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What do you think is the best age to start children?

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  • What do you think is the best age to start children?

    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?

  • #2
    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
    If you are lucky enough to ride, you are lucky enough.


    • #3
      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?


      • #4
        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.
        "To do something that you feel in your heart that's great, you need to make a lot of mistakes. Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -B.J. Armstrong


        • #5
          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.


          • #6
            My daughter started at 4, but she had long legs, otherwise I would say 6.


            • #7
              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!

              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!


              • #8
                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

                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.
                Flying F Sport Horses
                Horses in the NW


                • #9
                  I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                    I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...
                    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.


                    • #11
                      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.
                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                      • #12
                        I would say its good to start kids at around 30 - when they can pay for it themselves - LOL


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                          I think they should start learning to stand tied and be longed around 3...
                          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.


                          • #14
                            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 --
                            "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


                            • #15
                              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!
                              "Your best can be worn at any length"- Jason Mraz


                              • #16
                                I think 7 or 8 is a good age.


                                • #17
                                  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!


                                  • #18
                                    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.
                                    Cabalito https://www.facebook.com/CabalitoStallion
                                    Telynau Falcon (Section A Welsh stallion)


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by nickers@dawn View Post
                                      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!)
                                      If you are lucky enough to ride, you are lucky enough.


                                      • #20
                                        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.
                                        Different Times Equestrian Ventures at Hidden Spring Ranch