The Benefits of Horse-riding for Children
Updated: May 1, 2019
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel”
As a teacher, I am privileged to see children thrive in many different contexts. As a self-confessed horse-nut, there is nothing better than seeing children interacting with horses.
Learning 'to ride' is scratching the surface of what children are being exposed to during a lesson.
Here are some of the highlights of the important learning moments that happen in just one hour.
At the first touch of the pony for the hour, student’s faces light up with awe. Children demonstrate an amazing ability to listen well to new instructions, often picking up this new information after one demonstration. The importance of remaining calm around your pony, rewarding him for all of his correct answers, ensuring he is cared for in a kind and respectful way is key to good horse training. I know as both a mum and a teacher my biggest desire for the next generation is KINDNESS. What better way to teach this than with an animal that needs our kindness for a better existence.
Handling horses and riding them often requires remembering a sequence of steps. No easy task for young children. With scaffolding through step-by-step instructions however, it is fantastic to see children being able to not only follow these steps, but coordinate their body to physically perform them. Most of us know how hard it can be perfecting a physical skill (perhaps talk to a golfer?) What horse riding gives its young rider’s is something special: balance, core strength, motor planning, improved reflexes, improved cardio, strengthened muscles.
Even when students find something hard, they show an amazing resilience towards their learning. For instance, one of my students was super eager to trot like she had seen in ‘Free Rein’. We had a little trot and she was surprised at how fast it was. After a short moment in walk and a little encouragement, she was ready to try again. After the third trot, what confidence we saw!! Horses have a way of increasing our confidence. To be working around a large animal, asking it to perform tasks we want and getting results is a huge confidence boost.
Throughout the lessons, students can even self-assess their ability. “I think he moved out of park that time because I was a bit too loud”. What a skill! They can then improve their actions and then celebrate their success and the success of the pony.
Last but most certainly not least. JOY. The look of pure joy on a child’s face when they are around or on a horse is a delight to see. Children are learning all of these skills and attitudes while enjoying every moment. Joy and learning together?? This is not an easy task – ask any teacher in a classroom!! Teaching riding is a pleasure when children are smiling the whole way through.