ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT signing up your child for horseback riding lessons? Before they get in the saddle, make sure your young, novice rider is prepared, and remember these three things:
1. BE AWARE OF THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
Brooke Harrison, a 19-year-old instructor with Rockin W. Ranch says, “Some of the most common misconceptions that parents have is one regarding the level of training and instruction that we teach. The students will progress through levels at their own rate, and the students not only learn how to ride both English- and Western-style, they will also obtain in-depth horse knowledge,” which is essential for any person who hopes to one day be a confident, accomplished rider.
As for the riders, Harrison says, “Some of the most common misconceptions of a new rider is the kind of relationship you can have with the horse and how rewarding it is.” Asking your instructor about the temperament of the horse your child will be paired with will help him or her begin (and stay) ahead of the game, and feel more at ease during the lessons, by knowing ahead of time what to expect.
2. BE SURE TO HAVE THE PROPER EQUIPMENT
According to Harrison, “The optimal attire for horseback riding is a good pair of pants, some boots with a heal, and a helmet for head protection.” Shorts should not be worn because the skin on your legs will get rubbed raw by the saddle as the horse moves. Also, do not wear open toed shoes; a metal horse shoe on a bare foot will hurt.
Helmets are a must. “Some equipment a rider will use is a helmet. While it isn’t required to have it when you start taking lessons (most establishments will provide one to begin with), a helmet is usually the first thing a rider gets of their own,” Harrison advises. Also, when buying a helmet, look for these things:
1. Be sure it feels snug, but not too tight. If it’s too tight, if might create a headache.
2. Be sure it will not flop around while you ride. If it flops around too much, it may block your vision while riding.
3. Be sure it will fasten snugly under the chin. You don’t want it to fall off while riding.
3. BE AWARE OF SAFETY PROCEDURES
This is probably one of the most important things you should study, and be informed about. When starting horse riding for beginners, safety should be your first concern. No one wants to get hurt. We’ve all heard stories of friends and family members that rode a horse and had a not so great experience. When signing up for your first horseback riding lesson, you should learn the basics in order to fully enjoy your ride. Harrison puts it this way: “To ensure the parents and the riders’ safety, we take our safety instruction very seriously. The first thing we teach our students is how to be safe around the horses. We also have two videos for the student to watch. The videos are by 4-H, and the first one is about helmet safety and why we wear helmets. The second video is about safety precautions and procedures for how to properly handle the horse. Some safety guidelines to always follow are:
1. Try not to startle a horse and always be easy with them.
2. Never feed a horse by hand.
3. Never ride alone or without someone keeping an eye on you.
4. Remember to always wear your helmet.
If you are looking for somewhere to sign up your young novice for lessons, check out the Rockin W. Ranch, owned by Kathy Grinstead, a USA-certified instructor for horse-riding lessons.
One last, very important, thing: Have fun!
story by GRACE BOGGESS