With age on the mind, I got thinking about the irony of spending my birthday playing with a Barbie Dream Horse and watching Beauty and the Beast.. at 30, not 3. Will the horse obsession ever end? Probably not.
But let’s talk about how the horse obsession gets started. I personally started riding at the age of 4, and showing in W/T classes at 5. Luckily the environment I grew up in meant that horse-sense was something that was learned quickly, so maybe this age was appropriate for my personal entry into equestrianism. Maybe? Maybe not?
Is 4 or 5 the right age to start riding? What about even younger? I know I can’t be the only one who has seen ISO ads for riding ponies for their 1/2/3 yo children. And while I personally cringe to think of a toddler trying to balance themselves on the backside of even the most saintly pony, it happens.
And what about showing? Sure, leadline classes with assisted balance by a responsible adult are open to just about anyone- but what about your more typical show? Walk trot equitation classes, or even dressage tests? Are the expectations of actual competition too much for tender ages? And what about the interaction with other older competitors, in the warm-up as well as in relation to how a young child scores compared to more mature riders? Should judges take into consideration a rider’s age when judging them in competition? Or no?
What do you think? Is there a good age to expose children to the occasionally rough-and-ready world of horses? How should equestrianism and its many responsibilities be introduced to youngsters? What age were you when you started riding? What age is appropriate for starting to show or ride beyond the safety of the barn?