Last year I started horse lessons with my niece, Aurora who was 7 at the time. By the end of the summer she was wielding the lunge whip, building muscles, cleaning hooves herself, and improving her balance while riding bareback while I led Jack around.
This year we started a little later, because of weather and schedules but now lessons are back on. It’s funny how much you forget over the course of winter.
Our first lesson was mostly getting re-acquainted with how to behave around a horse and to not be shy.
A few items we worked on:
- Don’t be timid. A horse is a thousand pound animal who likes to be scratched hard to make it feel good. If you’re not putting a little muscle behind a scratch it feels ticklish, like a fly landing on them. Horses don’t appreciate that.
- How to pick up a horse hoof. Run a hand all the way down his leg, grasp his ankle, and lean into him. Be ready when he takes the weight of his foot and be fast to pick it up. Put some muscle into the lift! Some horses will do it for you but Jack makes you work for everything.
- Behavior while lunging. While lunging a horse your job is to watch him and his job is to watch you. This is an exercise in maintaining pace, establishing dominance, and honing skills in observation. Horses are experts in body language and you need to be too.
- How to lead a horse. Aurora has short arms so I fed a piece of rope through a 2 1/2 foot length of PVC pipe so she can keep him off her heels. Jack has a bad habit of walking close to you and has been known to heel step if you’re not paying attention to him. We reviewed where he should be and how to keep him in his space and out of hers.
- Brushing etiquette. Most children love to brush horses so we mostly went over how to walk behind a horse and his ticklish spots.
- Opening and closing gates. It’s hard to work with an animal if you’re afraid of the fence to take him in or out. I had Aurora opening the electric fence to get used to it. When she is more adept at leading I will have her practice leading him in and out.
Overall it was a great first lesson and soon she will remember all of these items from last year.
The three main skills to remember around a horse or any animal are:
- Be Bold!
- Pay Attention!
- Put Some Muscle Into It!
I’m going to start a few lessons with Fiona, my daughter, who is 2. She needs to remember that he is bigger than her. She loves Jack and has even ridden him bareback without support while I led him around. She clings to him like a tick and loves every second of it! The girl has a lot of attitude and forgets that she is only pint-sized.