Picking the Right Horse for Your Child
Buying a horse, especially for your child, can be an overwhelming experience. Whether you have years and years of horse experience or you are new to the horse world, purchasing a horse is nerve-racking. It is a big financial decision, and it’s important to make the right choice to keep your child safe and confident in the saddle.
The first place to start on a horse purchase journey is asking advice from your child’s instructor. They have a complete understanding of your child’s riding level, confidence level, and short (and possibly) long-term riding goals, as well as knowledge of horses. If your child’s instructor is able to see the horse, or at least see videos, they can help you make a good decision.
Unlike adults who know they are done growing vertically, children are growing quickly and picking the right size horse can make a difference on how long your child can ride that horse. For example, a 12.2hh pony might be a good choice for a child under 12, but that pony will be too small as your child gets bigger. Many riders ultimately settle on horses between 15hh and 16.2hh. If your child is smaller or less experienced, look for a horse that is slightly smaller. As your child grows, they will begin to develop a preference for horses and movement. I’ve known several 5’2” riders who prefer 17hh horses.
The age, temperament, and experience of the horse are especially important when looking for a children’s horse. With age comes experience and, generally, a docile temperament. These traits are essential for your child to have a safe and fun horse experience. A horse with a docile temperament tends to be more forgiving of mistakes made as your child is learning. Stay away from young, inexperienced horses as this is often a recipe for problems. A challenging or “good potential” horse can hurt your child’s confidence and possibly create a bad situation.
As you begin looking for horses, make sure to stick within your child’s chosen discipline. If your child loves western, look for a horse with western training. However, if your child is still trying a few different disciplines, which is very common when you first get started, look for a versatile horse with experience in multiple disciplines.
You’ll see horses with a wide range of price tags, especially if you are in one of the more expensive disciplines like eventing or dressage. Just remember the highest price tag does not always mean this is the best horse for your child. Look for a horse that will meet your child’s goals and be a good match for temperament and experience. Ask your child’s instructor to help you create a list of ideal traits for your child’s horse. This will help you stay focused on what you need and not necessarily what you want, within your budget, and avoid an impulse buy of the prettiest, youngest horse in the barn.