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Excerpt from Cherry Hill's Horse Care for Kids

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a note to parents

There is something about a horse that is good for the heart of a child. I can remember that as a preschooler when I had the opportunity to groom and ride a horse, I did not want to wash my hands for fear of losing that wonderful smell. I encourage you to support your child's interest in horses.

The rest of my comments to you are going to sound like a bunch of dos and don'ts. They are! I hope you take my advice to heart so your child's experience will be safe and will add to the development of his or her character.

Most children who are six to seven years old have the motor skills, confidence, and attention to learn to ride a horse safely If you start your child too young, you could risk frightening him or her. Don't push your child into the show ring. Emphasize wholesome, safe fun before competition and show your child that conscientious horse care and good sportsmanship are the signs of a real winner.

Avoid the green horse/green rider syndrome. Parents often think it would be nice to acquire a foal and let the child and young horse grow up together. However, this arrangement results in a greater chance for mistakes and mishaps. A child needs an older, well-trained, patient, and tolerant horse.

Most suitable children's horses and ponies are between the ages eight and twenty or even older. Geldings are usually preferred because of their stable dispositions. It doesn't matter if a horse or pony is slightly arthritic as long as he is sound and has an exemplary temperament, very solid training, and good manners.

Cherry Hill's Horse Care for Kids

 

Horses are not people and should not be treated as people. They need to be treated as horses for their own well-being as well as for your child's safety. Your child should be taught a sensitive but realistic approach to horses. The best way for a child to develop the proper attitude about horses is to focus first on responsible care for horses.

 

Your child will need to learn many step-by-step routines for handling a pony or horse. If you are planning to teach your own child how to care for horses and ride, think it over again. Even if you are an experienced horse person yourself, it is often better for the child to learn horse care, handling, and riding in a structured program.

Look for a high-quality instructor to coach your child regularly. The 4-H or Pony Club in your area may provide such instruction. You can participate and support your child by organizing meetings, fund-raisers, clinics, and shows and let your child benefit from the group's instructors.

If there are no groups in your area, you might find a professional horse trainer or instructor who can guide your child. To begin your search, ask your county Extension agent for several suggestions and a recommendation. If you know other children who are taking lessons, ask their parents how satisfied they are with their child's instruction program. Call several of the instructors that have been recommended to you and ask how long the instructor has been teaching, if he or she is certifiied, what style of riding is taught, the cost, and the length of the lesson. If everything sounds acceptable, ask the instructor to provide you with two references. After you've checked the references, you should visit the instructor's facilities and view some lessons in progress. Do this before you entrust your child's safety to a particular instructor.

 

The more time you spend selecting the best instructor for your child, the better your child's experience will be, and the fewer problems you will have. Become familiar with the various activities available for your child and with the sources of information listed in Chapter 8.

It is essential that you become very familiar with horse behavior. I've seen several instances where a parent contributed to an accident between a child and a horse because the parent panicked, did not know what to do, and therefore either froze and did nothing or did the wrong thing. Also, stay current on your first-aid knowledge and skills. They will come in handy for your child and friends as well as for their horses.

Through all phases of your child's equestrian development, he or she needs safe clothing and tack. You will need to invest in proper footwear and headgear as well as other riding accessories. In addition, your child's horse or pony will require safe, suitable equipment for riding.

You might have heard the phrase "backyard horseman," but that doesn't mean you can keep a horse in your backyard. A small pony will need a minimum of an acre and carefully planned, safe facilities to live in.

Realize that it will probably cost at least $2,000 per year to keep a horse. This figure represents routine costs such as feed, bedding, routine vet care, and farrier care.

Being involved with horses requires an investment of time, money, and hard work. Be sure your child knows that he or she must make trade-offs in order to see that a horse or pony has good care. Sometimes it will be necessary to miss a favorite TV program or a party to take care of a horse's needs.

Depending on the age of your child, you may have to do a portion of the horsekeeping work yourself. I look on this as a bonus for you rather than a burden because caring for horses has given me so much enjoyment. You might find, as other parents have, that after you have cared for your child's horse for a while, you will want to acquire one of your own.

You should know at least as much as your child does about horse care and handling. Refer to the recommended reading list on page 112 for other books that will provide more detailed information on various subjects: training, riding, health care, hoof care, facilities, management, safety, showing, and much more.

I am so grateful to my parents for encouraging me to pursue my interest in horses. Although I didn't own my first horse until I was nineteen, throughout my early childhood my parents created many opportunities for me to learn about horses and ride them. There are many ways you can help your child have a positive and very rewarding horse experience. I hope this book helps you and your young horsekeeper on the way.

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