By Amanda Ciejko
If your child has expressed an interest in horses, but you aren’t ready to purchase an equine, there are many horseless ways to get them involved. From equine-associated groups to volunteering, there’s a way to help your horse-crazy kid get into the equine world. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Help them join an equine associated youth club, such as 4H, FFA, IEA, USPC.
This will help your child become comfortable with horses and the various riding disciplines, as well as introduce them to more horse-crazy kids. Additionally, these programs support leadership, responsibility, and volunteering in a fun environment. These are essential life skills that will aid your child as they mature, and they reflect well on your child on further education applications.
2. Allow them to join summer camps with riding programs.
A great way for kids to immerse themselves in the horse world is through summer camps. This gives them the opportunity to explore all aspects of horsemanship, as well as comradery with other like-minded kids. Many camps teach basic care such as grooming, feeding, and stall cleaning, along with riding skills. The extended period with the equines lets the budding horseperson build on what they learn, day after day. Additionally, they receive the benefit of learning responsibility and independence while at the camps.
3. Sign them up for riding lessons at local facility.
If your youngster is eager to get into the saddle, signing them up for lessons at a local facility is another great way to encourage their equestrianism. Find an instructor or trainer who has a great reputation with young riders and let them teach your child to love the sport. Just remember, no matter what discipline they choose to pursue, it takes time to “get good”. The more practice, time, and lessons, the stronger your budding rider will be.
4. Get them to take on a working student position.
If your young rider is already independent, responsible, and eager to learn, let them take their riding education up a notch by allowing them to become working students. This position often involves the student working closely with their instructors, in which they learn more about horse care, training, and equestrian-related business skills. Often, the instructors will trade work- such as grooming, mucking, and farm maintenance- for additional saddle or horsemanship time.
5. Encourage them to volunteer at a rescue or equine therapy center.
If you know of any local rescues, animal charities, or equine therapy centers, there’s a good chance they could use volunteers. Many hands make light work, so not only will you be able to encourage your child’s horse-affliction, but you’ll be helping those in need. Additionally, this option makes it easy for you to join in, which is an easy way to lead by example, as well as bond over a shared experience.
Go to the USDF Youth Facebook book page to find out more ways to get involved.