This is the first of a multi-part series designed to help parents new, and not so new, to "Horse-ing" and all it entails.
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As a lifelong horse person, it was really tough stepping back to the be the "Barn Mom" when Olivia started lessons away from home. Our once a week trek has blossomed into a ritual that I guess every parent experiences once their kiddos are involved in activities outside of school.
As I have grown into this new found position, there are some pieces of equipment I have learned make the job of "Barn Mom" easier.
1. Insulated water bottles - This is a no brainer. Especially here in Sunny Florida, it's hot and hydration is key. Bring one for you and one for your kiddo. This one offers two lids, one with a straw which makes it easier to grab and go while still in the tack.
2. Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses - Again, also probably an obvious one. Shade ringside is sometimes a commodity and no one wants to leave looking like a blinded lobster. Sunscreen for the kids is a must, especially in the summer months. Light colored arena footing has almost a reflective quality that amplifies the sun on exposed skin. Avoid those UV rays and cover up!
3. A comfy chair - Most barns have a comfy place to sit, but just in case, bring your own. Pick something lightweight and collapsible Better to have and not need, rather than need and not have.
4. Snacks - Some for parent and child. Let's face it - all said that lesson takes a solid three hours from the time we get in the vehicle to the time we get home. Avoid the hangry and take some goodies. Protein bars of all sorts live in our truck. Cookies for the pony aren't a bad idea either if the barn rules allow treats.
5. Barn appropriate footwear - Leave the cute shoes or anything open toed or heeled at home. While some barns may have a lax safety policy about footwear, it's better to follow US Pony Club protocol and wear a decent pair of paddock boots. You never know when you will get asked to hold a pony and trust me, a cute pedicure just does not cover up a pile of broken toes because you insisted on wearing something besides boots!
6. Camera - You never know when you will get to witness that "lightbulb" moment where something clicks for your kid. (Or the blooper that could win $10K on America's Funniest Videos.) Bring along a decent video camera to capture all those moments. Of course, cell phones always work in a pinch, but having a good optical zoom is really important for handling cross country or those bigger rings. Plus video is one of the best learning tools for when your kid can't be at the barn. If you are looking to splurge, check out this automated camera - handy for when you can't be there or when you want to soak in all the action without a screen in the way. Another smaller and budget friendly option is this little camera. This one is great for handing off to the kids and at under $50 won't hurt so bad when it bites the dust.
What else do you find yourself grabbing as you head to the barn? Let us know in the comments so we can ad to this list! Want to make sure your aspiring Olympian has all they need? Check out this post.
So, your kiddo has pestered and pestered and you have finally decided to give in and get them started in riding lessons. Congrats! Welcome to the club! This is an exciting time, that done well, can lead to a lifelong passion.
First things first though - you need to find the right barn! Good instruction can take on many shapes, sizes and financial inputs. Bigger and glitzier doesn't always equal better. Some of the best instructors I have ever had worked out of functional, frill free farms with few, but dedicated and successful students.
If you are new to the farm/horse life, know that dust, dirt and (a certain amount of) manure are all part of the game, but never feel like a barn needs an exorcism from its filth. Safety should be top priority. Finding a barn that supports a US Pony Club program is an excellent choice! Read on for some guidelines to finding the right instructor for your child.
1. - Ask you child what type of riding they might like. - Start with the easy question of English or western? Beginner lessons are generally pretty similar no matter the type of saddle, but some kids might have a predisposed "vision" of what they want to do. The great thing is, they can always change it up later!
2. Google it. - This is an easy one. Google search riding lessons in your area and see what you get.
3. Check the reviews. - Most trainers worth their salt are well known. Ask around, check Google, see if they have a Web site and social media befitting the environment you want for your child.
4. Do some research. - Make a phone call, check out their web site/social media and make a visit yourself, potentially without your child initially. Ask LOTS of questions like...
4a. Do MORE research. - Go and take a lesson or two yourself. See what your beginner child will experience first hand. Ask yourself some questions, like...
4b. Keep doing research. - When you visit a barn, take a look around. What kind of atmosphere does it offer? Is it organized? Do the horses look healthy? Are the other riders kind and seemingly well educated about their horses and sport?
5. Ask questions!! - Any instructor should be open to explaining a theory or practice they are using in their teaching. Bonus points if they refer you to additional resources either through books or online.
6. Allow for a trial period. - After you have done your research and selected an instructor you like, discuss a trial period before paying for a ton of lessons. Explain you want to make sure this is the right fit before making a long term commitment. Most trainers are super open to discussion, so be clear with your communication.
7. Get started! - The big day of that first lesson is here! Time to sit back and see what happens. Your world will be forever changed!
Hey there! I'm Katie. This blog was launched in 2019 to help other families in their horse-ing, small farming, and homeschooling endeavors. Join us on this amazing journey!
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Please note, these are experiences that have worked for us and do not represent the opinions, knowledge etc. of a professional. Please view full disclaimer here.