5 June 2023
What is the best age to learn horseback riding? At what age can children start riding lessons? What is the best age to start teaching children to ride? These are questions you may be asking as a parent - if so, read on for some answers.
Horseriding is again growing in popularity, and the internet is full of questions from parents and carers keen to get their kids started. After all, horseriding is a skill that carries many benefits for the rider, both physical and mental.
As a form of physical exercise, it provides cardio training, develops better posture, strengthens the core and legs, and improves reflexes.
Mentally, horseriding helps to reduce stress, engages the brain (balance, coordination, timing, and spatial awareness), improves confidence, and increases self-esteem.
With so much going for horseriding, why wouldn’t you want your children to get started as soon as possible?
Well, unfortunately there is no definitive answer to when to start. It just depends. (Aaargh, I hear you cry!)
Yes, it depends on the individual: the individual child, the individual horse, the individual parents, the individual riding centre…and so on.
Surprisingly, there is no official guidance on the minimum age for horseriding.
Meanwhile, The Pony Club, an international organisation created to promote an interest in horseriding activities under 25s, says, “There is no national minimum age to join The Pony Club, although some Branches/Centres may have their own lower age limit depending on what they offer.”
Realistically, most horseriding centres offer lessons from ages 5 to 6 (although some take children from 4 years old). They will generally tell you that this is for insurance purposes, as horseriding is, after all, considered a ‘high-risk’ activity, and Young Rider policies don’t tend to start much before 5 years old.
Also, from about 4 years old, children will be getting used to school attendance, routines, rules, and regulations and be more accepting of authority from a teacher or instructor that isn’t mum or dad. Their world will constantly be expanding and growing beyond the boundaries of home and family.
Be aware that early lessons may expect parents/carers to remain on the premises, at least in the beginning.
There’s no escaping the fact that we are all individuals from the moment we are born. We are all different sizes and shapes at different ages and stages of development. We are naturally good at some things and not so good at others. Some will have natural balance and coordination; others will have talents elsewhere. Some will be terrified at going anywhere near a horse; others simply can’t wait!
These, and many more factors, will influence when your kids are ready to start horseriding, and the person that knows your child best, is you.
Of course, the environment matters. A child that has been brought up with horses and influenced by horseriding parents, siblings, cousins, etc., will be more likely to develop an interest in the equestrian world and to copy their version of ‘normal.’
As part of the decision-making process, it’s worth mentioning the costs involved for lessons, hacks, helmets, footwear, for the kit in general.
One child might be affordable, even two - but what if you have 4 that all want to take up horseriding?
What age can kids start horseriding?
The answer is, there is no answer! Not a definitive one, anyway.
Do your research. Speak to horseriding centres, visit a couple with your child and talk with instructors. Be realistic about your child’s capabilities and maturity.
There is, after all, no rush to ride.