 5) Tantallon Stars n' Stripes . . . We LOVE this pony. We couldn't have picked a better first pony for our daughter. :yes:

Sep. 5, 2009, 11:49 AM
I wouldn't formally expect most kids to learn much before 7 or 8, although there are some exceptions. We had only TBs when I had kids, and the best thing I bought was a mini. My teeny 5 yr old adores him and can do a lot with him. I first had a 13.2 hh ancient BTDT pony who dumped her by scooting at the walk when I was leading her. It took ages for her to get over it. My son is 8 and at 50 pounds definitely has the physical ability to ride, but little discipline. My mother-in-law was a pro rider, coach, trainer, judge, and steward for about 90 years, she felt no one should show O/F until 10. She saw many of the best little riders of the future drilled into the clay until they quit. I keep that in mind. :) On the other hand, two successful pros in my area who I greatly admire, have been showing since 5. It depends.

Sep. 5, 2009, 12:07 PM
Every time I see the title of this thread my first thought is:

Why, when the harness fits them, of course!!:lol:

Sep. 5, 2009, 01:34 PM
I would not really start any child in riding until the age of about 8. This is where they have balance and motor skills, as well as attention span to really learn.

Starting at 8 does not put them that much farther behind a child starting at 3, due to increased motor skills. A child basically only learns some balance before then. They do not effect a horse as well due to both lack of muscle strength and ability to even simply get their leg around a horse.

The balance that a younger child learns is no different than balance that a child not riding learns and an older child has better cognitive skills to work through a difficult situation.

The children that I have seen doing walk/trot/canter/jump before this age are on saintly ponies that respond to the change in weight and balance. Ponies like this are extremely difficult to find. Personally, I do not want to risk a sudden spook or bolt with a younger child.