With so many extracurricular activities for young children to participate, it is sometimes hard to decide what new experience to introduce. Three local Upstate Horse Farms — Mandy Dumas at Hillside Farms, Becky Sweeney at Eden Farms and Carole Flaspoehler at Grove Station Farms — weigh in on why horseback riding is beneficial for young children.
•Core muscle control. All three horse farm owners emphasized that horseback riding is wonderful for core muscle control. Riding uses all of a child’s muscles as they balance and shift to control the horse. The gross motor skill mastery helps kids with other large movement activities like sports and simple running.
•Self-confidence. “There is not a self-esteem problem with any of our regular riders,” Sweeney said, adding that confidence carries over in other areas of learning and social interactions.
•Outside and back to nature. Kids like to move and a horse is a fun method to connect and get back into a natural environment. Flaspoehler of Grove Station Farms said, “Horseback riding out here feels like being in the country without having to drive to the country.”
•Responsibility and consequences. As young children learn to ride they learn to care for the horse from brushing to saddling. A horse that isn’t well cared for by the young rider won’t always do what they are asked. They soon realize that their own choices dictate the outcome in other situations outside of riding.
•Problem solving and respect. Dumas of Hillside Farms says, “Horses do not always do what we want them to do, so children often have to learn multiple methods of asking.” As they gain the respect of the horse by being a good communicator, they are able to perform harder and harder riding skills.