5 Ways to Build Your Child’s Confidence Around Horses

Help your child overcome a fear of horses and find fun at the barn.

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Boy watching horse
Many of us horse lovers dream of having a child who will someday share our passion for all things equestrian. We imagine having our son or daughter to join us for shows, trail rides, fairs, and even lessons.

However, not all children are fearless when it comes to our 1,000-pound, hooved friends. In fact, some kids are downright scared of horses. My son, now five and a half, was one of those kids, but I have gradually succeeded in easing his anxiety and helping him feel comfortable around my favorite four-legged pals.

Here are my five hard-earned tips to get things off on the right hoof, I mean, foot with your own child:

  1. Share photos and videos.

    Before having my son approach an animal about twenty times his size, I let him watch videos and pictures of me riding so he could see his mom enjoying these large creatures in a safe environment. We also looked at horse books and magazines together to pique his equine interest and prevent an intimidating first encounter.

  2. Visit a barn or riding center together.

    Once I was sure my son would be comfortable being near horses—and all of the other assorted barn animals—in person, I brought him to visit a rescue shelter’s fundraiser that included horse rides. While visiting, he had the chance to take a nice, slow walk on a lead with one of their gentlest horses. The best part was seeing my son’s proud grin the entire ride!

  3. Attend fairs with pony rides.

    Because he enjoyed his first ride, I wanted the momentum to continue. Anytime I see a community or state fair offering pony rides, we go. It’s a joy to share his excitement and see his interest and confidence grow.

  4. Go to a horse show.

    Was I hoping for a fancy brunch or spa day for Mother’s Day? No way! I wanted to go to a horse show, of course. My family came along, and both of my children were fascinated by the riders, horses, and atmosphere. Taking children to a show is a wonderful way to spark their interest while spending time as a family.

  5. Do a parent-child horse camp or lesson.

    These aren’t always easy to find, but I searched the net, determined to find a program where I could participate in a riding clinic with my kids last summer. I found a parent-child half-day camp, and we had a great time. The camp was skillfully designed with young children in mind, so it was safe, low-key, and most importantly, fun! Search your area for opportunities like this that may be available. I know that I will remember our camp experience for a long time.

I hope to not only encourage my son’s trust for horses, but also emphasize the fun we can have exploring all that the equestrian world has to offer. Horses enrich our lives in countless ways, and seeing my son become comfortable around them has been well worth the effort.

It may take some ‘groundwork,’ but fanning that equine flame can bring you and your children happiness for years to come.


Julia Arnold is a writer living in Minnesota with her husband and two young children. She has always loved horses and is thrilled to have officially rejoined the horse world as an adult. She rides whenever she can at Hardwood Creek Farm in Hugo,
Minnesota. You can follow her adventures in riding and parenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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