No matter how well-trained or well-broken your horse is, the fact remains that it’s an animal. Never take your child’s safety for granted around horses. If you have a passion for equines, your kids must share the same love for them. And while it’s great to pass on your passions to your kids, you also need to teach them how to stay safe around horses.
Everything about caring for a horse including approaching, saddling, feeding, grooming and tying should all be done with extreme care. Kids are keen observers, so what you do and teach matters a lot. So, make sure you teach them by giving physical demonstrations. Here’s what your basic safety training should cover when teaching your kid to stay safe around horses.
Child Safety Around Horses While on the Ground
Kids are always excited while approaching an animal. Although that’s appreciable in some cases, this can be a huge mistake if the horse freaks out.
Make sure every time your kid approaches the horse; he or she is accompanied by an adult. With that said, here’s a detailed breakdown of the different aspects of child safety on the ground.
Help your kid understand a horse’s vision as well as its blind spots. Startling or surprising a horse while it is grazing or sleeping in the barn can result in an unfortunate accident. Always make your presence felt by announcing your arrival. A simple, soothing hello will put the horse at ease.
Building trust is also very important when your kid is approaching a new or unfamiliar horse. Also, it’s better to ask the owner of the horse if it’s social enough to be approached by strangers. Never approach a horse from its blind spots – in front of the eyes and directly behind them.
If not from the blind spot, which part is the safest to approach a horse? Well, teach your kids to approach the horse from the side. This way, you are not standing in its blind spot, and it can clearly see you during the whole process. This should help you avoid startling your horse unnecessarily.
Teach your kids to be Alert all the Time
Horses are as fast as they are powerful. So even if it’s an old horse that your child is familiar with, you need to stress the fact that he or she needs to be alert all the time when they are near the animal. These basics things matter, like while caring for your horse and checking its hooves, never sit on the ground, but squat. Letting your guard down around horses can result in accidents.
While training your kids, teach them the horse’s body language, so they can detect any changes in the mood and be on their guard.
Leave the horse alone at Feeding Time
One of the most important things to teach your kid is to leave the hose alone while feeding time. Horses have their own routine, and they are pretty possessive about their food. Your horse can mistake the kid as a herd-mate, and in the name of protecting its food, it can injure the child. Let your kids measure the ration and fill it in feeding buckets, but no more than that until he or she is old enough to understand the risk involved.
Turning Away From the horse
Teach your kids never to turn their back towards the horse. Horses have a playful nature, and they might take this as a sign to play and chase the kid. Turing away your back also puts the horse in your blind spot. Instead, teach your kid to back away slowly while facing the horse.
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Child Safety While Riding a Horse
Every horse lover wants to pass the passion for riding down into their kids. However, it’s not exactly safe to let your child ride a horse with no guidelines whatsoever.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of child safety on a horse.
Never leave your kid unsupervised near a horse, whether in the saddle or on the ground. This applies to your well-broken as well as trained and mature horses as well. No matter how much you trust the horse with your child, don’t leave them unsupervised.
Teaching your kid to buddy up while riding will help him understand that he needs a backup in case any accident occurs. Don’t let him think that you aren’t confident in him, but rather teach him that this is a safety precaution.
Explaining the importance of proper equipment is vital for teaching your kid how to ride. From hard-toed shoes to a helmet, everything should be in place. Make sure your kid’s horse riding helmet meets all safety standards and that it fits snugly.
Tacking equipment should be well-maintained; an extra tight back cinch can make the horse irritated and cause it to act out. This can be dangerous for the child. Explain proper bridling and saddling rules to your kid, or appoint a professional instructor to do so. Also, teach your kids how to maintain and look for signs of tack wear and tear that can lead to an unnecessary accident.
Preparing The Horse For Mounting
An overexcited horse is not a good option for a child. Before you allow your child to mount a horse, make sure it has been evaluated as safe-to-ride by an expert. Overfeeding, as well as a lack of exercise, can result in excess energy that can lead to accidents. Before letting your kid mount the horse, give it a good run to take the edge off.
Mounting should always be done under vigilant supervision. Also, the child should never mount the horse near low overhead projections. Teach your kid to maintain firm contact with the reins while mounting the horse. An adult is also required to keep the horse steady while the child mounts it. Confidence is the key while your kid is in the saddle; you can teach your kid everything, but the confidence comes from within.
Horses can smell fear; a horse only feels confident if the handler is confident. Paying attention, sitting alert in the saddle and never losing your focus are the ways of riding a horse. Riding is a fun activity that takes a lot of concentration. Tell your kid always to keep his or her feet in the stirrups while on the horse.
Having a Proper Saddle
All of your safety tips will mean nothing if the saddle doesn’t fit. Always get a proper saddle that not only fits your child but also fits your horse snuggly. Many people make the mistake of buying bigger saddles for kids, expecting the child to grow into it; this is not a safe practice and can result in an accident.
Child Safety in Daily Chores
Apart from mounting, approaching and saddling a horse, you need to teach your kid how to accomplish daily chores in a harmless way. Child safety with horses doesn’t end with riding and saddling, but extends to feeding as well as grooming the horse.
The two most important chores that need full attention from your child are feeding and grooming. Any child who wants to become a professional rider needs to learn these two routines. A child shouldn’t feed a horse without adult supervision.
But that doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t feed the horse at all. In fact, doing so can establish mutual trust between your child and the horse. As kids learn from example, demonstrate horse feeding by offering treats like carrots, apples or sugar lumps in the flattened palm of your hand. Horses bite, it’s how they act cute and playful, so teach your child never to let fingers get in the way of feeding. To be extra safe, teach your kids to offer treats in a bucket.
As for grooming, keeping close contact while grooming is extremely important. Daily grooming builds a bond that encourages the kid and the horse to trust each other. While grooming the feet, the child needs to be mindful as the horses are often careless about where they step.
Teach your kid to squat to inspect under the hooves and never relax and let their guard down. Squatting helps them jump away quickly if need be. Meanwhile, sitting in a relaxed position may slow down their reflexes and put them at a risk of injury.
Quick Tips for Child Safety Around Horses
- Teach your kids through example; what they observe and see practically stays with them longer
- While selecting a horse for your child, keep in mind your child’s size as well as experience level
- Never slack or lose attention when your child is near the horse
- Treat your kids for following the rules, just like you would for a horse. Similarly, tell them that there will be consequences when the rules are broken
- Hire an instructor for your kids to help them learn better.
Even the calmest, mature and well-trained horse can act out. As a horse rider, your child should be aware of that and should know how to act in such situations. Making safety a habit can save you a lot of trouble when your kids are learning basic horse care and riding.
FAQs About Child Safety Around Horses
Although we’ve tried covering everything on child safety around horses, there are a few questions that we routinely get asked by our readers. We’ll be answering them in this section.
Is horse riding safe for children?
Yes, horseback riding is safe and beneficial for children. All you need to do is to make sure your kid has a professional instructor and he or she is following all the safety guidelines. It really matters how a kid has been introduced to a horse or a pony because this initial contact will play a huge rule in making them a confident rider.
Teach your kids to ride, and it will help them become more confident and focused as well as increase their coordination and strength.
At what age should a child start riding?
A child can start riding between the age of 4-6 years. However, the exact age will vary from child to child as environmental factors and individual ability play a key role in defining when the right time is for a child to start riding a horse.
To ride a horse independently, a child should be able to have complete control over their body. This means that if you ask them to move their right leg, they move only their right leg while on the horse. Some children can do that when they are 6 while many others won’t be able to do so until 8 or 10.
There are mini-camps available for as small as four-year-old kids. These camps appoint proper instructors to teach your kids to ride safely. If you’re considering teaching your child how to ride a horse, then we’d recommend you hire a proper trainer for that.
Do horses like children?
Horses love kids and are very docile animals. But that doesn’t mean that horses can’t potentially harm children. At the end of the day, horses are animals and probably won’t be able to tell if a child is being hurt or if it’s in danger.
Teaching your kid safety guidelines will make him confident and trusting, and as horses take their confidence from a firm and strong handler, it’s important that your kid feels confident around his horse.
How to select a horse for a child?
You need to keep the following things in mind while selecting a horse for your child. To start off, choose a docile horse that has no desire to run. This will keep your kid safe. It doesn’t have to be pretty or fast, just reliable. Buying from a reliable breeder is very important. When buying, you should prioritize a horse that has already been exposed to kids.
When buying a horse for kids, its temperament matters the most. Make sure the horse can handle kids as well as you expect it to. If you have more than one kid, make sure the horse is social enough to handle the crowd as well.
How dangerous are horses?
This is a very broad question; however, a horse is a good-sized animal that is pretty powerful. From its hind legs to its strong jaws, a horse can be very dangerous when it wants to be. Hence we stress upon the importance of child safety around horses.