Horseback Riding Lessons
The benefits of horse riding lesson for kids
While sitting atop a horse may not seem like physical activity, horseback riding actually has many physical benefits. First of all, it takes balance and coordination to mount and stay atop a horse. Second, riding engages several major muscle groups, including the leg, back, abdominal, and shoulder muscles, which in turn helps you burn calories.
Horseback riding also benefits your internal organs, stimulating them much as walking on foot does (which makes it a great activity for those with mobility issues). Finally, horseback riding encourages good sitting posture, which helps reduce strain on the shoulders, neck, and back.
If your child want to get outside and enjoy physical activity but isn't much for sports like soccer, football, or baseball, consider horseback riding lessons as an alternative.
Where to Learn Horseback Riding
Horse riding lessons are generally offered by stables or horse farms. There are also available at some summer camps, and there are camps dedicated entirely to horseback riding lessons, as well.
Children generally begin with horses on lead, meaning that the instructor has control of the horse while the child learns balance, form, and basic control techniques. They then move to longe line (pronounced "lunge line"), a longer lead that allows the child to take more control but still gives the instructor ultimate control. Finally, children will ride on their own with the coach or instructor on horse nearby.
Where to Find Horseback Riding Apparel
Unless your child gets into competitive riding, you shouldn't have to invest in a lot of specialized horseback riding apparel. A pair of stretch pants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt is generally acceptable riding wear. Consider bright colors for trail riding, and make sure the clothing is warm enough. Clothing should be fairly form-fitting (loose clothing traps wind and can get caught in case of a fall) but allow for a comfortable range of motion.
Although you likely have suitable riding clothes already in your child's wardrobe (or can purchase them inexpensively), you will need to invest in a riding helmet and a good pair of horseback riding boots. Horseback riding helmets come in English and Western styles and a variety of models and colors. The most important thing is to find one that is ASTM/SEI certified, which means it is specifically designed and constructed for use in horse-related activities.
Horseback riding boots do not have a particular testing or certification process, but they do need to have specific features. Boots should have a low tread and about a 1-inch heel. High heels or thick treads can get caught in stirrups during a fall, leading to injury. While most adult boots are knee-length, children might find running-shoe styles more comfortable. These are often fairly cheap compared to traditional riding boots -- under $100 a pair.
Horseback riding helmets and boots are generally found at tack shops, though some outdoor apparel stores may have a small selection, and consignment shops specializing in horse riding gear or outdoor sporting equipment may offer gently used options at a fraction of the retail price.