Let’s Discuss: Is Age only a Number?

With age on the mind, I got thinking about the irony of spending my birthday playing with a Barbie Dream Horse and watching Beauty and the Beast.. at 30, not 3. Will the horse obsession ever end? Probably not.

But let’s talk about how the horse obsession gets started. I personally started riding at the age of 4, and showing in W/T classes at 5. Luckily the environment I grew up in meant that horse-sense was something that was learned quickly, so maybe this age was appropriate for my personal entry into equestrianism. Maybe? Maybe not?

Is 4 or 5 the right age to start riding? What about even younger? I know I can’t be the only one who has seen ISO ads for riding ponies for their 1/2/3 yo children. And while I personally cringe to think of a toddler trying to balance themselves on the backside of even the most saintly pony, it happens.

And what about showing? Sure, leadline classes with assisted balance by a responsible adult are open to just about anyone- but what about your more typical show? Walk trot equitation classes, or even dressage tests? Are the expectations of actual competition too much for tender ages? And what about the interaction with other older competitors, in the warm-up as well as in relation to how a young child scores compared to more mature riders? Should judges take into consideration a rider’s age when judging them in competition? Or no?

What do you think? Is there a good age to expose children to the occasionally rough-and-ready world of horses? How should equestrianism and its many responsibilities be introduced to youngsters? What age were you when you started riding? What age is appropriate for starting to show or ride beyond the safety of the barn? 

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7 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Is Age only a Number?

  1. I rode any horse that someone would let me sit on until I finally got my own at 14. I started formal lessons at 11 or 12. As a mom it is a totally different world when your own kids start riding! Both of my kids did not really start riding on their own until 5 (they are now 11 and 7). We like to trail ride as a family and they both can ride 2-4 hours at a time (we do not force them to ride). This past Sunday we dropped my son and his pony off at 4H horsemanship camp for the week!

  2. I started riding at 5, at a great riding camp. I took weekly lessons until high school, with some extra riding in exchange for chores. I think my first show was at around 7, on a huge but saintly horse that piloted me around crossrails like a boss. I first fell off right around then, too.

    By the time I hit 10-11, I really wanted to have my own horse and be more heavily involved like the other girls my age at the barn. I think having my own horse could have really helped me learn a lot more earlier, but starting so early definitely helped me develop a lot of confidence and common sense around horses. That is an invaluable lesson.

  3. I didn’t start until I was 11, but my husband was in front of the saddle/being led as soon as he could hold on. We require kids to be 5, or be able to answer some questions (right,left, directions etc.) before they can be in our program officially. My daughter sits in the saddle for all of 20 seconds before *squirrel!!* she sees something else, so I’ll be waiting until she tells me she’s ready.

  4. Interesting notion. I’ve heard of people going pony crazy for their toddlers then the kid doesn’t even care for it as they grow up. Or sometimes they are hooked from the beginning. I’ve also heard of people withholding riding from their kids to make sure the kid really wanted to do it. Hard to know.

  5. When I worked at horse camps, the requirement was that kids had to be able to tell their left from their right before they were allowed to ride.
    As for comps, I dunno, I think it depends. I didn’t compete in my first horse show until I was 22!

  6. I got my first horse at age 40. Started my daughter riding at age 7. I wish I had started sooner because there is so much that I don’t know about horses and riding that the younger people in the barn seem to just intuitively know how to do. Plus there’s the whole “I know I don’t bounce like I used to” thing so I’m more careful and so am not advancing in the jumping as I’d like. Oh, and time is a factor – my daughter is my third child so mom duties take up riding time. Really wish I had started younger when these things weren’t a factor. My daughter loves it – no fear, just joy.

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