Deciding to buy a horse for your child is a considerable decision. Not only is it a big investment but the responsibility in caring for these beautiful beasts is a commitment that averages 25 to 33 years.
The benefits of horse riding for kids is invaluable. Although there are many advantages, we have listed the top five according to the students and parents from Grace Lutheran College’s Equestrian Team.
Demonstrating discipline and responsibility
The responsibility and dedication in owning and riding horses is a great life lesson for children. In ensuring the horses have the correct nutrition, health and training to be able to ride, children learn time management; daily chore discipline; equipment maintenance; patience and persistence in acquiring and perfecting new skills; and prioritising expectations. Owning a horse is also a great lesson in humility.
Mrs Monika Bennett, parent of 16 year old rider Rebecca says, “I think the top benefit for my daughter is actually GRIT! Determination, courage, commitment and fortitude to get back on and get it right again and again…”
Children who ride horses tend to be very close to friends who also ride horses, regardless of age. These children seem to be very like-minded in their approach to their chosen activity and spend a similar amount of time training around school work.
Twelve year old Benjamin’s mum, Mrs Melissa Randall says “There’s a lot of scientific research on the benefits of horse riding for children but something they don’t mention is the friendships the kids make while they are competing. Having an only child, this ‘extended family’ is a godsend for us.”
Additionally, the friendship the young riders have with their horses is indescribable. Not only are the horses their pet but they are a reliable mate and worker all in one. This connection is something that will change their lives forever. Mrs Bennett explains, “I see the love. The bond of the horse and their rider, no matter the discipline, no matter the ability of the rider, no matter the breed of horse. It is such a wonderful relationship to nurture through the teenage years.”
Horse riding for people of all ages provides physical activity that boosts fitness and strength. Children who compete at equestrian events and competitions generally train between two and five hours per week, some more depending on how serious they are about riding.
The physical aspects of horse riding includes training, feeding, brushing and riding. Young riders out and about riding on their horses means they are spending less time inside and inactive and more time outdoors and moving their bodies.
Not only does horse riding provide physical exercise but brain exercise as well. Recent research by Toyko University of Agriculture has found that the vibrations created by horses while being ridden activates the area of the brain known as the sympathetic nervous system.
The results from the study showed that children riding horses greatly improved their ability to perform behavioural tasks, leading to better memory, learning and problem solving.
Aiming and achieving goals
For children to set, work towards and achieve goals in any discipline helps them to develop fortitude in life. They will be better prepared for teenage life, and the challenges that are thrown their way including school work, and emotional aspects such as relationships and life worries.
In training and riding horses, children will decide on their aims, determine how they will accomplish their goals such as how many hours training will they need to do each week and how will they overcome obstacles. In achieving their goals they will experience the gratitude, sense of accomplishment and a feeling of pride in working hard to succeed. The flipside of knowing how to deal with disappointment is equally important.
The growth children can experience in learning to care for and ride a horse provides them with a wealth of confidence. The amount of effort and persistence required to continue training, even with challenges, increases children’s confidence, self-belief and esteem.
Mrs Kylie Orr’s says about her 15 year old daughter, “Holly has benefited greatly in developing her confidence with horse riding. Confidence with taking risks and having a go and confidence with life through these teenage years!”
The Grace Lutheran College Equestrian Team compete in the Equestrian Queensland Interschool events and local shows within six disciplines. They train together each fortnight at the internationally renowned complex, QSEC at Caboolture. Grace Lutheran College is a co-educational secondary Christian College at Caboolture and Rothwell.
This article was published in Issue 26 of our print magazine, February/March 2018.