It’s just a pony ride, right?

By Melanie McCaffree
What is the attraction that children have for horses?  Is it their soft wonderful noses, their smell or the power and freedom that The Horse represents?  Personally, I think it is the sheer joy of having a 6-foot-tall friend who whinnies every time I enter the barn — that is so cool. Everyone is different though and there are about as many reasons why kids love them as there are reasons we should introduce children to the wonderful world of horses.
My (few) non-horsey friends think horses are expensive and quite frankly unnecessary. They are expensive, that is true but unnecessary? I think NOT.
Horseback riding is an active sport. It gets kids outside in the fresh air and in tune with nature, something that happens far too little in this “techy” world we live in.  Riding also improves balance, coordination and posture, and as a child progresses they develop confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Riding can also be a wonderful bridge for those who might typically avoid team sports and activities. With such organizations as 4-H, local and national pony clubs and events associated with youth riding, children are encouraged to participate in group lessons and to join these various clubs. However, finding the perfect instructor and barn is not easy, but it is a must for a successful horse experience.
A good instructor will help your child build her confidence while not only learning to ride but learning life lessons about patience, clarity and building partnerships. Instructors walk a fine line of empowering students to ride with confidence without being reckless. Here are some suggestions on finding that perfect match.
1. Ask everyone you know and certainly friends currently riding at a barn.
2. Call your local veterinarian. They can be a great resource.
3 Take your time and ask questions. For example, how many kids ride at this barn?  What are the ages? Are the lessons group or private? Do you have size appropriate horses/ponies? (Your 8 year old should not be riding a 16 hand horse). Then schedule a time to go out and simply observe a lesson. Any reputable instructor would love to have you audit a session.
4. If you and your child like with you see then schedule an introductory lesson with the instructor.
5. If you have made it this far then your child should be will on their way to an exciting new equestrian world.
With the holidays upon us, it’s a great time to start your child in a lesson program.  What could be better than waking up to a stocking stuffed with a gift certificate for riding lessons? Well, maybe a pony, but let’s start slow.

The Mane Events

• Polo at the Point: November 5, starts at 1 p.m.
At the Limehouse Polo Field in Walterboro, $10 for general admission, 7201 N. Jefferies, Walterboro.
• Foxhunting Clinic at Huspa Equestrian Park: November 6, starts at 9 a.m. If you plan on hunting this season then don’t miss out on this informative clinic. For more information go to www.huspaequestrianpark.com.
• Junior Hunt Clinic at Short Stirrup Stables: November 1, from 2 to 4 p.m. This is a great clinic for all junior riders and junior hopefuls to meet like minded juniors and learn the ends and outs of foxhunting. No horses are needed for this clinic. 596 Broad River Blvd. Call me at 473-0882 or Christy at 912-925-1077 to reserve a spot.
• Opening Ceremony and Blessing of the Hounds, Aiken: November 24, starts at 11 a.m. If you’re looking for a new Turkey Day Tradition, here it is.
The entire town of Aiken turns out with festive drinks to watch the Blessing of the Hounds at the Memorial Gate in the Hitchcock Woods.

Melanie McCaffree is proprietor of Short Stirrup Stables, a child-centered riding academy located on 596 Broad River Blvd. in Beaufort. If you have an upcoming equestrian event and would like it to be added to the calendar, please send an email with details to bally.lynch.ire@gmail.com, or ivist www.shortstirrupstables.com, or call 843.473.0882.

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