Offering lessons for kids is as good for the industry as it is for a barn’s bottom line. Teaching youngsters is not a good fit for every barn or instructor, but for those who enjoy and can connect with kids, it is rewarding.
“The most important thing for youth riders in my program is ensuring they have fun and provide them with a healthy and realistic dose of confidence building,” said Jill Haas, who operates North Eastern Performance Horses in Massachusetts. “If kids enjoy their riding and feel good about themselves, they usually come out of their shell and are much more open to learning.”
Every kid is different; some are satisfied after 20 minutes while others could ride for hours. Since attention spans aren’t the same for every child, learning how to gauge if they are bored is important. Haas said she has found that keeping the lesson moving is best for holding their interest.
“Working on little pieces of riding and training frequently throughout the ride rather than trying to have them grasp one big concept every time works well,” she said.
Pay attention to how the young riders are responding to what you’re trying to teach. If your explanation doesn’t yield the results, you have to try a new approach. Watch for nonverbal clues like eyes glazing over or a "deer-in-the-headlights" expression.
Safety comes first for riders of any age, but it’s especially critical when working with young kids.
- Make sure the saddle fits the kid.
- Require proper footwear and helmets.
- Supervise kids at all times to avoid accidents that could be prevented.
Design lessons that are fun! Use games and exercises that enforce what you’re trying to teach while keeping young riders paying attention and enjoying the lesson.