Have you been considering letting your child start horseback riding but you are just not sure whether you want to take the plunge?
Is your child obsessed with horses and constantly asking if they can go riding? But you’re just not sold on the idea yet?
Maybe you’re not sure if the benefits outweigh the risks, the cost and the time horseback riding can take. Know that there are risks and it can be dangerous if certain precautions are not taken. It can cost a good chunk of money every month to horseback ride as a hobby. And driving to a barn every week can take up some of your time.
These things being said, there are ways to make riding as safe as possible. There are ways to save money on equipment, lessons, and extra horse riding time. And any other hobby or sport would take up some time you may just have to drive a little farther if you are not close to the countryside.
Riding is amazing for kids so don’t let these obstacles deter you. There is always a way to make it work. And your child may start to make incredibly positive changes in their lives once they are a part of a horse riding program.
Here are 50 benefits of letting your child regularly go horseback riding.
- Skills learned from horses and riding can be applied outside of the horse world.
- Riding teaches leadership because the rider must lead and decide where to go, when to go and how fast.
- Horses give your child an opportunity to build a good work ethic. Riding horses is not easy and it is hard work to become good at it. Taking care of horses is also very important and takes hard work.
- Children learn to not give up. Sometimes the horse will not respond to what the child asks. Horses sometimes try to be the leader and do what they please. When the child keeps asking the horse with clear signals and the horse finally responds for example. That teaches the child to not give up but to keep at it.
- Similarly, children learn patience. Sometimes the horse or the rider is working on something that takes time and they won’t get it right away. Children need to learn to not get upset with themselves or the horse or try to force things and rush. They will get it in time and must be patient.
- Children learn empathy. Horses have feelings. How do they feel when they are being ridden nicely or when the rider is bouncing all over there back. Or when a rider has quiet hands or hands that are jerking all over the place.
- Children learn how to handle fear and have courage. There will be times while riding horses riders can feel fear and as a rider you have to learn how to evaluate whether that fear is rational or irrational and then overcome it.
- Children learn forgiveness. Horses do not always do what we want. Sometimes it can be frustrating. But the horses aren’t doing it to be bad or on purpose to hurt us. This gives children the opportunity to learn forgiveness.
- Horses can teach your child responsibility. There are more to horses than just riding. Horses need to be groomed properly, tacked up and warmed up before doing what your child may consider the more fun activities. After riding the horse needs to be properly cooled down, groomed again and put away. This is just the basics of what’s required of taking care of the horse for riding. Actually taking care of a horse and all their basic needs is much more work.
- Self control. Horses teach self control, because you can’t lose control around horses. It is dangerous, not fair to the horses and unacceptable. If a child loses their temper they should get off the horse until they have control over themselves again.
- Improve decision making skills. There are many decisions that need to be made while riding. It can be as simple as choosing to go left or right. If the rider doesn’t make the decision then the horse will. And the more the horse makes the decisions the less they will listen to their riders.
- Children learn kindness. How to treat the horse the way they would want to be treated… with kindness. They get to practice kindness when working with the horses and instructor.
- Improve relationship skills. The horses teach us relationship skills. Learning to trust one another, and use clear communication.
- Improve self awareness. What you think and how your body is in the saddle affects how the horse performs. You must be aware of your body position, your thoughts, your signals, stiffnesses, just to name a few.
- Teaches accountability. Children learn that there are consequences to actions and that they are responsible for their behavior and choices. No blaming others for choices and behaviors the child makes.
Better Life Skills
- Improved listening skills. In riding lessons, the student needs to listen to the directions of the instructor and follow through showing that they were paying attention.
- Improve self-management. Kids usually struggle with self management. But working with horses gives children the opportunity to learn how to manage on their own. Of course an instructor will help when needed, but sometimes they are left to struggle and figure out how to do it on their own for a little while before getting help.
- Improve goal setting skills. When riding horses there are always goals that can be worked toward. Horseback riding is a never ending journey toward perfection. Though it will never be attained goals can be made to work closer to it. Small attainable goals are ideal. Then when a goal is accomplished a new goal can be made.
- Focus. The kids learn better focus because they need to constantly pay attention to their horse and what they are doing. This is something lacking in society with all the digital media these days.
- Horse riding can develop into a passion for your child and a lifetime hobby. Having a hobby to fall back on to keep life interested is a great thing and a passion in life is even better.
- One day may pursue a career with horses. There are many different career opportunities with horses. Starting your child with horses young will give them a good start if they decide they want to be a professional in the horse world.
- Learn to take on and overcome challenges. Many kids say they can do it because it’s too hard. But with riding they learn how to take that attitude and change it into I will get it eventually if I don’t give up. As they overcome more challenges there confidence grows.
- The arena has letters in certain spots around the arena and if the child doesn’t know their alphabet well this is a good learning opportunity for at least recognizing the letters in the arena.
- Children learn the importance of safety. Many times kids are unaware of dangers in life and while around horses, it is so important to follow safety rules. This gives the child an awareness that yes you can get hurt if you aren’t being careful and safe around horses. The rules are there for a reason for your wellbeing and safety. This can bring awareness to being safe in life as well.
- Horse riding improves learning ability in children.
Recent research published in Frontiers in Public Health shows that the effects of vibrations produced by horses during horse-riding lead to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which improves learning in children.
The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight response and boosts heart rate, alertness and blood flow to muscles.
- Improved memory due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Riders also have to remember patterns, courses whether jumps or ground poles, as well as correct aids, riding position, the timing of aids, etc.
- Improved problem solving also due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. There are many problems that may arise during riding, whether it is a horse problem or a rider problem and the rider has to figure out ways to try to fix the problem, hence using and improving their problem-solving skills.
- Riding can help young children learn math skills. Whether it is counting the rhythm of the horse’s steps, strides to a certain spot, adding up all the poles in the arena they will go over, or cones they will weave in and out.
Improved Physical Health
- Horseback riding gets your child active and off their butts if they are not already very active. If you have trouble getting your kid to get enough exercise horseback riding is a fun way to get active.
- Improved balance. Riding is all about balancing on the horse. You don’t grip or hang on to stay on the horse, you sit in the correct riding position and balance on the horse to stay on.
- Improved coordination. You need good coordination to get a good response from the horse. Riding horses teaches faster reflexes along with improved coordination, by practicing being able to move one part of the body but keep the other parts still and also using different parts of the body at the same time doing different things. It can be tricky at first and there is a lot of thinking and awkward movement until overtime the body just knows what to do and is much more coordinated.
- Improved stamina. Believe it or not, riding takes stamina. Especially when you are trotting, cantering, doing half seat, sitting trot or jumping courses. You may notice your child huffing and puffing after several trot laps around the arena. Stamina will get better over time like with any other exercise.
- Improved flexibility. Children are usually much more flexible than adult riders. But as they get older they will start to tighten up. Also getting stronger can cause muscles to become tight. And riding makes for a stronger core and legs. Legs and hips especially get tight. There are many exercises that are done on horseback to help stay loose and to stretch important muscles. I used to teach some “Yoga on horseback” lessons, which was basically just a bunch of stretches while riding. But it helped keep the riders limber and flexible.
- Improved core strength. The rider is constantly using muscles to maintain balance and position while the horse is moving, as well as using legs and hands to signal aids to the horse. A strong core makes it easier to move as one with the horse.
- Improved leg strength. While riding muscles in the legs not normally used in everyday life get worked and many first time riders feel it when they get off, especially the following day. Just holding legs in the proper position can make the rider’s legs tired, let alone ask a lazy horse to move forward or stay up in a two-point position. So if your child needs to build some strength or muscle in their legs. Riding horses will certainly help make them stronger.
- Fresh air and vitamin d. It is good for kids to get fresh air outside and proper absorption of vitamin d which comes from the sun. Many people are deficient of vitamin d from lack of sunlight. The sun has its risks and its benefits.
- Get your kid out of the digital world. So many of us, especially including children are stuck with their noses in the computer, phone, iPad, video game consoles or whatever other digital devices are out there. It’s like we don’t live in the world outside the digital a lot of the time. Horseback riding gets kids off their phones and back into reality.
Improved Mental Well Being
- Riding horses gives your child an opportunity to make friends with other kids who share the same passion. Especially if your child joins a riding club, team, or group.
- Working with horses can help with depression. I think horses help with depression for a number of reasons. Horses don’t judge, bully, or disclude the kids. The confidence-building that comes with riding helps depression. Being outside in the fresh air and doing something instead of sitting around feeling helpless makes a difference. The fact that riding is fun helps. Exercise releases endorphins.
- Working with horses can help with anxiety. Horses can help with grounding. Horses are great at taking the mind off of the anxiety of life. The exercise helps to relieve anxiety. Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time, so focusing on your riding helps to take the focus off anxiety.
- Horse riding is fun for children. Riding horses is a bunch of fun. It is freeing. The adrenaline that can come from cantering for the first time, or jumping a course of jumps or going cross country. It is exhilarating and puts a smile on their face.
- Release excess energy. If your child has excess energy that needs to be released, riding is a great outlet. It is productive and it is exercise. If your child is very fit and energetic they may move along with their riding skills quicker than average.
- Relieve stress. Like other forms of exercise, riding is a great stress reliever. But there is something about focusing on the horse and your riding, especially when you get in “the zone” that helps relieve stress and tension.
- Feeling of accomplishment after working hard and reaching goals. This is a great feeling and
- Horses can help shy kids open up. Many kids who are shy and unsure of themselves find themselves able to open up to animals because they feel safer and not judged. Aside from making friends with the horses, they may be more open to talking if it is about horses something they really like.
- Children are naturally attracted to horses and animals. Horse riding gives children the opportunity to work with and connect with nature and animals.
- Children will build confidence. The more kids learn the more they see what they can do, how they can lead and what they can accomplish. It gives them a sense of self-worth and confidence.
- Can bring joy in a child’s life. There is something about horses and riding that brings such joy for many people. Just to see the joy in a child from being with horses is something special.
Benefits For Mom
- Horse riding can be an incentive. If your child loves horses, riding can be a great motivator to keep up with the homework, keep the room clean, and keep up with chores for some examples. Hint hint.
- You can learn to ride with your child. Riding can be a hobby you and your child do and learn together, which can help bring you closer to your child, bond and enjoy your time together even more.
Bonus Benefit 51: It can be rewarding to watch your child progress, overcome, grow and do something that they love.
Now that you see the positive reasons for letting your child enter the world of horses.
Next you’ll want to check out where to take your kid riding.
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