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When is a rider too young?

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  • When is a rider too young?

    Just pondering this thought....

    When is a rider just too young/small to ride?

    This weekend I watched a 4 year old jump a 2 foot hunter course complete with verticals and oxers. Pony was a real packer. But people were stationed all around the ring to remind the rider where to go, including the reminder to trot the closing circle. I watched with mixed feelings of "omg that is so cute" to "omg if anything happens I dont think that rider is going to have a chance of recovering".

    We are talking about animals. They all have potential to have their moments. Do you think this is safe? Should there be limits to how old you should be before you can do a jumping class?

  • #2
    I personally don't see the point of pushing a child to jump courses when they really aren't even doing it themselves. It seems to just be a "cute" thing that makes the pony look good, IMHO. If the kid can't remember the course or what to do in general, what's the point?

    In terms of safety, assuming the mount isn't HUGE, the tack is well fitted for the rider, and the child isn't getting totally whipped over each fence, then I don't see much of an issue. If the child looks like they're holding on for dear life while St. Pony canters around, then yes, that's a problem.


    • #3
      That scares me. My daughter took a lesson from my trainer when she was 4.5... just for giggles. I think the most she did was trot in hand. One thing that hit me is that she did not have the strength to really control herself or the pony yet. So I made her wait until 6.5 to start lessons since she had adequate body control along with the fact that her legs were long enough to grip the sides of the pony LOL.


      • #4
        My barn has a student that is 7 years old but she has been riding with us since she was 3. She quickly learned how to trot and post, and has jumped little cross rails (the pony just trots over them doesn't even jump) but she still cannot canter. She is so tiny and just doesn't have the strength in her legs that she needs. I think so myself all the time while watching her, "If that pony does anything wrong, she's off."


        • Original Poster

          I think what bothered me the most was the physical development. She was just tiny. I cant imagine she would have the strength or awareness to react as needed to get herself out of trouble.

          Heck, I know some adults that have that issue!


          • #6
            As a mom of two riders who both started lessons at five, I think that is too young although it can be so adorable! They are dealing with a six hundred lb plus animal. Yes, they may be on packers but packers still sometimes trip, spook and accidentally take the long one. I know my heart was in my throat when my nine year old first cantered in the show ring.

            My old trainer told me that when the wee ones get scared, it takes a very long time to get their confidence back. I believe that.

            Just my opinion and I have been called a "cautious adult!"


            • #7
              my son will be 5 next week and i cant even begin to imagine letting him jump or even canter or for that matter trot on his own. even if i had a tiny tiny perfect pony. its still a large animal and anything can happen, kids are too young and just not strong enough at that age. my son does take pony rides on my old quiet gelding, and walking is fine for now, i would lead him at a trot but he doesnt yet want to. but no way would i ever let go of my gelding even if he was 12hh instead of 16.3hh. until a month ago i wouldnt even let him on my horse without someone walking by his side with a hand on him lol.

              4 year olds jumping courses is not cute its dangerous.


              • #8
                I think the "guideline" should be when they are in "control of their mount"!! I'd be scared whitless to watch even, someone else's 4 year old riding a course of jumps...but I tend to be conservative. "Cute" and "dangerous" should not appear in the same descriptive sentence, IMO!!! A four year old can't have the muscle or coordination possible to react to an "oh sh** moment/mistake" which we all know CAN happen. Parents better have good health insurance.
                Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                • #9
                  That pony is certainly a keeper!! I also think she is way too young. I wouldn't even be letting her jump anything either. If she could do the course on her own then maybe by 10 years old, on that same good pony!!


                  • #10
                    I teach beginner riders at a well established H/J program. I have kids as young as 5. They ride once a week, some every other week. As far as lesson horses go, ours are very good, however they are all shapes and sizes and kids ride different horses each week.

                    It is *really* hard for kids under the age of 6-7 to really progress. They just don't have the strength, body control, ability to focus.

                    Now fast forward to 8 or 9 and suddenly they are that much bigger and that much stronger, able to concentrate, listen, process, and anticipate. And suddenly they start to progress a lot quicker.

                    I think the kids that age who are riding independently and doing it pretty well are kids who are on very appropriate horses and getting instruction every single day, for 20-30 minutes at a time.

                    Otherwise, IMO weekly lessons for a 5 year old is really a lot of money for just a glorified pony ride.
                    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                    • Original Poster

                      Well, I'm glad to hear most of you feel this is not ideal. Mom is a trainer, so I thought maybe this was normal for those in the industry to throw their progeny in the ring this early.


                      • #12
                        Too young, IMO. I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter. We have horses and ponies, she shows leadline blah blah (I don't push her, she asks to ride and groom). She trots and posts. I can't imagine having her jump courses.
                        Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                        • #13
                          What chance would a teeny little 4 yr old have if a pony, even a saintly one, tripped?

                          IMO it sounds like the equestrian version of Toddlers and Tiaras, with the added twist of potential physical harm.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                            What chance would a teeny little 4 yr old have if a pony, even a saintly one, tripped?

                            IMO it sounds like the equestrian version of Toddlers and Tiaras, with the added twist of potential physical harm.
                            ^^^ Yup. I'll share my "why horse women should not produce" story (just kidding). I help my trainer from when I was little (still) show in HB every year. She has seen my practice, working with the young horses and has seen a few shows that are down the street from my parents (who jump at the chance to watch her during baby season).

                            My dear daughter got off riding her mini and goes "Look, I'm Mr. Francis" in the blink of an eye and tries to jog off with Dear Mini. Dear Mini says "oh HELL NO" and plows into dear toddler, send her splaying accross the ring.

                            No harm to foul. She was fine, mini was fine, she got back on mini. I'll admit it, when it first happened, I burst out laughing (she was clearly fine b/c she was yelling at the pony). Bad mommy.

                            Point- they are animals. Don't underestimate them. No more in hand for dear daughter for a bit...
                            Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                            • #15
                              I am a trainer and have a daughter and an awesome pony. Just check out my other threads to see videos of the pair.

                              My daughter will be 6 in December, and she can w/t around the ring, trots ground poles, and canters on the line. She has shown leadline, w/t on the lunge line divisions, and one show in a w/t one at a time division. It is important to note she is not as gutsy as I was at her age, so I choose not to push her and let her progress as she wants.

                              I say this without judging others, just making observations: a few trainers in my area have kids of almost similar age. One is a little ahead of my DD, the other is doing things my daughter won't be allowed to do until she is 10. Of the three, the one riding and showing at a "higher" level does not have as good a position as the others who have progressed slower.

                              I read on an online parenting site that said enrolling your child in sports, dance, etc prior to age six really does not give them an advantage over others enrolled later, as kids under 6 don't have the awareness, strength, or controll to make that much progress. The study showed kids who were introduced at 6 caught up to the "over acheivers" very quickly.

                              As a trainer and a parent, I can agree with that statement. My DD's riding is getting exponetially better now that we are almost 6....like she is coming into her own. Prior to that, we just kept it fun and worked on her overall position. But then again, she ain't no evil knievel.
                              Hunters, Jumpers, & Welsh Ponies
                              All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown


                              • #16
                                I'd agree that they need some strength and stability to control the mount first. I see nothing wrong with leadline classes or teaching the very basics like how to use the reins properly, etc, at a young age, but allowing them to be completely autonomous is kinda seeking disaster.

                                Getting them used to being around horses and knowing appropriate behavior around horses is a great idea. Letting them do a jumping course, not so much, IMO.


                                • #17
                                  I rode for the first time at three, and was cantering by myself at four. I was barrel racing shetland ponies around 7, and switched to jumpers at 8. After doing that for a bit, I rode dressage seriously for a while and evented. Then I went back to jumpers and have stayed here happily for the past several years. At fifteen I acquired my second horse, Super Talented Mental Case TB, who I retrained and recently moved up to the juniors. Unfortunately our move up plans for What Comes Next After Juniors have been sidelined since I'm currently lame.

                                  My trainers and parents all let me go at my speed and never pressured me to do anything, I just wanted to and when I was ready, they allowed it. If the parents and trainer are fine with it and the kid is appropriately mounted, I don't see the problem.
                                  Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                                  • #18
                                    This weekend I watched a 4 year old jump a 2 foot hunter course complete with verticals and oxers. Pony was a real packer. But people were stationed all around the ring to remind the rider where to go, including the reminder to trot the closing circle.
                                    Well, I've seen that happen with lots of grown up folks!

                                    If the kid was able to steer where he wanted and do whatever people were telling him to do, then I think the kid and the pony were good enough to be in the class.

                                    It really depends on the kid. I find it quite young but on the other hand, was the kid enjoying his ride and having fun?
                                    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                    Originally posted by LauraKY
                                    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                    HORSING mobile training app


                                    • #19
                                      My tiny just turned 7 yr old rides her pony about 4 times a week. I'm always in the ring with her. She hasn't quite mastered her diagonals yet.....but almost. ( forgets to check if she switches direction or pony coughs or something). She has knots in her reins because even at 7 she has a hard time keeping her reins the proper length. She does jump tiny crossrails.
                                      To me....It's more important to master each skill level properly before moving on to the next. So, until she has her diagonals 100% and can keep her reins the proper length 100%....and seems confident and secure and almost bored....she will not be cantering or jumping anything more than crossrails.
                                      I have also seen little kids at shows that I feel are in classes above their level.
                                      Drives me crazy to see kids with their feet all the way in the stirrups and leg swinging back and forth. It doesn't look " cute" to me.


                                      • #20
                                        [quote=Pennywell Bay;6538452
                                        Point- they are animals. Don't underestimate them. No more in hand for dear daughter for a bit...[/quote]

                                        It's true isn't it? Everything goes well for a long time and we (I include myself as I have a riding kiddo) get a little complacent and then a little incident happens and we are sharply reminded: small child v pony....no contest!