A Child's Safe Start to Horseback Riding
Make sure your child gets a safe introduction to ponies -- here's
By Jayne Pedigo
from Equisearch.com

The way in which your child is introduced to ponies and riding
may remain an influence well into his or her adult life. A safe, fun
experience will probably result in a life-long love of horses and
riding, but one scare can put a child off for life. It is, therefore,
essential to ensure that the first equestrian experience is both
safe and enjoyable.

Your child may indicate an interest in learning to ride because a
school friend has recently started lessons, or has a new pony
and has some exciting and interesting tales to tell. Or there may
have been an interesting movie on television which sparked an
interest in riding. In my own case, my uncle bought a horse for
my cousins when I was about eight and after one ride around
the field, I was hooked.

The best way to make sure that your child has a positive
experience is to do plenty of homework first.

Check around your local area and seek out lesson barns and
instructors that teach children.
Check in the Yellow Pages.
Ask at the local tack store.
Check local online resources that maintain directories of lesson
barns etc.
Visit the stables before booking any lessons.

It doesn't have to be state of the art, but it should be neat and

There should be some kind of fenced riding arena or school in
which lessons are conducted
There should be a variety of lesson horses, of all sizes, suitable
for beginners.
The horses should appear clean and in good health.
The tack should be in good repair. It doesn't have to be new, but
dirty, crusted tack should send up a warning flag!

Watch some lessons to get a feel for the instructor's style.
Does the instructor get on well with children?
Does she emphasize safety?
Is she a good teacher? Does she get her point across so all
students can understand?
How does she react when things go wrong?

Talk to the parents of some of the other students at the stables.
Would they recommend the stables/instructor?
Are they pleased with their child's progress?

Most instructors offer a course of lessons at a set price. Setting
up a short course of lessons will help you and your child decide
whether riding is going to be something they want to stick with.
If they really like it, you can book more lessons.

The age at which your child starts riding can vary, depending
on the child's size and maturity. Generally, however, most
instructors require children to be at least seven years old before
accepting them into a lesson program.

A reputable instructor will require that your child wear a
protective helmet from the very first lesson. Ask if the instructor
has helmets that students can borrow for their early lessons.
Once you know that your child is going to continue riding, it's
advisable to go to the local tack store and get an approved
helmet for your child.

The first lesson will ideally be a private lesson and will cover
such things as the correct way to approach the pony, leading
and working around the pony safely, mounting and
dismounting, position etc. Children that are old enough will
probably be taught about grooming and tacking up too.

Early riding lessons will be on the lunge line or lead line and will
cover skills such as maintaining position at the walk, the basic
aids to turn and to stop the horse and exercises to enhance
balance and confidence. Once the child can apply the basic aids
to stop and turn, lessons will be conducted in an arena or other
confined area, allowing the child to practice and hone those
skills and learn new ones, such as rising to the trot, in relative

Once the child is confident and capable at the very basics, some
instructors like to group two or more children together in a
group lesson. Group lessons introduce the element of friendly
competition, as the children each strive to do their best in front
of their class mates and cheer each other on as they learn a new

Some stables run informal "Schooling Shows" or play days
where the children can enter competitions on the school
horses. Even beginners can enjoy these shows, entering walk
and trot classes and having the chance to win a coveted ribbon.
More experienced riders can compete in games and jumping
classes. Some of my earliest ribbons were won at these types of
shows in England, in classes such as "Best Child Rider" (hard
to imagine that now!) and "Peter Pan Jumping" (nothing over 18
inches high).

Children can gain so much from riding lessons. They learn
patience, compassion for another being, responsibility,
sportsmanship and a lot more. And, as I mentioned earlier, they
can result in a life long passion for horses and the enjoyment of
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
Woodland Horse Center
301 - 421 - 9156
Riding Stables
Woodland Horse Center is dedicated to the preservation of
the art and sport of riding and welcomes you to come and
enjoy the opportunity to ride. The Center is located on a 25-
acre estate eight miles north of the Capital Beltway.  It is
easily accessible from Montgomery, Howard and Prince
George's Counties.

Woodland has been serving our community for more than 30

Woodland's facilities include:
  •  lighted outdoor ring
  •  dressage ring
  •  indoor ring
  •  fields for riding
  •  convenient trail system

Woodland has a complete program of equestrian
activities for its students:

Our grooming and working student programs are for riders of
all ages who want to learn more about grooming, tacking and
working around a barn. Students in these programs earn
extra riding time.
Here is where you can find us
FREE Trial
every Sunday,
1 pm
Read about Liz's
riding lesson
experience from
her Dad's
fun at Summer
Camp?  Why not
have equestrian
fun all year long?

Join our
amazing after
school program,

Registration is
we get started
September 2nd.