Having your own pony is a dream shared by many girls and boys across the world and I was no different. My love affair with horses started at the tender age of 2. As a family, we would hire some ponies and take them for a stroll. Being 2 years old, my legs barely came over the side of saddle, but I insisted at every opportunity to tell my parents to stop leading the pony and that I could do it myself.
I grew up taking horse riding lessons and going on residential horse riding holidays at Wellington Riding, working at stables after school and during school holidays, and I can safely say that my passion for horses and horse riding has only grown with age! There is nothing more calming, yet also exhilarating than galloping on a horse in the beautiful countryside of the U.K.
When my son was born, I could not wait for him to be old enough to start riding lessons! As soon as he turned 3, I booked him in for his first lead reign pony ride at Wildwoods Riding Centre. The 30 minutes ride involved being lead down a lane on a pony and left him wanting more. Now, when we go horse riding together, he takes the lead, looks back and screams, “faster Mummy, faster!” all the time!
Horses and ponies are such magnificent, beautiful creatures and the bond that develops between animal and human is truly special. It is one built on trust, care, empathy, patience and kindness – we benefit so much from interaction with animals! Iryna’s son started horse riding at the age of 2 and she is now a strong advocate of horse riding. “Over six years, he turned from a crazy mad boy into a confident rider, who knows the horses and understands them. It is an unbelievable bond between a child and horse”. Georgina’s son, Oscar, loves horse riding as well. “He was really scared at first but 10 minutes in, he was screaming to go faster. The weather doesn’t bother them! “We just wrap him up and check the forecast before booking the lesson” – clearly too much for to miss out on!
Parents: don’t underestimates how much of an exercise horse riding actually is! It requires balance, flexibility and teaches children how to coordinate the different parts of their bodies with each other. The best part about it is that children will not even realise they are exercising because they are having so much fun, all the while being outdoors (which is the best form of exercise)!
There are so many benefits of horse riding: children learn to care for their ponies, teaching them responsibility and accountability. Moreover, with improved riding abilities, horse riding boosts children’s confidence greatly. Horses and ponies are extremely sensitive to emotions and can sense what their riders need – so they know when and how to be gentle (amazing, I know!). According to the Riding for the Disable Association (RDA), horses also amazing for therapy. Case in point: one of my son’s favourite horse at Wildwoods Riding Centre is Harlequin, a gorgeous hand horse with blue eyes. Whenever my son approaches his stable, Harlequin lowers his head down so he can be patted, and ever so gently eats treats from my son’s hands. But he isn’t so gentle with me – sometimes he nudges me, sniffing out the polos hidden in my pockets!
In life, things do not always go as planned, and horse riding teaches just that – ponies don’t always do what you want them to (they’re young and have their own minds, after all). Therefore, this teaches young ones vital negotiation skills. Little ones also learn the important difference between “asking” and “telling” a pony to do something – this teaches respect, a very very important trait.
The benefits of horse riding for children are clear.It is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family and will most definitely form the basis of many treasure childhood memories. However, it is so much more than that. Once bitten by the equestrian bug, the initial horse habit can evolve into a very rewarding, therapeutic lifelong hobby or career.
“Riding in London is very tricky as there is very little space and you can’t gallop in the parks”, Iryna comments. “That’s why the work of Ross Nye Stables and Hyde Park Stables is absolutely vital to provide the wonderful opportunity for anyone to ride a horse”.
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