June’s getting a horse

by Jessie K on April 24, 2013

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Jake is getting June a horse and I’m a little torn about it. On the one hand, I love the confidence and dexterity that comes from horseback riding. There is something so cool about a little girl riding a horse! It’s the stuff that Western Barbie dreams are made of. On the other hand, June’s only two and a half, way too young to even “sit a horse” (bizarre horse parlance for sitting ON a horse) though it’s never too early to expose a child to good animal stewardship.

My big concern is over her riding instructor: Jake. Continue reading here.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha April 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm

My daughter has been “sitting” on a horse since she could hold her head up. (not because of me but because she goes crazy when she sees a horse). We bought her first horse at the age of 4 and started riding lessons at Cool Breeze Stables. The best instructor EVER!!!! Belle is starting her 6th year with her and has been jumping for two years!!!! My sweet, skinny and all leg girl loves the speed and thrill that comes with hunter seat. I am afraid every single time I send her off to the ring but I can’t hold her back. She loves it. It is her passion. Horses (and the rest of our livestock) have shown her responsibility, dedication and respect. I am so proud of her!!! Friends of my father-in-law’s own a stable in NC and there website states “Horses raise great kids.” I couldn’t agree more!!! Good luck. You can do this. : )

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Meaghan April 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm

The biggest difference between learning to ride as an adult and learning to ride as a kid is this: lack of fear. Kids (unless they have a bad experience) generally don’t know enough to be afraid. That wisdom comes with age. I started riding (hunter and jumpers) at age 8. I didn’t have my own horse, so I rode whatever sale horses we had in the barn or whatever fresh off the track Thoroughbred my trainer had just brought in. When I look back now on what I sat on as a pre-teen, I shudder. No way I would get on most of those beasts now!

I think it is awesome that Jake wants to start her so early with horses. My 3-year old has been doing hippotherapy for almost a year now, and as soon as she’s able I’ll get her real riding lessons. It’s a great way to instill discipline and empathy and physical/mental/emotional strength in a kid.

And I think it’s likely that Jake will be gentler on his little girl than he may have been with you. (For the record, I attempted to teach my husband to ride, and it did not go well. Husband/wife student/teacher relationships don’t often work well.) And along the way June will learn valuable life skills like teamwork, responsibility, etc., even if she decides some day that she’d rather play soccer or do gymnastics than ride.

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Jessie K April 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

It is cool to think that one day Jake and June might team pen together….while I sit on the sidelines sipping wine coolers.

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Paula April 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I am pretty biased on this issue, having come from a family who did not believe in unnecessary risks for young children. I’ll just say that although it is neither traditional nor picturesque, there is a good reason why current protocol is for children to wear riding helmets, NOT western hats. Please hold out for one.

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Sarina April 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Helmet is a 100% must.. you also may want to consider a mouth guard.. I lost a tooth due to a horse accident (actually from working with one on the ground).. My dentist said he had seen a bunch of horse related dental emergencies. That being said, my old riding instructor used to put her 3 yo on a horse during lessons.. actually had attatched a car seatbelt to the saddle to keep the kid in it. Yes, the kid survived.. haha.

Most places that do lessons want the kids to be at least 5.. or even older like 8 because until that time the kids just don’t usually have enough mental attention to really handle a horse/pony independantly. Another issue is strength.. seriously.. I have seen my stepdaughters deal with this problem… they just don’t have the leg or arm strength (or length) to effectively deal with the horses when they are only 5 or so..

If you can try to find a horse that has been a tried and true lesson horse that may need to be retired due to some minor health issue.. A horse that can no longer stand up to the rigors of a daily round of lessons will still often suit a family that is only going to do quick rides a few times a week. Sometimes people are willing to free lease a horse or pony if their child has outgrown it.. and they aren’t ready to outright sell too.

I actually have a pony that I am looking to sell right now.. but I really don’t know enough about his background to suggest him as “perfect” for a 2 yo..lol. (only had him a short time.. was going to be for my stepdaughter whose seizures have become to frequent for her to safely ride). Good luck finding the perfect horse.. and remember.. it costs just as much money to keep a cheap horse as it does an expensive horse.. and the cost of ownership will outpace the initial price pretty quickly.. so don’t cheap out because often the cheapo actually ends up being more expensive needing more training.. or vet care etc..:)

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Leah April 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Your two year old is on the cusp of three. Jake would never, ever hurt his little girl. All the experts say children learn at the most rapid rate when really little. They are sponges. When she sees her Dad riding there is no way you will be able to keep her away from a horse. She will naturally absorb it and copy him. He has no fear, she will have no fear, she has his genes. For hundreds of years kids have ridden, and —here it comes, yes I’m going to say it—ridden without helmets. Western riders don’t wear helmets. Riding instructors and boarding/show arenas wear helmets. It is called “don’t sue me”. Kids aren’t even allowed to get dirty these days. Too much control, too much fear, too many rules. A kid, a horse and a cowboy hat, only way to go. A cowboy Dad with mucho experience, let him teach her, let them enjoy themselves. You might even want to try again so that you can all be together. Have him find you a really cool, calm horse and got for it.

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Paula April 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Picturesque is fine until your child is the one to have a bad head injury. Then you will wish you’d broken with tradition and used a helmet. Ask any ER nurse who’s ever treated a child who was in a bad horse accident.

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Paula April 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

There is a top notch western quadrille of teenage horsewomen near here who appear all over the country. Some years back, one of these lovely girls DIED in a horse accident while performing. So I would NEVER allow a tiny child to ride a horse without a riding helmet. Some things can not be undone.

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Leah April 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Read Pioneer Woman’s blog regarding this subject. They live on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, generations of cattle ranchers raised on horseback. Her kids and niece and nephew have ridden since really young, about this age, and she has addressed the issues before, including helmets vs. hats (they wear hats). Very interesting on this subject.

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alyssa April 24, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I used to ride, and the older I got the more fearful I was. Just let her ride and don’t worry about it. The great thing about kids is that they are agile and virtually plastic. The consequences of them getting hurt aren’t as bad as if you’re older. If you never rode as a child, you’d never understand the amazing gift it is to have an inborn love of riding. Be more fearful of things like skydiving. And boys.

And really- the amount of people who sustain serious injuries from horses are far far far less than the amount of people who sustain serious injuries from…… cars.

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Karen S. April 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

There are a lot more cars on the road than horses being ridden. If wearing a helmet is just something that has to be done early on and it’s not made into a big deal, then kids just grow up knowing it’s a part of the process. Like buckling up in the car. I would definitely use a helmet if/when my kids ride. And if I wasn’t going to make them, my horse riding husband would demand it.

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GinnyN April 25, 2013 at 7:21 am

Helmet is a 100% must.. I’m sure they come in pink.

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Jessie K April 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

Absolutely!

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Sarina April 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

Jessie,

I know some people are downplaying the “injury” risk. I also rode as a child.. so I am not saying she shouldn’t.. not at all. However, when someone says that the number of accidents from cars is more than horses.. they may be technically correct. BUT.. the RATE of accidents on horses probably is higher for people that have ridden regularly. I haven’t been injured in a car accident. But.. Here are my horse related injuries requiring medical care.

1. Lost a tooth when a horse pulled back and the lead rope buckle snapped. It broke my tooth clean off at the gum.. luckily it didn’t hit higher and blind me in my good eye. I have spent thousands on a root canal and multiple replacement teeth for this tooth in the front of my mouth.

2. Bone chip in my elbow from the wreck on the “pleasure horse” that let loose with me when a tractor went by the arena.

3. Sprained knee and chip from the barrell horse I rode that blew up when a running martingale got stuck. I was thrown AND stomped on the leg by the horse.

These were the hospital/urgent care visits. I can’t count the number of minor breath knocked out situations.. the bruises.. the strains.. etc.. from tumbles off the horse.. or dealing with them on the ground. I once took a tumble jumping where I hit my (helmeted) head on the ground so hard my ears rang!

If you talk to most horse people… they have a laundry list of these types of incidents.. if they have done any amount of riding.

Yes.. Kids are resilient.. and I probably had some wrecks when I was a kid on a horse that would be much more serious if they happened today but.. they can happen. And a helmet.. while may be not necessary for the Pioneer Woman.. is pretty much accepted as being a reasonable safety precaution by most people. I mean.. back in the day, lots of kids were maimed or killed in farming accidents.. it’s not like injury is not possible. And horses are animals.. not machines.. with their own minds and even the most sane/broke one can turn a screw loose every once in a while. One time at a show my broke to death reining horse developed an insane spooky fear of the videographer’s equipment covered with a sheet about 40 rows up in a huge indoor arena with all other sorts of banners and activity. Seriously.. who would have thought it.. but he is an animal.. with his own mind.

You have one daughter.. June.. In this case, I would be better safe than sorry and make helmets a requirement.

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Jessie K April 25, 2013 at 9:43 am

Okay, now I’m really scared. ;-) That’s precisely why I’ll never be a horse person like Jake — they’re too big and powerful and spook too easily. I’d rather ride a motorcycle. The horse that bucked me off, I was told he was super docile and compliant. And maybe he was….until he had me on his back. Nah, too risky for me!

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Sarina April 25, 2013 at 9:57 am

Cheerleading is pretty risky too:). I love to ride.. but now as I am closer to 50.. than I am to 10.. I am more cautious since I am not the thin little rubber band kid that can take a fall like I used to! I also have had a TON of training and admitedly some of my issues were working with young and green horses.. not seasoned animals. BUT.. even the most broke horse has his day. Also, some horses can really read a person and decide that while they are normally the most calm and responsive horse for the experienced rider.. they will “walk all over” the newbie. Conversely.. many people talk about how some horses “know” when their rider is fragile.. and needs extra care.. and will be very gentle with children.. even though they normally aren’t as easy for adults.

Life is full of risks. I think the responsibility and sense of accomplishment gained from a woman who has been a rider vastly outweigh the risk of injury. Just take it at a rate that SHE is comfortable with. It is horrible to push a kid who is too scared since that tends to solidify their fears.. and make them even more resistant. There is plenty of time.. right now..pony rides should be just fine!

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Charlotte April 25, 2013 at 11:43 am

I treasure the photo of myself on Obediah, the 1000 year old pony and my grandmother holding the lead line from her horse. I was maybe 18 months old? (Turns out it was an actual baby saddle, and I was strapped in). Also, my father is a total shit, but some of my happiest memories are getting to ride up in front of him on the saddle on Arthur, his lovely old hunter (dead what, 35 years, and I still miss that horse). It’s a great idea, and she’ll be fine — it’s not like she’s going to be riding on her own any time soon. We all learned to ride as toddlers, then took actual lessons when we were kids — it’s a skill I hardly use at all anymore, but one I’m really grateful to have.

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Brooke April 25, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Helmet. Proper footwear. Learn about the horse from the ground up. How heavy those hooves are when you have to lift them to pick them. How heavy that saddle is when you have to hoist it up and into place. How much strength it takes to properly tighten a girth for safety (yours) and comfort (the horse). This is the voice of experience talking: At age 8 or 9, I went out for a lesson with a girth insufficiently tightened. My parents have film of me trotting around the ring, turning a corner, and the saddle slowly slipping to the outside–hilarious to watch, but I almost came off. I also was once riding western (to me, like riding in a La-Z-Boy) on an old, push-button horse when a little donkey trotted through the paddock with a chain around his neck. My horse spooked and reared. Through screams of terror and tightly shut eyes, I grabbed the mane and held on for dear life. BUT, I’ve got to be honest, I never lost my love for the animals, and returned to lessons in my late 40s and early 50s. The problem was that I never had any desire to jump and the barn I was riding at wouldn’t hear of that, so I was forced to try and learn. Because my heart wasn’t in it, the horses knew that, and, while I don’t think there was anything malicious in them, they may have acted out on my behalf in a sense…sending me twice out of the saddle in mid-air. Since the barn owner and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on the issue, I left riding. I still miss it and will turn another decade in my life’s calendar this summer. If I could celebrate it on horseback, I would! They are beautiful, noble, and brilliant animals and do much for the soul…I think it’s wonderful your June will be able to grow up with her own. She will learn much from caring for it because they are a LOT of work; you don’t just strap them on like skates, or tie your laces and head out. Grooming before you ride takes time and attention; and cooling down afterward and taking care of your tack and his stall are lessons in responsibility she will never forget. There is nothing like looking in those soft eyes, rubbing that velvet nose, and smelling that luscious aroma of grass, oats, and leather…heaven.

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