Sally Holden, Equine Director (Sedbergh Prep School) explains why we should encourage our children to ride horses.

Childhood is full of exciting stories and role-play games, so learning to ride and ‘playing ponies’ can add a new dimension to your child’s experience of these four-legged friends.

Encouraging children to ride not only brings a great variety of physical, mental and social skills, which bodes well for them in the future, but can also instill many other qualities in children.

A lifelong love of horses brings different rewards at different stages of childhood, but aspiring to be the next Olympic Equestrian star can be a great motivational tool for feeding their enthusiasm and achieving their dreams.

1. Fitness and Health
Any type of sport brings physical health benefits and riding a horse or pony isn’t any different. The importance of getting children outdoors first starts with the physical advantages; it’s important to get them involved as young as possible. In a world of tempting technology it’s as important as ever to motivate children to get out and about. The health benefits for them both physically and mentally are hugely important in all stages of life.

2. Lifelong well-being
The older a child gets involved in a specific sport, the less likely they’ll consider it as an important part of their lives, and the less chance you’ll have of securing their interest as they progress into adulthood. Children that experience the benefits of riding early in life often repeat this activity later in life with ease. Rather like never forgetting how to ride a bike. The health and social benefits therefore also repeating.

3. Making new friends
Getting your children out into new environments is a great way to help them make friends. Riding can lead to social-life benefits and meeting new people that could develop into life-long friends.

Being involved in this “club” brings a new circle of friend for children with whom they may never had interaction with. Friendships formed outside of academic and family life have a special bond and can often not experience the same social difficulties that could be experienced at school or over social media.

4. Confidence booster
Learning to ride and care for an animal that’s twice their size can really empower children. It’s a great way to boost their confidence as the skills required to control a four-legged animal are more about forward thinking and planning than physical strength.

Patience, resilience and determination are all strengths that are tested during any time spent with horses. A frustrated child will soon learn to use other qualities within their personality to move forward in a tricky situation. This in turn brings a huge sense of achievement and a boost in confidence.

5. Learning life-lessons
Riding is great for showing children that success and rewards comes off the back of hard work. Looking after a pony is hard work and children will learn how to manage their own time and efficiency.

Squeezing in time to muck out and groom before having the chance to ride gives children the feeling that the hard work that comes with pony ownership is worthwhile, as they can then go on to enjoy and appreciate their riding session.

Dealing with animals also helps children put others first. If children can understand that someone else’s needs have to be considered alongside and often before their own, they may just develop into more considerate, responsible and kind individuals.

6. Responsibility
The overall care of horses, including feeding them and keeping them healthy teaches children about caring for others. This also is not something that can be dropped if we have a bad day or we are tired. The responsibility and commitment is long term and children that develop this skill will move forward through life with the ability to “see a job through”.

For more information on our equine facilities, please go to our website www.sedberghprep.org  or follow us on social media: Sedbergh Equestrian Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Sedbergh-Equestrian-793625447460999/?fref=ts

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