Sharing the Joy: Top Tips for Introducing Your Children to Horseback Riding

horseback riding

For children, horses are mysterious and wonderful creatures. The stuff of legend, or, at least, some of the coolest fairy tales ever told. If your child is fascinated by horses and wants to learn how to ride them, here are some tips to get them ready for the experience of a lifetime.

The Lead

You can’t lead a horse with brute strength. These animals are big and strong. Very strong. It’s safest to lead the horse from a distance. The reason is that if the horse cannot comfortably walk at least 5 feet away from you while leading, then it’s dangerous to allow it closer than 5 feet.

It’s especially dangerous to have them in around smaller children. If you have them on a short rope, they can hit you with their heads (unintentionally), stop on you, and push you over. And, if this happens to a child, it could become very serious. Teach your child to teach the horse to back away from him or her. That’s a great first lesson. Once the horse is obeying the child, then teach it to walk behind your child.


Tying a horse is important. When tying up a horse, do it yourself. Don’t make your children do it – especially if they’re still struggling with learning how to ride. It’s something that can be practiced later when they understand the subtle movements a horse makes, reasons why a horse might back up or balk, or pull back. If you’re staying in any one of the Jackson Hole hotels, and you’re on the riding trails, you can have a guide do this for you if you’re unsure. Just don’t leave it to the kids.

Independent Riding

Independent riding happens when the child is no longer scared of the horse, and confident in his or her riding ability. Teach them the one rein stop, but not steering. At first, your goal is to get them to ride the horse faster than a walk, but not faster than they can handle. You should work up to an independent ride without reins or stirrups. Lead them, lunge them, pony them, and round pen them when they can handle it.

Riding With Confidence

While staying on the horse is a good first step, there’s more to riding than just not falling off. You want your child to practice proper position right from the very beginning. Once your child has obtained muscle memory of a riding position, it’s very hard to change that ingrained behavior.

So, for example, if you want them to learn the “hunt seat,” you should first start them off with the standard neutral seat. The pelvis needs to be tucked under so that they are basically sitting on their back pockets. The back should be neutral and straight without a hollowed back. Shoulders should be slightly behind the hips. Often, they will say it feels like they are leaning back when they are doing it correctly.

Feet need to be parallel to the horse. The idea is that they should be sitting back in the seat and not gripping the horse with their knees or the stirrups. If the horse does something unexpected, they can “flow” with the movement instead of being bucked off.

Bradley Tomlinson has worked in travel all his working life, from ski resorts in the winter, to kids riding camps in the Summer. He shares tips and tricks on all aspects of travel with kids for parenting and travel blogs.

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One Comment

  1. I have always wanted my children to love riding horses. I hope they can reach the independent riding stage that you mentioned here. Now I just need to find a place for them to take lessons.

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