Keeping Your Kids Safe and Sensible Around Horses
Teaching a child to be kind and respectful of all animals is an essential part of parenting. Normal child behaviours like running around and screaming can be confusing to animals, so to enjoy time with a four-legged friend, they need to understand how to behave calmly and sensibly.
Make sure your child understands that like any animal, the horse is not a toy, but a living being with feelings and emotions that is deserving of respect. Even the quietest and safest horse may be unpredictable at times, so set out some basic ground rules which your child knows to follow with all horses. This includes never walking behind them, never shouting, screaming, or running in their presence, and always wearing suitable protective clothing. Horses take confidence from their rider or handler, so make sure your child knows how to always appear calm and in control.
How Your Horse Thinks
Some basic lessons in understanding how a horse thinks and interprets situations are invaluable. Make sure your child knows about the fact that horses have blind spots in front and behind, and to use their voice when approaching. Likewise, teach them about how useful horses’ ears are as an indicator of their mood. You could try flash cards to begin with, or there are plenty of online videos demonstrating equine body language and how to read it.
Prevention and preparation for danger is important. Make sure your child knows to be proactive about preventing potentially dangerous situations by always cleaning up tools and making sure gates or stable doors are closed securely. It’s not always possible to predict what might happen and many things will be out of your control, so show your child how to deal safely with situations like a horse getting loose or being scared. You could always set up a mini obstacle course in your arena to get your child and horse used to dealing with scary objects like plastic bags together as a team.
Preparation also involves having the right kit and ensuring your child wears that kit correctly. Everything from a properly fitted pair of boots to an up to standard and protective riding hat is essential for safety when riding. Body protectors are also recommended to provide the ultimate safety and peace of mind when your little one takes to the saddle.
Be a Role Model
Kids will copy what they see adults doing, so make sure that you always set a good example. Teach essential components of safe handling and why they’re important – like tying up with a quick release knot or feeding with your hand out flat. Always show a kind and understanding attitude. Some horses may refuse to walk past a scary object or go over a jump, and it’s important to be patient and not get angry. Get your child to look at it from the horse’s point of view and understand how to work through the situation sensitively.
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