Missy's Hope Equine Rescue Resource 



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Finding The Right Horse For Your Child
        Often it is hard for a first time buyer to choose the right horse for their child.  There are so many options and so many people that will tell you what you need.  So, how do you choose the right horse for your child?  How do you know if the horse is right for your child?  What should you do when you are looking for the right horse for your child?

My daughter, Angel, riding CC.


        Letís start with the very beginning.  Deciding what type of horse is right for your child.  You have to be realistic about your childís ability.  For most parents this is hard to do.  For example, I have a four-year-old daughter who loves horses.  I think she is an excellent rider and I tell people that all the time.  Of course, she is an excellent rider on our horse, who is 16 years old and very calm.  She doesnít actually direct the horse; I do using the lead rope.  Does she hold the reins? Yes. Does she have the ability to handle the horse on her own? Not yet.  So you have to ask yourself several questions about your child.  When my child rides, is she/he timid in the saddle?  Is he/she confident and secure in the saddle?  Does he/she ride completely on his/her own?  What types of horse has my child ridden?  Are they all well behaved and push button to ride, or do they challenge my child a bit?  How mature is my child?  Does my child only ride in arenas, on trails, or both?  What does my child plan to do with this horse?  You also want to take in factors like price of the horse, riding lessons, trainers in the area, boarding/home care, and how much you are willing to get involved with the horse you choose. Donít set your mind in stone about the breed of the horse.  You want to be open-minded, or you may miss a truly great horse.

Kody having his first horseback ride.

        The next stage is looking through advertisements for horses.  This in itself can be a challenge for any person searching for a horse.  What do the ads tell you?  Many horse ads can be very vague on the details.  If you see an ad for a horse that interests you, but it doesnít tell you much about the horse, call.  Ask questions.  You want to know how old the horse is, is it a gelding or mare, how much riding does it get, has it been ridden by children, what is itís temperament like, what type of rider should the horse be ridden by, what type of contract do you require, may we try the horse at your location, may we have a trial at home, and the most important questionÖif this horse doesnít work out can we return it for all or part of what you have paid.  Donít be afraid to ask these questions.  This is your child and there are many horses out there.  If the person is not willing to answer any or all of these questions, move on to the next horse.  Be sure to call on several and keep your options open.  Make a list of the horses and owners that seem most likely to work with you and your child.

        Now that you have narrowed the field down somewhat, it is time to make appointments to see the horses.  I recommend not doing them all in one day.  Take your time, spend time with each horse and get to know it a little better before seeing the next horse.  You donít want to be rushed and miss a quirk that the horse has or pass up a great horse because you didnít have the time.  You also need that time to compare horses.  Donít take the first horse you look at.  In fact, you might want to schedule two meetings with the horse and owner.  A meeting that you can go to on your own, and one that you can take your child with you.  The reason for this is that often your child will look at a horse and decide that is it and not want to look at any other horses.  You also have the chance to narrow down your list of horses before your child actually sees the horses.  It may be that several of the horses just arenít suitable for your child.  This will also give you a chance to evaluate the horse and owner.  Be sure to ride the horse before your child does.  If you do not feel comfortable with the horse, then you will not trust that horse with your child.  After you have seen all the horses, compare the horses and put them in order of how you think they will fit with your child.

        It is finally time to take your child to see the horses.  Start with the one that you feel will fit your child the best.  Many children fall in love with the first horse that they meet.  Introduce your child to the horse slowly.  See how the horse reacts to your child and how your child reacts to the horse.  This first impression is just as important as when two people meet.  Spend time on the ground with the horse.  With the ownerís permission, have your child catch the horse in the field, brush the horse, and if your child is able, to tack the horse.   See how the horse reacts to your child.  Does it listen and obey without question?  Does your child seem comfortable handling the horse and does the horse seem comfortable while your child is handling it?  If things seem to go well, it is time to let your child ride the horse.  Remember to bring your childís riding helmet.  After the child mounts the horse, lead the horse around and let them feel each other out.  You want to have control of the horse at first in case things get out of hand.  If the horse lounges, lounge the horse at each speed and see if your child and the horse are working together after a few minutes.  When your child and the horse seem to be comfortable with each other, remove the lead and see how they do on their own.  Have your child take it slowly.  Walk for a while, do figure eights and circles, back up, and stop the horse.  If things seem fine, have your child move up to a trot and do the same things.  If things still seem to be working the way they should, have your child move up to a canter.  Continue to work with the horse using some of the same techniques.  The horse should listen equally well to your child at all speeds and in all directions.  Now, have your child dismount and untack the horse and do his/her regular cooling out routine with the horse.  Remember you want to know how the horse reacts in as many situations as you possibly can with your child.  Now, do the same with the other horses on your list.


Angel and Kody riding CC with Mommy.

        Now that your child has ridden all the horses, you should have an idea of which one is right for your child.  Talk to the owner and reach an agreement on the price.  Remember, it is okay to talk to the owner about a lower price.  Donít be afraid to mention that you have been looking at other horses.  Most horse owners do not expect to get the price they list the horse for.  They should be foremost concerned with finding the horse a good home.  This unfortunately is not true of all owners, so if the horse is the right one for your child, you may have to pay the exact asking price.  Get an agreement in writing on your exact terms, especially if you have an agreement on a return policy.  This should be in writing and agreed upon by both parties.  Make sure you get a copy of the agreement and both signatures on your copy.  Hopefully you will not need this, but it is better to be on the safe side.

        After all of this, it is time to bring your childís horse home.  Be sure to continue to supervise your child and his/her horse.  Watch for any problems that did not show at the ownerís property.  Decide if this is a deal breaker, or with lessons for your child and the horse things will get better.  Following these suggestions, you should be able to find your child the right horse.  Happy horse searching.



Written by Brandi M. Qualset, 2007


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