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
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