Here in the Richmond Park area we are fortunate to have a wide choice of riding schools to suit all abilities and ages for children. So whether your child is dreaming of equestrian Olympic glory or simply loves to be around horses, here is our guide on the benefits of horse riding lessons for children, and how to get saddled up and started with the right horse riding instruction.
Horse Riding - accessible for all
Horses have always played a very important role throughout our history. In fact, there is very early archaeological evidence of horses being used as transport from as early as 2000 B.C. As a nation we have had a passion for equestrianism and a love of horses. Equestrian disciplines such as dressage, eventing and jumping have featured as an Olympic event since 1912. Since then, both men and women have competed together on equal terms. Team GB have had some fantastic successes both in the Olympics and Paralympics on horseback!
Horse riding is becoming more accessible and affordable for all. Horse riding really can be for all children regardless of their age, gender, size or fitness level. It is also a fantastic activity for disabled children and young people to participate in.
Alongside its flexibility as a children activity, what other benefits does horse riding offer?
Horse Riding - The Benefits:
Riding for health
Horse riding is an activity that any child can participate in regardless of their fitness ability. From sitting correctly in the saddle, riding can help support your child’s posture and alignment. Horse riding can also help develop balance and coordination through learning the different techniques such as trotting, cantering, galloping and jumping.
The RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) are a charity with a network of 500 volunteer groups who organise horse riding and other equestrian activities. Their horses and ponies provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to people with disabilities. The health benefits here include helping to improve and develop muscle tone as well as balance and coordination.
Pampered Ponies, Responsible Riders
Alongside riding instruction, some stables also offer courses in how to care for horses and ponies. Perfect if your child yearns for a pony as a pet, but you simply do not have the room! Here children learn how to tack up, groom and muck out. All of these skills contribute towards your child feeling more responsible. It is also a useful skill in empathy by teaching them how to care for others.
Horse riding is great for getting your child outside enjoying nature and the great outdoors. Many horse riding lessons take place outside (although there are some stables that provide indoor arenas in case of poor weather). Being outside in the fresh air helps children to relax and de-stress which can help their overall wellbeing.
Did you know…
Three little horse riding trivia facts:
- Trotting or galloping at speed is the equivalent of an aerobic workout!
- There are more than 600 British Horse Society approved riding establishments across the UK and Ireland.
- The equestrian Team GB won a total of 6 medals (2 Gold and 4 Silver) in Rio 2016. Our Paralympic Team GB won a total of 10 medals (6 Gold and 4 Silver). Go Team GB!
Horse Riding - The Kit:
So your child is super keen on the idea of horse riding lessons, but what kit will you need? Horse riding is an activity where kit is very important, especially from a safety perspective. Take a look at our brief checklist.
Safety, safety, safety!
Most riding school provide riding hats and body protectors for children. Find out from your riding school what their safety procedures are and if they provide the correct kit.
Comfort is key
Make sure you child wears comfortable clothes that will not restrict their movement. However, baggy or loose clothing isn’t advised, as it can be off putting for both pony and rider.
Stirrup in style
Riding boots are preferable but if not children should wear shoes or boots with a small heel. This gives better control in the stirrups.
Don’t let rain stop play
It might be worth investing in a waterproof riding jacket for your child. This will come in handy if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Horse Riding - Three top tips to consider:
Finding the right school
A great starting point is to find a riding school that has been approved by either the British Horse Society or Riding for the Disabled Association. This will give you the confidence that the riding school has a high standard both in safety and horse/pony care.
Horse riding lessons should be fun, safe and progressive. Find out what lessons the riding school offers. Do they have lesson plans for example that cover different areas of riding and horse/pony care? Having a solid structure of lessons will help towards boosting your child’s confidence, especially if they aren’t particularly used to being around animals or horses. If might be useful to ask the riding school if you and your child can watch a lesson in action so you both understand what to fully expect. This is particularly useful for absolute beginners.
Get kitted out!
Purchasing riding equipment can be expensive, so make sure that your child is fully committed to learning to ride before buying their own. Check with the riding school to find out what essentials you might need to buy such as riding boots, jodhpurs or safety equipment (riding hat, body protectors). It might also be worth asking the riding school for advice on where you might be able to buy second hand equipment safely to save additional cost.
Horse Riding - How to get involved:
Some riding schools will take children as young as three years old for lesson. But usually most prefer children to be of school age, around five or six years of age. Check with your instructor. Horse riding lessons start in small groups or can also be booked as private one-to-one lessons (these usually work out as more expensive).
All of our top three local recommendations for horse riding schools are British Horse Society approved.
Barnfield Riding School is a friendly riding school based near Kingston. They teach riders of all ages and abilities and offer lessons in one of their two floodlit arenas. Children horse riding lessons with Barnfield are all about having fun as well as improving your child’s riding. Whether you choose private, group or lead rein riding lessons, there is something for everyone. As an official Pony Club centre, pony mad kids can learn all about looking after ponies, and take part in regional and national competitions. Barnfield also has an active Riding for the Disabled group who provides lessons for schools during term time, and they also run individual 1:1 lessons for children and adult riders with physical and learning disabilities.
Kingston Riding Centre has a 70 year history. Here children can start their love of ponies and horses from an early age. Pony rides can start from 2½ years of age. Children aged 5 onwards can continue to learn through lead rein lessons and flat lessons which take place in their outside arena. The centre also offers Pony Club along with Stable Management and Helper Courses for kids wanting to get more involved with the stables and ponies themselves.
Stag Lodge Stables have been a riding establishment since the 17th Century and has a rich equestrian history. Stag Lodge stables cater for children from three years of age right up to sixteen years who want to try more challenging equestrian disciplines such as jumping. Their popular Pony Week courses take place during school holidays and they also hold Pony Club meetings every weekend.
So if horse riding seems like the perfect after school activity for your children, the next step is to get organised and review your family calendar. We help take the stress out of organising after school activities for the kids by searching and planning your children's activities so you don’t have to. To find out more sign up on our Parents' page.