As children start to grow up and take in the world around them, experiencing nature and the great outdoors is a wonderful educational tool as well as a means of developing both their personality and imaginative spirit.
There is a lot of literature available online about how horse-riding is beneficial to children with behavioural and learning difficulties; how the bond created between pony and child is a precious partnership that cannot be replicated. And this is all completely true, but we also want to promote the value in horse riding for all children – not just those who struggle in schooling and social situations.
Learning to – and enjoying the thrill of – riding a horse is a spectacular way to engage children in the world away from their bedroom or television screen. So why do we go horse-riding at Clifton?
1. Promotes health and fitness
Physical health and fitness is something we are constantly hearing about in the news, with the UK currently playing host to the highest percentage of obese young people that we have ever had in this country. Any kind of physical activity does wonders for the body, and horse riding is no different, getting children outside in the fresh air and encouraging them to engage their bodies and core strength to work in time with the horse’s movements.
Horse riding also promotes hand-eye coordination and teaches children about mobility and agility, instilling in them healthy habits and physical associations – if the horse is happy and healthy then he will move well.
2. Improves social skills and builds relationships
An increased social life is one of the key benefits of horse riding, with the riding community being known for sociable rides, beautiful scenic trips and livery yard conversations. Children have the opportunity to make new friends whenever they take on any new hobby, and riding a horse will enable them not only to make new friends in their fellow riders, but also to develop a bond with the horse itself.
Horses rely on their rider for non-verbal direction and look up to the rider as their leader, which can encourage even the shyest children to come out of their shell and open up, thus developing a bond with their animal.
3. Teaches self-discipline and problem solving
Self-discipline and control are two key benefits to horse riding, as the experience from start to finish relies on focus, understanding and a calm temperament. This in turn can increase a child’s patience and respect, which can rub off in other areas of their life including their home life and in the classroom.
Riding can also improve a child’s ability to problem-solve and handle real-life situations, which again can only have a positive effect on their scholastic learning. As they learn the value of a strong partnership, so they begin to experience and become accustomed to team work; a skill which they will return to many times throughout their life.
4. Boosts self confidence and well-being
Learning to ride a horse can provide a real confidence boost to children of all ages, as it shows them that they can accomplish something real – even when that “something” initially looks like a giant creature that they may be slightly fearful of. This is an empowering experience for humans old and young, but is especially beneficial to children as it puts them in a position of trust and power, developing early leadership skills and responsibility.
By learning these life skills in the safety of a horse yard, children are exposed to the possibilities of human error but in the safe company of a horse. Where many children feel embarrassed when they spill something or say something wrong in school, the yard is a place where they can make these human mistakes with no one around to judge.
The horse becomes a companion and enables the child to build their confidence with no peers around to knock it back down.
5. It’s fun!
Children nowadays are surrounded by computer games and digital distractions – what better way to eliminate all this for an hour or two, than by grabbing their favourite saddle pad and getting on the back of a horse and immersing them in nature. You can thank us later!