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When Can My Child Ride A Horse

One of the most frequent questions we receive are inquiries from customers wondering the appropriate age for children to start riding.

This question does not come with a precise answer, but instead, a series of guidelines for parents to consider. Physical and emotional development coupled with the ability to follow directions are key attributes to examine when considering riding lessons for your child. Parents, knowing their children best, should proceed with guidance from skilled instructors.

Horses and even ponies are very large, and potentially dangerous animals. Before purchasing one for a child, or initiating riding lessons, it’s important that parents are prepared, and more importantly that the child is prepared.

“As in all sports, children should be able to gain confidence and some independence from being involved with horses,” says EMSA President, Deborah F. Stanitski, M.D. “Since safety is such a big issue I feel that the instructor should stress this aspect in terms of horse handling, stall safety, leading, cross-tying & finally riding.”

The following information is shared with the permission of the Equestrian Safety Medical Safety Association.

A child must never be mounted on a horse without a secured, ASTM standard SEI-certified helmet.

Your child should have:
• The desire to ride
• Muscle strength to hold the proper position in the saddle
• The ability to understand instructions and follow directions
• Sufficient attention span for instruction
• Neck muscles strong enough to support a fitted, secured certified protective helmet

The horse should be:
• Suitable for children with a quiet, calm nature
• Small enough to allow the child’s legs to be under the child’s body, and the foot reaches halfway down the side of the horse

The equipment should include:
• A saddle that fits the size of the child
• A saddle that fits the size of the horse

Then you’ll need a qualified instructor who:
• Has experience and patience to work with young children
• Has appropriate discipline and control of the program
• Teaches in a fashion to all progressive development of motor skills
• Has knowledge of riding skills appropriate for the age of the child
• Has requirement for a fitted, secured ASTM/SEI-certified headgear at all times when mounted
• Knows when a helmet is well-fitted
• Has facilities with a small closed ring away from motorized traffic, other horses and disruptive activities
• Is certified by a recognized, national equestrian instruction program that includes CPR-First Aid certification as part of its program

Did you know?
• No child should ride a horse without the appropriate skills and level of development for riding
• No adult should ride double with an infant or child

This brochure is available for downloading for personal use or distribution in horse-related activities such as clinics, exhibits, shows or meetings. For more information, please visit: www.emsaonline.net

How old did your child start riding? What are your thoughts on how old children should be?

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