From a Horse Show Mom: Getting Your Child Started in Horses
So, your son or daughter has shown an interest in horses. What do you do next? Just the idea of all that is related to being involved with horses can be overwhelming for most people, who may have little to no prior horse experience. However, with a little help, getting into horses doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem.
To get started, sit down with your child and ask what they want to get out of riding horses. Do they just want to learn to ride, join a 4-H club and show, show at a national level, win a world championship? Do you want to lease or purchase a horse? The answers to these questions will help you figure out your next step.
If your child wants lessons or to join a 4-H club, you can go online to 4-H.org to get a list of your local extension offices and programs. 4-H is a great place to start, and a lot of national-level riders began here. The extension office should have a list of events, trainers, clubs, and other resources available for your child.
If your child says they want to show at a higher level, the process can be much more involved and you should seek the help of a trainer. There are thousands of trainers in the United States, and finding the one right for your child is important.
Here are some steps to follow when trying to find the right trainer for your child.
Go to a Horse Show
AQHA.com has a list of local shows on their website so you can find one close to you. Go to the show and watch exhibitors with their trainers. Make a short list of trainers who you think might work with your child.
Talk to other horse show moms and dads. Ask them if they feel that their trainer is meeting their goals. Does their trainer communicate effectively with their child? Do the other barn teammates cheer for one another and create a positive atmosphere? Ask questions that are important to you.
After you develop a list of possible candidates, set up a time to visit their facility and talk to them one-on-one.
First up, set up a few lessons. Use this time to talk to prospective trainers about your child’s goals, find out their prices for shows, how many other children are in the barn, will they push your child too hard or not hard enough, etc. Find out if they have a horse in the barn to lease or one for sale appropriate for your child’s level. Most trainers will have one or two horses available for lessons to start on.
Just like all service industries in everyday life, there are trainers you may not mesh well with, so finding one you like or, more importantly, one your child wants to learn from, is a must. It is vital for them to feel comfortable with the people helping them achieve their goals.
Communication is key and finding a trainer you can easily talk to is important. You need to be able to speak to them about your concerns and overall objectives.
We asked a couple trainers for their advice on finding the right fit for your child.
Jamie English: Pick a horse trainer that is responsible, situated in their lives, and close to where you live so your child can ride and practice as much as needed. Finding a trainer close to home can be helpful, but don’t discount trainers farther away. Sometimes the right trainer for your child is not in your state, and figuring out other ways to practice will be necessary.
Kayla Kohler: When finding the right trainer for your child, do your homework and watch how trainers interact with current clients and how their clients do in the show arena. I always ask potential clients what their goals are. There are trainers for every level of the horse show world. I grew up in the horse show world, and as my needs evolved, my parents would go in search of a trainer that could push me to the next level. My advice, if your child is starting at an entry-level, find a trainer that can teach fundamentals. As they progress and show more interest in a higher level of competition, search for the trainer who can mold and shape them into a more refined rider.