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View Full Version : Best age for daughter to start taking lessons?



FatCatFarm
Apr. 2, 2012, 04:01 PM
My daughter turns 7 in June and has expressed an interest in taking lessons. I have a great kid, but so far, she's not retained interest in activities once they've become mundane or required more concentrated work on her part (ballet; chorus; gymnastics). So, I don't know if it's wise to buy into the whole monthly lesson program just yet or if we would be better served to wait until she's 8 and then see how well she does. I readily admit that cost is a factor here. It will cost $220 to sign her up for her first month of lessons: $160 for the lessons (4 a month) and an $80 deposit. It's a monthly contract situation ($160 a month if month-to-month or $140 a month if on a year's contract).

I'm just wondering if we might not be better served by my doing the at home coaching for now and see how she takes to it, and see where we are about this time next year. So far, she's just trail riding with me. She enjoys it and does ask to go, but isn't so into it that she doesn't have to be prompted in the evening to go out to the barn and help feed her pony (i.e. put his grain into his feed tub and then walk him back out to his pasture).

I wouldn't mind her taking a lesson a couple of times a month sort of a la carte and see how she does, but those arrangements seem to be hard to come by.

So what did you do with your kid and at what age? Thanks.

Hunter Mom
Apr. 2, 2012, 04:13 PM
Mine started at age 4, but then again, we weren't locked into a lesson plan. You could always do a month, then assess if it should continue or not.

hasahorse
Apr. 2, 2012, 04:15 PM
When I was teaching, I had students starting at all ages. Between 6 - 8 was typically the most common. Is it possible to start with a summer camp? I used to tell parents that was a great way to see if their child was really interested because summer camps involved so much more than just getting on for a lesson.
If there is a good summer camp available near you, that might be the way to start.

findeight
Apr. 2, 2012, 04:44 PM
From what OP has shared, I don't think the lesson program is a good choice right now if she quickly loses interest once she "has to" participate in something.

Like the summer camp suggestion. Or keep her at home and just ride for fun when she feels like it.

BTW, 8 is not going to magically transform her-she may always just like to ride for fun as she once liked all that other stuff when it was fun. She is still a very little kid despite all the pressure to overload them these days with dance and sports and pageants. It's OK to just want to do something for fun when you are a little kid.

Some kids...all they want is a pony to love on and they get stuck in a high powered program it is difficult to get out of for fear they will let the parent down. Other kids are competitive at a young age and thrive on it. Let her be what she wants for now...and remember little kids will say what they think the parent wants to hear.

FatCatFarm
Apr. 2, 2012, 05:05 PM
From what OP has shared, I don't think the lesson program is a good choice right now if she quickly loses interest once she "has to" participate in something.

Like the summer camp suggestion. Or keep her at home and just ride for fun when she feels like it.

BTW, 8 is not going to magically transform her-she may always just like to ride for fun as she once liked all that other stuff when it was fun. She is still a very little kid despite all the pressure to overload them these days with dance and sports and pageants. It's OK to just want to do something for fun when you are a little kid.

Some kids...all they want is a pony to love on and they get stuck in a high powered program it is difficult to get out of for fear they will let the parent down. Other kids are competitive at a young age and thrive on it. Let her be what she wants for now...and remember little kids will say what they think the parent wants to hear.

See, that's what I'm trying not to do. We've been keeping it at one activity at a time. She's been taking gymnastics and likes it but is no longer crazy about it. She actually asked about lessons, but as I said, I've observed that when she has to knuckle down and learn a skill that might take work, her interest has waned, so I hate to spend alot of money on something she may not appreciate will take some real effort on her part. This stable does offer a one week summer camp but it's almost $400 for the week, so is not exactly an inexpensive way to test the waters yet either and gets out at 3PM and I don't have someone to pick her up for me since I don't leave work until 3:30 and am an hour away. So I'm probably going to just continue teaching her the basics myself at home and see where we are in the fall and if she's continued to be interested in putting in the time it takes to master some of the skills like posting.

She has not yet demonstrated being competitive except academically; not physically. She does love her pony and has been enjoying our rides, and shows real promise with good balance and hands, but we've kept it very low key and fun. She has trotted and cantered on her own.

emgjoker
Apr. 2, 2012, 05:20 PM
Alot of times kids lose interest in things they 'like' but don't 'love' when it gets tough. You may find that if she's going to 'love' riding, this is the thing she's willing to do the work for. Then again, you may not:) But, even if she's just going to trail ride for fun with you a month's worth of lessons will be far from wasted. Added skills taught when she's young and things are easier are rarely wasted.
As for just riding for fun, I always had a rule for kids...they don't have to be in formal lessons or strive to be the best, but they DO have to be good enough to not make the horse suffer because they don't want to bother to learn or make effort. If she's not abusing her horse's mouth or back or any other part that can be abused by poor riding, then no harm done. BUT...if horsie is taking the brunt of bad hands, flapping legs or a rider's weight flopping on it's back, then child needs lessons to learn enough to make it a good experience for the horse as well as her having fun or not ride. It's only fair, IMO:)
Lastly, as someone that took riding lessons from my mom, who was more than capable of teaching me...and the other kids she taught...I was a MUCH better student for non-relatives;)
good luck and have fun!

findeight
Apr. 2, 2012, 05:31 PM
Used to be, even just 10 or 12 years ago, 8 was about the lower cut off for most kids as far as a regular lesson program goes. Before that alot of them don't take constructive criticism too well let alone respond to "pull the right rein hard" to keep them out of trouble-because they don't know right and left yet. And they cry:rolleyes:.

Now? They either take them at 5 or lose them to the trainer down the street. Also used to be they had to master each step before being allowed to progress. That is simply not fashionable anymore lest their self esteem take a hit. And we all know at the show everybody needs to be a winner:no:.

I think I had horses for about 2 years as a late teen before I took any formal lessons, 2 mile ride to a ring so trail rode. I had some informal help and rode out with more experienced friends. Didn't hurt me a bit to be alone with the horse and figure things out on my own.

I think DD can do without any structured programs to the endless call of "up down, up down, bounce once" on somebody else's Pony in a dusty ring and just ride her Pony in the fresh air and sunshine then love on it as only little girls can do.

Maybe she can go to Y camp or other day camp without horses this summer? It does help them mature and socialize without having to "perform".:cool:

poltroon
Apr. 2, 2012, 05:34 PM
I've found with my daughter that finding her a program with lots of other kids and lots of very reliable ponies to ride is what hooked her in. Riding at home was not as fun. Taking instruction from Mom was not fun. Because the impetus to ride at home was irregular, the horses were not in steady work and so even the horses that might have been suitable were not as kid friendly as was really needed. And because these aren't lesson horses that are out all the time, it was very hard to find a good "get tough" line for her where I could promise her she'd be safe.

At the lesson barn, she saw other kids struggling. She could compare herself to them instead of to me. There were a whole set of ponies who knew the program, who would canter when it was time to canter without much input from the rider :) and who were safe, safe, safe for her to wiggle on and make loads of mistakes.

As for the age, only you can judge. It might be better to get her more maturity and wait a year. It might be grand to take her now. She will probably have more progress per lesson if she's a bit older, and the whole "she has to really want it" is worth considering too. Gymnastics is a sport where you can't really start too young, but riding is a sport with a much longer window for getting started. It helps to have a little more size and a little more intellect and neuromuscular control.

Once a month lessoning is inconsistent and will be hard for instructors to get to know her. What I did with my daughter was I gave her a month for her birthday. At the end of the month, I was enjoying taking her and she was smiley the whole time she was there, so we kept going.

Sellefrancais
Apr. 2, 2012, 05:46 PM
I teach riding lessons for the ages 6 and up. I do not take riders younger than that for insurance purposes. I would poke around and see if there are any other lesson programs around that don't lock her in, its nice to ride with some friends your own age when they are young. I have found the social aspect is just as important to a lot of my youngsters as the riding, and at that age games and such are what they really love :)

Crazy-Pony
Apr. 2, 2012, 06:00 PM
At my barn, a child must be six or older to sign up for lessons, due to the insurance company.

Rel6
Apr. 2, 2012, 06:12 PM
I started when I was six or seven. I was athletic, but like your daughter no sports really held my attention. I whined about tennis, gymnastics, and soccer.

I took a pony ride at a fair though and loved it. I wanted lessons asap and that was it. So maybe your daughter just hasn't found the right sport yet (and riding could be it!)

FatCatFarm
Apr. 2, 2012, 08:04 PM
True, but I think since her pony is right here in our back yard and we do have a round pen and dressage arena, I'd like to get a feel for how much she's really willing to work towards improving her riding. I think I would like her to be able to trot a circle on her own at least, before heading off to lessons. She's been doing great on our trail rides and has trotted and cantered her pony. She did great with me on the longe line on Saturday working towards learning how to post. She already grooms her pony competently pre-ride, and that includes cleaning his hooves. http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e110/KPWebb/Horses/d6a2e87e.jpg

I really appreciate all of the replies and different perspectives.

janiemerle
Apr. 2, 2012, 08:06 PM
Although I have had horses since before she was born, my now ten-year-old daughter has just now expressed interest in wanting to take lessons.

When she first started out, I sat her down and said this is not something to do once or twice then give up. I needed her to be serious about it. I'm all for letting her try things, but need to know she will give it some effort. (We've already been down this road with dance, soccer, art lessons and softball.)

Thankfully I have an accommodating trainer who understands sometimes kids would rather go to a swim party with friends than get ready for a Saturday morning lesson. :rolleyes: (Oh lookie there... a private lesson for Mama! :winkgrin: )

I can't say how long she will be interested. Today I was flipping through a Dover catalog with an eventer on the cover. I asked if she would be interested in doing that someday. She said "no, I don't want to jump. I just want to walk around". I said "like just trail riding?", she said "yeah". :sigh: For now I will continue the lessons so she will be the best darn trail rider she can be.

Maybe this will change if I can find her some horsie friends. Or maybe she will become more interested as she sees me ride. Until then... I don't know.

Piatt Farms
Apr. 2, 2012, 08:16 PM
Mine started when she was 4 1/2, but she loves horses and would beg to sit in the saddle with us when we rode and then cry when we made her get off (sometimes hours later), so it wasn't a gamble for her, it was just finding the right situation.

My oldest is like your daughter. I tried SO MANY different activities with her but usually a month or so into (insert specific activity) she would lose interest and whatever deposit we put down, specific gear we bought, "30 day notice or $ is required" would end up out the window.
If you have friend that shows, maybe see if they (or someone they know) would be willing to do a series of 1 hour lessons with her once a week to the tune of $35-50 a lesson. Most "lesson" barns won't but a friend of a friend may to help gage the level of interest for your daughter. Sign a waiver so they aren't freaked out about you suing if your daughter gets stepped on or slides off the horse, etc. Learning with mom is very different for a kid than learning with a different adult figure (at least, that's been my experience).

Just my two cents mom to mom!

spacytracy
Apr. 3, 2012, 10:43 AM
The horse thing is so hard, because with things like ballet/gymnastics/soccer, etc, if they don't like it, you just put the equipment away. A horse requires a HUGE committment, and so its not just about taking the lesson and going home, if you own. Even if you do just take lessons and don't own a horse, there's still tacking up, cooling out, and taking care of your mount.

Especially when your horses are at home with you, it becomes so everyday that its not "special" anymore. My DD is around the horses all the time so its not as exciting or special. We have a mini at home that is "hers" but she isn't rushing out every day to feed him.

Its a lot to expect a small kid to do. Even at 7.

Its a balance between pushing them to do the work, and risking them resenting it, and letting them go at their own pace.

FatCatFarm
Apr. 3, 2012, 11:44 AM
Especially when your horses are at home with you, it becomes so everyday that its not "special" anymore. My DD is around the horses all the time so its not as exciting or special. We have a mini at home that is "hers" but she isn't rushing out every day to feed him.

Its a lot to expect a small kid to do. Even at 7.

Its a balance between pushing them to do the work, and risking them resenting it, and letting them go at their own pace.

Exactly! I didn't ever have the opportunity to take lessons as a child though we did have ponies/horses; I had to grow up, get married and buy my own truck and trailer first and I was HORSE CRAZY! I would climb up onto my pony's back when I was still tiny and just lay there, while he walked around grazing. My third grade teacher even complained to my mother that she thought I was too horse obsessed. All I wanted to do is ride horses and I would have LOVED to have been able to take lessons as a child, but that was just not something my parents were going to endorse. So I'm all for getting my daughter lessons at the right time.

While I was horse obsessed, my daughter is not. She is getting more into it, but I just think I want a little more interest on her part before we start spending over $100 a month on lessons. I'm okay with it either way: if she wants to take lessons and throw herself into riding and showing, great; but great too if she just wants to trail ride for fun.

Mayaty02
Apr. 3, 2012, 12:34 PM
my daughter begged and begged and I finally gave in to regular private lessons when she was 6.5. She loved it, but it wasn't until she got to a bigger barn with lots of kids her age that she became the typical "crazy horse kid". The kid interaction and fun they have together with their ponies is SO much of what will keep them interested at this age. I hear you on not wanting to make a $$ committment, but if you find her a situation where she can be around kids her age, that will more than likely keep her interested. Now at 9 yrs old, my daughter is at the barn nearly daily, showing etc and LOVES it. She hates going on vacation because she misses all the girls and ponies at the barn. it is so much different than riding at home with mommy ;)

pixie
Apr. 3, 2012, 01:27 PM
Horses are a lot of work and most kids these days are not taught how to work on a daily basis... Think chores. So if the only work they experience is in a fun activity they will not like it so much after the novelty has worn off.
Most kids do better learning in a group with other kids. That is the lure of camps. Try to find a situation that does beginner groups and she may stick with it longer than a one on one program.

shadowanne
Apr. 3, 2012, 01:28 PM
I didn't read all the responses, so I apologize for any repetition.

In our family, when a kid wants to try something, we explain about cost and commitment to that sport for a specific duration of time. Like you, most activities we did were a month commitment at a time. At the end of each month, I asked the kid if they wanted to 'renew' for the next month. My kids learned about committing to a task/keeping a promise, but they also saw an end date if their interest started to wain.

My kids all started sports at ages 4 or 5. If you are doing team sports then your kids needs to learn about commitment because others are depending on them. I think a month is not too long for a 7yo to commit to. As teenagers, their commitments are seasonal or year-long ones.

Remember, some lessons in life you pay for - not just the riding lessons, but all the other pieces that go with it.

Good luck.

pixie
Apr. 3, 2012, 01:29 PM
Also, I feel 8 is better to start them. She will learn how to ride wtc in 3 to 6 months while the child that started at 6 will only be trotting for well over a year. More bang for your buck the later you wait.

ccoronios
Apr. 3, 2012, 03:26 PM
FatCat, how about something like 4-H or Pony Club? That would get her out with other kids and listening to someone other than mom - and would place emphasis on the need for the stuff beyond riding (feeding, general care, etc.).

Carol

westie55
Apr. 3, 2012, 03:52 PM
I agree that much of the fun for kids that age is being with peers! I, too, grew up on a horse farm always having my own pony or horse and "rode" with my mom from time to time when she would make me. I never was really interested or motivated to ride much until I was 9yrs old and 2 of my friends from school started taking lessons. I begged my mom to let me go with them, and the rest is history! From then on I was totally hooked and am still going strong nearly 30 years later. My suggestion is to get your daughter some group lessons at a barn with other children her age. If she is anything like I was as a child, she will listen to and learn much better from someone who isn't mom! Around here there are plenty of barns who do lessons "a la carte" so to speak without having to buy a package (although the package does offer a discount), perhaps you can find a similar situation where you are located. It might be an added bonus if the lesson barn offers opportunities to show if and when she is interested in that.

leilatigress
Apr. 3, 2012, 04:54 PM
DD was barely 6 when we started lessons. I would have started her sooner but she just wasn't coordinated enough or focused enough (despite her insistence). She'll be 10 this year and rides 3 times a week. She'd ride more if she could figure out a way to get to the barn. She's doing Training Level this year though she's been doing the Intro tests for a couple of years.
DD loves the entire process and since she's on ponies can get them ready for herself mostly. We tried piano,gymnastics,ballet,soccer and a disastrous baseball. She's not fond of balls headed her direction though she's game for a couple of fences!

FineAlready
Apr. 3, 2012, 05:56 PM
I started at 5 years old and don't recall any problems - certainly no problems with keeping my interest! And I was NOT a kid that liked other activities at all. I can recall just absolutely SOBBING when I had to go to ballet lessons. I also hated golf lessons and tap dance lessons. Gymnastics was okay, as was tennis, but I didn't care much for either. So, like Rel6 said, maybe it is just finding the right thing, which could be riding lessons!

Oh, and, I love that your daughter has a little "helper donkey" assisting with the hoof picking.

xxreddxheaddxx
Apr. 4, 2012, 04:24 PM
I had the same commitment type issues with other sports but when I started riding lessons it was different. I was so scared of horses but kept coming back week after week and am still riding many years later. My parents made it very clear that we would try lessons for a short amount of time and then evaluate where we were and make a decision. I knew it was very time consuming and expensive but didn't know it was something I would forever love until I tried it. Best of luck!

Guin
Apr. 4, 2012, 07:16 PM
DD started lessons the spring she was five. It was great because she went once a week through the summer and fall, and then stopped for the winter when it got too cold. By the end of the summer she could post by herself. Then the next spring she started again, and continued through the winter. It was good to start in the nice weather and then take a break, I think.

poltroon
Apr. 4, 2012, 08:59 PM
4-H won't let them do horses until age 9 but Pony Club does take the younger kids.

cottonXCblondie
Apr. 4, 2012, 10:36 PM
t did gymnastics at 3, switched to tap/ballet when i was 5 and did that til i was 7, then my dance teacher died so sad, and i did cheerleading like at a gym, not for my school, which didn't even have sport teams (Catholic) but my mom pulled me out for some reason even though i loved it and i started riding lessons when i was 8 and continued through high school. i felt like that was a really good age for me. my wee one is 2 now and i'm hoping she'll be as into the sport as i was/am. i don't push it on her, i take her to the barn with me and she loves petting all of the horses and 'grooming' mine and i'll sit her on Gracie during post-ride grazing and she'll sit and hold my hand for a while.

FatCatFarm
May. 21, 2012, 01:16 PM
Well, I've tried taking my daughter on a bit longer trail rides - over an hour but easy stuff - but I'm getting complaints that they're too long, too hilly, too hot, too many flies, etc., you get the idea. Sooooo, I've just discovered that Meg Morgan of Simply Southern Eventing has set up shop just around the corner from us and is taking on children and adults, so my daughter's first lesson is Saturday and for now, will probably have a weekly lesson where my daughter goes one week and then me the next and see how it goes for a bit. Meg does have some other girls her age that are riding with her and is going to have a mini summer camp which we can hopefully swing.

tnscvaga
May. 21, 2012, 01:38 PM
In Newnan, just an FYI.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pine-Trace-Pony-Club-Re-Est-2011/155007444588863
(https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pine-Trace-Pony-Club-Re-Est-2011/155007444588863)

leilatigress
May. 21, 2012, 01:58 PM
It's more fun when they have others riding with them. DD and her troop of merry misfits ride together once a week. All the kids help each other tack up and down and the 'older/wiser' kids help the little ones. DD's pony club had a great off horse program that she learned a lot from. If you've got a good pony program I highly recommend it or 4H.
FCF, trail rides are a mixed success with mine as well. She likes to get out of the sand box but doesn't like it longer than an hour or so. I also have to be careful with her as she will dash off with the pony, reminding me way too much of myself! Thankfully pony is a sainted soul (most days) and with proper supervision we've been lucky so far.

FatCatFarm
May. 21, 2012, 02:19 PM
In Newnan, just an FYI.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pine-Trace-Pony-Club-Re-Est-2011/155007444588863
(https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pine-Trace-Pony-Club-Re-Est-2011/155007444588863)

Thanks! I've put a call into them to see what is what. I think you have to be 9 for 4H. Would love to get her involved in Pony Club if it's doable with mine and my husband's work schedule, which can be limiting for things we can't do in the evenings and on weekends.

sp56
May. 21, 2012, 02:40 PM
When children are put into sports programs at a young age, what are we really teaching them? How to work well with others, self-discipline, self-control, body awareness, how to follow instructions, and how to stick with something when it gets difficult (or sportsmanship).

Even the safest horses are dangerous. Children can learn all the aforementioned skills in dance, gymnastics, team sports, etc without involving a large and unpredictable animal. I would say that until she shows that she can follow instructions, has good body control, and can stick with something, horses should wait.

Plus, making her wait and earn something will only prove to you and her that it's not a fleeting desire.

I started riding at 12. I danced from 4-12. The skills I learned in dance (how to follow complex instructions, body control, how to work with others) all greatly helped my ability to be solid in the tack early on. I was also a very big 12 which also helped. :)

FatCatFarm
May. 21, 2012, 02:58 PM
Well we've tried soccer, ballet/tap, chorus, and gymnastics, none of which thrilled her; she does love her pony though and having grown up with horses, I think they are wonderful for teaching responsibility, balance and coordination; not to mention just being plain good for the soul. I never got to take lessons or do Pony Club as a kid but really wished I had had such an opportunity. So I'm not going to deny my kid the chance. I just got off the phone with the PTPC DC and it sounds like a great program. Thanks TNSCVAGA for pointing me in the right direction. My daughter has a wonderful pony who has proven time and again to being a very trustworthy companion for her.

Donkerbruin
May. 21, 2012, 04:49 PM
Lastly, as someone that took riding lessons from my mom, who was more than capable of teaching me...and the other kids she taught...I was a MUCH better student for non-relatives;)
good luck and have fun!

This. I never really took lessons from my mom, but when my trainer wasn't around and my mom would try to step in and coach, I wanted to lose my mind.