All too often young riders under the age of 12 become a bit nervous around ponies, and usually it's due to something untoward having happened. All too often a child is paired up with a rather naughty pony, one that knows every trick in the book when it comes to getting out of doing any sort of work. There are lots of ponies out there all of which are extremely skilled at getting young riders off their backs, and they do so in a multitude of ways. Sadly, all their “strategies” appear to be well thought out but they all end up with the same result which is to scare a young rider enough so they are no longer that keen to jump back on their ponies.
You need to take matters in hand and help a young rider get their confidence back when they've had a scare, and you need to do this as gently as you can or you might end up putting the rider off altogether! Below are 8 ways to boost a young riders confidence around their pony.
It would be wonderful if every pony was a “schoolmaster”. However, in reality most ponies have what can only be called a “naughty” streak in them. This is more often than not due to the fact they are allowed to get away with things simply because young riders don't have the strength or will power to stop them.
The most important thing for a parent to know is that children are safe when they are on a pony's back or around them in a yard. This is why is so important to check a young riders' equipment and that of the pony they are about to ride – this includes saddle, girth and bridle as well as stirrup leathers. Remember, everything must meet all current safety standards so you have peace of mind.
If a child has had a scare, the most important thing is to make sure they get their confidence back without forcing anything on them. There has to be a respect that works both ways between a child and their pony, if this has been broken, it needs to be slowly and carefully repaired.
A good way to help a young rider get over a scary moment is to get them to help around the yard, get them involved in stable management which includes mucking out stables. Another great idea is to set up a horsey general knowledge quiz event for lots of kids to be involved in – not only is this a fun event but educational too!
Every child who rides must be equipped with a hard hat that meets current safety regulations. They must also ride a pony with a bridle on it, However, one great exercise that works wonders when it comes to learning tremendous balance, is for a child to ride their pony bareback without the use of a saddle. Not only will they learn balance but bareback riding is a tremendous confidence building exercise too, especially for younger riders! Naturally, this is best done with the pony on a lead rein and preferably a pony that boasts a quiet nature rather than a feisty one!
Another great way to boost a young rider's confidence is to organise a mini show that a few kids can compete in. Practising an easy showing class is a great way for kids to learn the ropes, have a lot of fun and at the end of the event, win a rosette or two!
After the London 2012 Olympics, kids have taken a real interest in dressage and one way to boost their confidence is to organise a mini dressage event for them to compete in. The course needs to be simple, namely walking, the halt, and simple figures of eight. Of course, one of the things all the young riders taking part will have to learn to do is how to “bow” when they have completed their course – then of course, there's the rosettes to be handed out to the overall winners!
One great way to get kids to have fun and which is a real confidence booster, is to get them to practise their riding without stirrups and to do all sorts of exercises whilst in the saddle, namely round the world or simple, basic pole work. Older children can really benefit from lungeing lessons without stirrups too which will help them with their balance when on horseback.
Two things kids adore doing, riding their ponies and going out on a picnic. Combine the two and you have a recipe for a great day out! Think about treating a number of kids to a picnic in the woods with their ponies.
Another great way to create a bond between rider and pony, is to organise a bath day for ponies! Make sure the weather is nice and then get all the kids to wash their ponies. The children will love it and as a bonus, the ponies will look great for a while – until they role that is! Afterwards get the kids to write a story about their day washing their respective ponies and telling who got wettest – ponies or kids!
Very often, falling off a pony hurts a child's pride more than anything. However, their confidence too may have taken a knock, so it's up to you to get them back in the saddle without being heavy handed about it. You have to make it fun, something they really enjoy doing so the bond they had with their mount is reinforced and strong again. After all, riding ponies is all about having a good time as long as there's a mutual respect between pony and young rider.