We all know that children can let new hobbies go just as quickly as they pick them up. However, unlike other activities, children drawn towards horse riding almost never seem to want to let it go.
Not all horse breeds are suitable for children, however. Smaller children may be unable to handle larger, more temperamental horses and putting a child on an unsuitable horse may result in accidents and injuries.
Therefore, before letting your child take on horse riding, grooming and using horse clippers, it is crucial that you find a horse breed that is well-suited to the needs of children. Horses or ponies for children must be docile, calm animals, patient enough to allow for the mistakes and mishandling that may occur during riding.
Here are our choices for the best horse breeds for little learner riders:
- Shetland Ponies
Shetland ponies are very popular riding horses for children, mostly because of their sizes. These horses originated in the Shetland Isles, hence their name. They make particularly sturdy mounts for children as they are small in size, growing only as much as 46 inches making them less intimidating than larger horses. They are easily mounted by children and their calm reserved nature allows them to be easily led.
However, despite their small stature they are still strong and can use this to their advantage with weaker riders. With adult participation however, these horses work really well with children. Shetland ponies are marvellous in harness and can move along at a brisk place.
- Pony Of The Americas
These ponies were specifically bred to be mounts for children. They are a mixture of 3 horse breeds; they possess the beautiful head of the Arabian horse, the body of the Quarter Horse and the markings of the Appaloosa. These ponies usually range in height from 11.2 hands to 14 hands. Popularly known for their temperament and willing nature, these horses are athletic and versatile, making them great choices for children. The Pony of the Americas can be easily led by kids themselves, and there have been very few reported incidents of accidents involving these ponies. That said, there should still always be adult supervision when children are riding, to prevent accidents from occurring.
- Welsh Ponies
These horse breeds are great riding horses for children. There are four different types of Welsh pony; each slightly differing in size. Welsh ponies are gentle yet spirited, and are great horses for jumping, carriage jumping and trail riding. The largest of the breed grows as tall as 13.2 hands and can be riden by both children and adults.
Welsh ponies can be sweet but also free spirited, and, as such, great care should be taken to select one that is right for the child. Adult supervision, as always, is necessary when any child is learning to ride.
- American Quarter Horse
Most American Quarter horses are thoroughbreds; they are short, stocky and heavily muscled with great temperaments. Often regarded as the best beginner horse, American Quarter horses are well known for their calm natures. They are highly intelligent and mild-mannered which partly explains why they are such great choices for children.
These horses can handle themselves as well as a human being. They are not easily spooked by distractions which mean that there are fewer risks of your child having a fall.
Arabians are an ancient breed that have been cultivated to share a strong bond with humans. This people-nature is one hallmark of the horses in recent times. While the younger ones can be fairly spirited, the older ones are, in fact, great with children. Arabians are smart and versatile, and they are great trail and racing horses. This makes them the perfect match for children who are serious about getting into competitive riding. Arabian horses move at a brisk pace and are fantastic at barrier jumping.
- Grade Ponies
These ponies, whilst not being a breed, are nonetheless great beginner horses for children. They come in all colours and heights, and combine the hardiness of draft ponies, and the sensibility of the Quarter and Morgan horses.
When properly trained and handled, grade ponies are excellent choices for children of all ages.
- American Quarter Pony
These ponies are bred from American Quarter horses. Their history can be traced back to the 1960s, when many American Quarter Horse Association breeders began to focus on taller, leggier and leaner Quarter horses and some other bloodlines failed to meet the height requirement of 14.2 hands. In 1964, these ponies were then brought under the American Quarter Pony Association.
A Quarter pony is merely a smaller Quarter horse which are usually between 11.2 and 14.2 ft tall. They are widely known for their docile, sweet temperaments, good looks and their athletic ability. They are an excellent breed choice for western and timed events, which make them exciting for children who love horse racing.
Tips For Choosing The Right Horse
When choosing the right horse, there are a few factors that it is important to keep in mind.
- For children, ponies are a great option. The breed of horse chosen should always be matched to their height and weight. Ponies can be easily mounted by younger children. Horses are better for older children.
- For beginner riders, schoolmaster horses should be considered as they already have experience working with young and inexperienced riders. Older horses are generally more patient than younger horses.
- It is important to remember that the cost of buying a horse is merely a small fraction of the total cost of maintaining a horse. Before deciding on a horse, you should be sure that you can afford not just the horse, but all the requirements for looking after that horse too.
- Assess your child’s riding abilities before choosing a horse. It is important that the horse be well-matched to the rider’s ability. Beginner to intermediate riders need different horses from experienced riders.
While it might be tricky and time-consuming finding the perfect horse for your child, it is a decision that is always worth taking the time and effort to get right. Horses for children must be sweet, calm and not temperamental, and forgiving of the mistakes that it is only natural they make as they learn to become good riders.