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Letting a six year old child trail ride as a first time ride?

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  • Letting a six year old child trail ride as a first time ride?

    One of my friends asked my opinion regarding her barely six year old tiny child riding a two hour trail ride for her very first time being on a horse. My gut reaction was No! I don't think I'd let my eight year old trail ride on a strange horse at a trail ride place!

    Am I paranoid?! I think a six year old doesn't have the attention span and, heaven knows, she wouldn't possess the physical ability to deal with something unexpected. One would have been to be guaranteed the Saint Trail Horse right?

    I am cautious though-my eight year old has been riding for three years and has just started jumping cross rails and I'm okay with that.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Limerick View Post
    One of my friends asked my opinion regarding her barely six year old tiny child riding a two hour trail ride for her very first time being on a horse. My gut reaction was No! I don't think I'd let my eight year old trail ride on a strange horse at a trail ride place!

    Am I paranoid?! I think a six year old doesn't have the attention span and, heaven knows, she wouldn't possess the physical ability to deal with something unexpected.

    I am cautious though-my eight year old has been riding for three years and has just started jumping cross rails and I'm okay with that.
    If I owned a 12h saint of a pony that I could pony off my saint of a horse, then maybe yes.

    On somebody else's trail string?
    HAYELL NO.

    Every time I go someplace non-horsey and tell people I ride, they say one of two things:
    1. "Do you race?"
    2. "Horses don't like me. The one time I sat on one it bucked and ran off. We were at this trail riding place..."

    There is a reason why everyone and their mother has a trail string horror story to tell.
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    • #3
      My SO's family has had their guest ranch for more than 20 years, the last 4 of which, I have been lucky enough to be apart of it. We have a livery of about 60 guest horses; however, no more than 30 of these go out, in groups no larger than 6, at any time. We keep a large number of guest horses in order to rotate them out and give them the appropriate amount of "off time."

      Our policy on children is that 4-8 year olds must ride double with a parent/guardian on one of our double-up horses - a few saints of Percherons and large QHs/Paints. Ponying a child on ANY horse is extremely dangerous, unless you have someone walking on the ground. For instance, if the adult's horse ponying the child's horse were to spook, where does that leave the kid? The kid's horse may be a saint, but now your horse has spooked and you have to devote your time to handling your horse. An adult needs direct control at all times of the child's horse without having to worry about their own horse, by either riding with the child or walking on the ground alongside. The thing that scares me the most and I can't believe people do it, is tying a rope from the kid's horse to their horse's saddle... If you fall off, your kid's horse is now tied to a loose horse... I don't think many people are that stupid, but there are a few! It makes me shudder...

      For 9+ year olds, we have some saints of horses that take them out.

      I would recommend that your friend do her research on the trail riding facility, it's merits, the condition of the horses, etc. TripAdvisor is an excellent reference.
      Southern Cross Guest Ranch
      An All Inclusive Guest Ranch Vacation - Georgia

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      • #4
        The kids I've seen riding at that age were pretty much riding en utero and were born to equestrian parents. I've seen some people take young children out "hunting" and on trail rides - there were on tiny saints of ponies and were ponied.

        my answer to the posted question - not a good idea

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        • #5
          Let's see, my first time EVER alone on a horse was a 2 hour trail ride at a rental stable and I was 4 years-old. I remember screaming because my mom's horse slobbered on my leg. We went up the mesa across and back.

          I am old school and say, who cares? I was jumping at 8 and bombing around open pastures and taking trial rides up the mountains as well. I remember another rental facility denying I could ride because I was only 8 or 9 and I threw a fit!

          I have no issues with what your friend wants and actually say, good for them! Sure one wants to try to make sure the horse is a saint and the kid is wearing the proper equipment, including helmet. But how else will children learn? Look at all the ranch kids.

          Reed

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          • #6
            That child will have one sore bottom!

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            • #7
              I was born to equestrian parents and got my first pony at 2. As soon as I could w/t and steer I was on the trail, probably 3.5-4. He was a saint of a pony (most of the time) and we were in a fairly controlled setting with trusted horses. I had ridden for 2 years by that point, so even though I was pint sized, I knew the basics and could decently control my pony. I think it is one of the best things by parents ever did. Learning to ride on the trail gave me a lot of skills I don't think I would have gotten in the ring just riding in circles.

              BUT... for the kids first ride and for two hours, I think that is a little much. Teach the child the basics in the ring then go out for 15 mins, then a little longer and work up to the two hours.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks for the replies. I think the compromise might be a little ride on our little Nanny pony so she has an idea what it is all about. That way, I'm not completely discouraging a potential little rider.

                And I believe in trail riding-just closely supervised at such a young age. That is how my youngest learned the basics-I spent hours walking and trotting her on a leadline out on the trails. She is now quite fearless and has a very solid position.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I used to work at a trail-string barn and we never had any of those horror stories that people always tell happen there. Our horses we SO saintly, you could do literally anything in the saddle and they would just keep following the horse in front of them.

                  We had a no kids under 8 policy but I KNOW people lied about that. I had a kid as young as 5 admit their age on that ride. We had horses that were 100% appropriate for them, and although it did make me a little uncomfortable nothing ever happened. Our rides were only 1 hour and the terrian was flat, flat, FLAT and soft sand (we were on the coast)
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                  • #10
                    2 hours is a bit long but if you have a safe horse and are going on easy terain and slow pace, sure
                    I was a trail guide in high school and we were in the city and took out so many brownies, cub scouts, indian princessess etc the hack horses were saints the kept their place and followed the lead horse and nothing faster than a jog, also we usually had a guide, back up and sometimes a middle person or two depending on the size of the group

                    most of the people that rode with us had never been on a horse and a place like that usually has some nice safe ones

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                    • #11
                      When staying at our ranch, you get 2 up to two hour rides a day (again, this is why we have 60 horses for up to 30 guests) and usually the kids make it at least an hour and a half and more often that not, they are sad that the ride is over by the time we get back to the barn.
                      Southern Cross Guest Ranch
                      An All Inclusive Guest Ranch Vacation - Georgia

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                      • #12
                        If the kid is wearing the right equipment & the mom feels the trail place selected a suitable mount, then why not?

                        2 hours on a trail walk is a lot different than riding the rail around a ring or the pony wheel. Kid will either want to ride more when done or never again.
                        "I'm not crazy...my mother had me tested"

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                        • #13
                          I don't think it's a big deal. My first ride was a 2 hour trail ride at 6. I've been places with the kind of horses who don't react to fighter jets buzzing you (umm.... rider getting scared and jumping far enough over to land on the ground? That happens... horses don't necessarily budge a muscle.) I've seen tons of horses who would be fine for it, especially just at a walk. I've not really known of any little kids having trouble paying attention to what's going on when going on a trail ride, or being sore even if it was for two hours. Parents? Yes, I've heard plenty of soreness complaints from parents! Is this place English or Western, and what kind of reputation do they have for how the horses behave? Nothing is ever certain, but I'd rather a kid be in a western saddle so they can hang on if necessary, and that the place be known for calm, incident-free trail rides. Of course, wasp stings still happen sometimes...
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                          • #14
                            I think 2 hours may be excessive for a 6 year old but I would not be adverse to the idea of a shorter trail ride on a suitable horse.

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                            • #15
                              My first riding experience, other than pony rides, was a trail ride at a hack stable when I was 6 -- My dad rode too, while my mom stayed at the car with my brothers -- My parents wanted me to experience riding before I did it at camp later that summer --

                              Trail rode every day for 2 weeks at camp -- I don't remember ever feeling sore -- I did get scared the first day when my horse (pony? It was a BIG palamino) turned his head around to chase a fly away -- Also remember the day we trail rode bareback because the horses were wet from the rain -- When we trotted up a hill I thought I was going to slide off the hind end

                              6 was the minimum age for campers, and I was the only 6 yo girl although there were several 6 yo boys -- I don't remember anyone falling -- Rode in western tack and never saw a helmet -- Unfortunately, I caught ringworm, so never went back to that camp --

                              One of my SILs got run away with on a hack stable trail ride when she was 8 -- She's an animal lover, and is very interested in my horses ... just doesn't like to get too close to them -- It's a shame that experience ruined it for her --

                              I don't thik it matters if the child is 6 or 10 ... a naughty pony can take advantage of them on their first ride -- I'd tell the parents if I knew of any stables to avoid, but I'm all for the 6 yo getting to trail ride --
                              "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM

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                              • #16
                                I've spent several summers working at a guest ranch where we took people out on trail rides. Our minimum age for a trail ride was 6, kids under that were led around the arena. Usually the 6 year olds would get sore/bored/hot/etc by about by hour into the ride. We almost always would pony the horse the small kid was on (the horses were all totally 'bombproof', awesome horses, we did it just to the kids didn't have to remember to hold the reins the whole time, and it kept the ponies from grazing!).

                                Anyway, a 2 hour ride seems like it would be too much, especially for a first time ride. A surprising number of 'horse crazy' kids are also scared of the horses when they actually get up close and personal with them. I think an introduction at your place with your nanny pony would be a good idea first! I hate seeing kids have one bad experience that totally turns them off of riding and horses.
                                Cascadia- OTTB mare. 04/04-05/10
                                If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever

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                                • #17
                                  I think that if the kid is keen, 2 hours would be fine. The main thing is to make it fun and interesting, stop for a drink, let pony eat, chat to the other riders, look at the view " Look! We've come all the way up from there!" "There's the sea!" We have a couple of 8 year olds who did 40 & 50k endurance rides last season , not in a hurry, mostly trotting, but they completed, and were thrilled to get a ribbon and a certificate.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I worked at a very nice trail riding stable and our policy was 8 years old to ride alone. We did not do riding double (risk of the adult falling on the child if something happens) and we did not do ponying on trails (risk of the horses spooking, etc.).

                                    We had parents that begged for their children to be allowed to ride alone, ride double, or be led and we never allowed it. We would offer a lead line lesson in the arena while the adults/older kids were on the ride.

                                    The only time we EVER allowed a child younger than 8 on the trail was if that child had taken several lessons with us beforehand and we knew they were up to the challenge.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Only if the child is Honey Boo-Boo - whoops I think she just turned 7. For a first time ride, NO but if the facility is that nuts to allow it and the parents are that nuts to allow it then what can you do.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I think it would be a bad idea for a child to ride for two hours to start out. Have her ride in a 30 minute lesson to start, take a couple months of lessons, and see how she does. I don't know many six year olds that could handle a long ride like that. and either way, I'd want someone walking with the horse or riding with the child.
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