From a young age, kids are raised to love animals. The bond between a child and an animal is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. Taking a tour through a child’s bedroom can remind you of the imaginary critters that are popular in the movies, music, toys, décor and storybooks of childhood.
My Own Pony
Of all animals, horses are especially appealing to children. Horses are strong, dynamic animals. Most children dream of having their own horse or pony at some point in their youth. Whether it be the result of multiple pony rides at the state fair, watching them in movies, or from just being raised in the countryside, most children love horses. And horseback riding is popular for all ages. The benefits go beyond simple enjoyment – horseback riding is physically, mentally and emotionally rewarding.
Equestrian sports are the only sports where men and women can compete against each other at any age. Riding a horse is physically demanding and requires the intense use of muscles and memory. Horseback riding improves muscular strength, particularly in the legs, back and core muscles. Developing this body and muscle control helps to improve the rider’s posture as well as physique.
Horseback riding has been shown to have positive psychological benefits. In fact, horseback riding is often used in therapy programs for a wide variety of individuals. Unlike other sports, riding a horse requires the rider to work together with a beautiful and grandiose animal. One of the biggest psychological benefits of riding a horse is increased self-confidence. Until the rider gets used to handling a horse, these large animals can seem daunting. Succeeding in mastering various riding skills and techniques often improve a rider’s overall self-confidence in handling difficult situations.
There is something about being around horses that naturally relieves stress for most people. When an individual is on a horse, all they need to be focused on are themselves and the animal. This quiet friend and companion helps the rider to take a break from their normal day-to-day routines and concerns.
In addition to improving self-confidence and reducing stress levels, horseback riding can increase patience and focus. As with other animals, horses require a fair amount of patience. Not only that, but when around horses, the rider has to pay close attention to detail and remain focused at all times.
The responsibility to take care of an animal that requires daily attention teaches the rider time management skills and the need to plan ahead. Animals, just like humans, have needs and the rider must be accountable in taking care of the animal.
Riding can be dangerous and it is important to get proper training and instruction to have a solid horseback riding foundation. Riding horses is a sport for any age, but there are benefits for starting young. When children start riding at 7- or 8-years-old their muscles are malleable and muscle memory can develop with ease. Children are known to lack a general fear factor and tend to learn faster without that distraction.
Riding a horse is not an easy task. It takes months to years of training, setting and achieving goals to become a confident rider. Like many sports, horseback riding provides an opportunity to constantly learn, develop and grow. Whether you are learning because you are riding a new horse and need to understand this new animal or you change riding divisions, an equestrian always has more to learn.
Watching successful partnerships in the competition arena further magnifies the special bond, based on an unspoken trust and confidence, which both horse and rider must have with each other.
We are fortunate in Westchester to have many opportunities to expose our children to the sport of horseback riding. And it’s a sport the entire family can enjoy together regardless of age or gender.
Lainie Wimberly is the owner of Brigadoon Stables, a full-service equestrian training facility in North Salem. As a rider, she had a successful Junior career, being the youngest rider to qualify for the Maclay Finals at Madison Square Garden at the age of 11. Lainie went on to be a World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Challenge winner and The Legacy Cup Winner. She opened Brigadoon in 1987 and is now one of the premiere Hunter rider trainers on the East Coast. Lainie has a reputation for finding young horses and raising them to become champions as well as helping riders of all ages find success in the ring.
Horseback Riding in Westchester
Saddle up and introduce your child to the sport of horseback riding.
1300 Baptist Church Road, Yorktown Heights
Beech Hill Farm
20 Beech Hill Road, Pleasantville
Brigadoon Show Stables
15 Turkey Hill Road, North Salem
Boulder Brook Equestrian Center
291 Mamaroneck Road, Scarsdale
Chicory Meadow Farm
76 Jack Road, Cortlandt Manor
The Crossroads Equestrian Center
83 Big Elm Road, Brewster
Fox Hill Farms
204 Old Sleepy Hollow Road, Pleasantville
107 June Road, Stamford, Conn.
Ridgefield Equestrian Center
258 North St., Ridgefield, Conn.
Shady Lane Farm
427 Birdsall Drive, Yorktown Heights
120 Cottage Ave., Purchase
Twin Lakes Farm
960 California Road, Bronxville
Westchester Trail Rides
6 Croton Lake Road, Croton-on-Hudson
Zephyr Farms Inc.
219 Watermelon Hill Road, Mahopac