There are a lot of variables involved in buying a horse for a child rider. How old are they? How tall? Do they still have a lot of growing left? What is their current skill level? What are their riding plans? How much parental involvement do they have? Since there are so many factors that have to be taken into consideration, quite frequently the first horse someone owns is not their forever horse.
A young child may grow too tall for their pony. A teenager’s skill set might surpass the physical ability of the horse they own. You need to search for the horse that suits their needs now and not the horse you see them needing in a few years in order for a student to be safe and successful.
Obviously, the medium pony that you bought isn’t going to work if your child ends up being 5’8″. The gentle old soul that you bought for your timid young rider might not be up to running and jumping later when the timid rider gains confidence.
Your Top Priority
The number one priority when looking for a horse for a child is what do they need right now. We are going to assume that your instructor agrees that your child is ready for a horse or pony of their own. Once they give the go-ahead, you need to think about what your child working on now. What goals they are currently working toward. You need to look for something that is appropriate and safe for them to meet their needs right now. Even if you think one day your child will want to be a competitive rider, your child isn’t ready to ride that type of horse yet.
You want to look for a good-natured horse or pony that is sound and safe. Most importantly, it is already doing whatever it is your child wants to do. If your child wants to trail ride, look for a horse that is an experienced trail horse. If your child wants to compete on a local show circuit look for a horse that is already showing at their level.
Remember that Kids Are Still Growing
The height of the horse, depending on the discipline, is a factor, but just within
Just because you have a child rider that you know is going to be very tall or long-legged doesn’t mean you need to go out looking for a big huge horse. The horse’s body type makes a big difference. A 15.2 hand horse with a nice size barrel may take up your riders leg better than a tall, thin, 16.1 hand thoroughbred. The smaller horse may be easier for your child rider to manage than the taller one.
If your child is young but tall, you want to buy something they can feel balanced on now. This does not necessarily mean you should buy that 17 hand horse. Even if you think that is what he or she is going to end up needing in a few years. You need to find something your child fits reasonably and rides confidently.
We all want to see our riders on horses that they fit nicely, so they can be more easily balanced. The fact of the matter is, if your child is not planning on riding in shows, it doesn’t really matter if they’re a little tall for their mount. As long as they feel balanced.
Establishing Confidence Early On
It seems the problem arises with the students are little show riders with big dreams of competitions. For them, the size of the horse or pony makes a big difference. It can be tempting for a parent to buy a horse instead of a large pony because they don’t want to have to be horse shopping in a year or two when their child got too tall for the pony to show with.
Buying the horse your child will need in two years isn’t going to do anything for their confidence now. If they are even able to handle and ride the horse you will be lucky. Most likely if your child rider has been on a school horse or pony and you go out and buy a made show horse in whatever discipline your child prefers, they probably won’t be able to ride it. They may be intimidated by its size and the way it responds to their cues. A horse that has been ridden by one owner is going to be a lot different than the lesson horse that gets ridden by three or four different people every day.
Your child’s first horse should be a positive experience. They should be able to do things independently and continue to build their confidence in skills. In order for that to happen, you need to buy the horse or pony that they need now, not what you think they will need down the road.
Your First Horse May Not Be Your Forever Horse
Unfortunately, when it comes to child riders and teaching in a safe way to build their skills, the first horse or pony you buy might not be your forever horse.
My first horse, Troy, a draft cross was the perfect first horse. He was lazy, slow and safe. He put up with all the pampering that a 12-year-old girl gives her horse every day. I could put two other people up on him behind me and he would just truck us along the back path at the farm.
The thing is, Troy developed arthritis in his pasterns. So, unfortunately, as I continued in lessons I outgrew Troy as far as his physical ability. He wasn’t able to do dressage or eventing.
I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate first horse. I learned a lot from him and had tons of fun doing it, but the time came when I had to move on.
It is hard to think that your child may get super attached to a horse or pony and then have to move on. T
Just think, that gentle large pony you bought for your child two years ago that now can’t keep up with what your child wants to do, will be perfect for someone else’s first pony.
If you are lucky, you may have a place to keep the horses or ponies that your child may outgrow. Otherwise, when it is time for your child to move on, there are always people looking for that safe first horse or pony. The next child will love them just as much!
Encourage your child to dream big riding dreams if they want to! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, they should actually! Just help them to succeed by finding them the horse that will help them learn and gain confidence at the level they are riding now.
Owning your first horse should be a fun and safe experience. Not scary or frustrating ones. I have seen kids with big riding dreams quit really quickly when partnered with a horse that was inappropriate. Confidence is lost a lot faster than it is gained.
Horsemanship is a journey, you will meet a lot of different horses along the way. Some of them will stay with you forever. Some will teach you what you need to know now, then move on to help another child safely learn.
Remember, safety is always the number one priority when buying a horse for