5 ways horse riding can aid children's development

Posted by iChild, December 11, 2023 11:01 AM

By Katie Allen from Horse & Country

For parents, the thought of introducing their child to such a large animal might be a scary prospect. However, when familiarised safely, horses can make wonderful companions and can have a positive impact on children. In fact, horse riding can not only benefit children’s physical health, but can aid key parts of their learning and development too.

If this sounds like something your family needs, read on to discover five key ways your child could benefit from learning to ride and take care of horses.

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It can boost their confidence

If your child struggles with their confidence and isn’t accustomed to taking risks yet, horse riding can be a great way to encourage this. It’s important for children to push the boundaries of their comfort zone and test their physical abilities as they get older, and riding a horse can provide the opportunity to do so in a controlled environment. Experiencing success or achievement through risk-taking, even in the form of a sport or hobby like this, can help them feel more empowered to push themselves in other areas of their life such as school and other endeavours in the future.

For children who have never interacted with horses before, even learning how to approach them safely can be a big first step in terms of building their confidence. They can then become more familiar with the horses at their own pace, slowly feeling comfortable petting, grooming, and eventually riding them. Make sure that the instructors at your chosen riding school know how familiar your child is with horses, so that they can put them in the right class for their ability.

It can improve their focus

Horse riding involves a great deal of focus, which is a vital skill for all children to learn. Especially if your child struggles with paying attention and focusing on tasks for extended periods of time, learning how to control the horse while riding can help them develop their concentration. This can be great for anxious children who may need ways to stay present and practice more mindfulness, without requiring more advanced methods like meditation. As well as learning to ride, even stable tasks like grooming and mucking out require good focus to keep the horse calm and navigate the stables safely.

It's a good source of physical exercise

You might be sitting in the saddle during a lesson, but make no mistake that riding a horse is still a very effective form of exercise. Guiding the horse in your intended direction will help to develop strong leg muscles, while steering and maintaining the correct riding posture will build a strong and stable core over time. As well as developing these key muscle groups, riding will also help your child improve their overall hand-eye coordination and balance, which are two key skills that they can bring to a whole range of other sports. 

It allows them to practice empathy and communication

Horses are incredibly perceptive animals, and they will quickly respond to the way we behave towards them. They are also very apt at picking up non-verbal cues, which can make them particularly well-suited companions to children who may struggle with communication, such as those with autism. As part of this, riding lessons can also provide your child with the opportunity to develop their interpersonal skills if they wish to do so, as they can interact and perhaps even form lasting friendships with other children in their class.

Additionally, as your child looks after their horse and builds trust with them, they will also learn about empathy. Caring for other living things can bring people an immense feeling of fulfilment, and as your child experiences this, they can apply this to their behaviour towards other people in their everyday lives.  

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It teaches them about responsibility

Looking after horses requires time, effort, and dedication, which can make it an excellent pursuit for children who are beginning to learn about responsibility. Most riding schools will get the kids involved with some stable duties (providing they are old enough), such as mucking out, grooming the horses, cleaning tack, and refilling their hay, water, and salt licks. This will help teach the children about the responsibility of caring for an animal, particularly a large, intelligent, and physically active animal like a horse. Not only this, but stable duties will also help children become accustomed to the time and dedication it takes to keep up a fulfilling sport or hobby that makes them happy.

From physical exercise to lessons about empathy, horse riding can be a great way to supplement your child’s learning and development. For more helpful tips and advice like this, be sure to check out the healthy living and SEN sections of the iChild blog.

By Katie Allen from Horse & Country


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