You would be hard pressed to find a little girl who would not be thrilled to have a pony. For some, an interest in horses is a passing fancy, eventually replaced by another hobby. For others, that first pony ride at the county fair is the beginning of a lifelong love of all things equine.
Having a horse in the family can be a rewarding experience. The therapeutic benefits of interacting with horses -- in and out of the saddle -- can have a positive impact on your child’s growth. Young horsemen and women learn personal responsibility, problem solving, self-confidence and communication skills through riding and taking care of their equine charges. It gives them a productive outlet for their energy, plenty of exercise and a greater understanding and appreciation for the outdoors.
For most budding equestrians, the first step of horse ownership is riding lessons at a local barn where your child will learn how to safely lead, groom, tack up, and ride correctly. Many barns offer young riders opportunities to participate in horse shows, giving them a taste of the rewards and challenges of creating a winning partnership with their horse.
It is in riding stables and backyard barns where the echo of “I want a pony” often begins. While riding lessons are a great intro to the world of horses and a low commitment way to gauge your child’s true interest in horses, they typically do not teach your child everything he or she needs to be a successful horse owner.
Of course bringing a horse into your family will impact not only your child’s life, but that of your family. Being a successful owner requires a great deal of time, money and a lasting commitment to the care and well-being of your horse. The keys to a long-term, successful relationship with your horse are twofold: making sure you choose an appropriate horse for your goals, skill level and resources; and having the knowledge and understanding to properly care for your horse daily.
A great source to help families prepare for the realities, joys, responsibilities and challenges of horse ownership is The Humane Society of the United States’ Horses: Companions for Life program. For potential, new and veteran horse owners, the program gives access to information and resources they need to have a long, successful relationship with their horse.