The Benefits of Pony Riding for Children and Adults
Pony Riding for Beginners: A Complete Guide
Pony riding is a popular hobby and sport that involves riding a small horse or pony. Ponies are usually less than 14.2 hands (58 inches or 147 cm) high at the withers, which is the highest point of the shoulder. Ponies are typically more gentle, intelligent, and hardy than larger horses, making them ideal for children and beginners.
Pony riding can be done for pleasure, recreation, competition, or therapy. It can also be a great way to bond with animals, nature, and other people. In this article, we will explore the benefits of pony riding, the equipment you need, the safety tips you should follow, and how to find a pony riding center near you. We will also give you some basic steps and skills to help you learn how to ride a pony.
Benefits of Pony Riding
Pony riding has many benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are some of them:
Physical benefits: Pony riding is a form of exercise that can improve your cardiovascular health, core strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and muscle tone. It can also burn calories and help you lose weight. According to a study commissioned by the British Horse Society, horse riding meets the intensity level of exercise recommended by government guidelines. The study found that just half an hour of horse-related activity, such as mucking out, is classed as moderate exercise, while trotting exerts more energy than playing badminton.
Mental benefits: Pony riding can enhance your cognitive abilities, such as memory, concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making. It can also stimulate your creativity and imagination. Riding a pony requires you to communicate with the animal through your voice and body language, which can improve your verbal and non-verbal skills. Additionally, pony riding can expose you to new challenges and experiences that can boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Emotional benefits: Pony riding can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood. Spending time with animals is known to raise levels of serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel happy. Pony riding can also foster a sense of connection and belonging with the pony, other riders, and nature. It can also provide you with fun and enjoyment.
Equipment for Pony Riding
Before you start pony riding, you need to have some essential equipment for yourself and the pony. Here are some of them:
Riding helmet: This is the most important piece of equipment for any rider. A riding helmet protects your head from injuries in case of a fall or an accident. You should always wear an ASTM approved riding helmet that fits you properly and is comfortable. You should also replace your helmet regularly or after any impact.
Riding boots: These are sturdy shoes that protect your feet from being stepped on by the pony or getting caught in the stirrups. They should have minimal tread and a 1 inch (2.5 cm) heel to prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup. You can choose between paddock boots or tall boots depending on your preference and style of riding.
Riding gloves: These are gloves that protect your hands from blisters, abrasions, or cold weather. They also help you grip the reins better and control the pony more effectively. You should choose gloves that fit snugly but not too tightly.
Riding pants: These are pants that are designed for comfort and mobility when riding a pony. They should have a stretchy or elastic material that allows you to bend your knees and hips easily. They should also have a reinforced seat and inner leg to prevent rubbing and chafing. You can choose between breeches, jodhpurs, or jeans depending on your preference and style of riding.
Riding shirt: This is a shirt that is comfortable and breathable when riding a pony. It should have a collar and sleeves to protect you from the sun and insects. You can choose between a polo shirt, a t-shirt, or a long-sleeved shirt depending on the weather and the occasion.
Riding jacket: This is a jacket that keeps you warm and dry when riding a pony in cold or wet weather. It should be waterproof, windproof, and lightweight. It should also have vents or zippers to allow air circulation and prevent overheating. You can choose between a fleece jacket, a softshell jacket, or a raincoat depending on the temperature and the precipitation.
Riding vest: This is an optional piece of equipment that provides extra warmth and protection for your torso when riding a pony. It can also add some style and color to your outfit. You can choose between a quilted vest, a fleece vest, or a puffer vest depending on your preference and the season.
Saddle: This is the seat that you sit on when riding a pony. It supports your weight and helps you balance and communicate with the pony. It should fit both you and the pony well and be comfortable for both of you. There are different types of saddles for different disciplines of riding, such as English, Western, or Endurance. You should choose a saddle that matches your level of experience and your style of riding.
Bridle: This is the headgear that you use to control the pony's direction and speed. It consists of a bit, which goes in the pony's mouth, and reins, which connect the bit to your hands. It also has a headstall, which holds the bit in place, and a browband, which prevents the headstall from slipping back. There are different types of bridles for different disciplines of riding, such as snaffle, curb, or hackamore. You should choose a bridle that suits your pony's temperament and your level of skill.
Girth: This is the strap that goes around the pony's belly and secures the saddle in place. It should be snug but not too tight to avoid discomfort or injury to the pony. You should check the girth before and after mounting to make sure it is properly adjusted.
Stirrups: These are the metal or plastic loops that hang from the saddle and support your feet when riding a pony. They help you keep your balance and position on the saddle. They should be adjusted to the right length for your leg length and riding style. You should be able to fit one fist between your seat and the stirrup when standing in it.
Saddle pad: This is the cloth or foam pad that goes under the saddle and cushions the pony's back from pressure and friction. It also absorbs sweat and dirt from the pony's coat. It should be clean, dry, and smooth to prevent irritation or infection to the pony's skin.
Safety Tips for Pony Riding
Pony riding can be fun and exciting, but it can also be dangerous if you are not careful. Here are some safety tips to follow when riding a pony:
Always wear a helmet: As mentioned earlier, a helmet is the most important piece of equipment for any rider. It can save your life in case of a fall or an accident. Never ride without one.
Wear appropriate clothing: As mentioned earlier, you should wear clothing that is comfortable, breathable, and protective when riding a pony. Avoid wearing anything loose, dangling, or flapping that could get caught in the tack or spook the pony.
Check your equipment: Before you mount, you should check your equipment for any damage, wear, or tear that could compromise its function or safety. Make sure everything is clean, secure, and properly fitted.
Mount and dismount safely: When mounting, you should use a mounting block or ask someone to give you a leg up. You should always mount from the left side of the pony and swing your right leg over without kicking or hitting the pony. When dismounting, you should slide off gently from the left side of the pony and land on both feet.
Ride with supervision: If you are a beginner or an inexperienced rider, you should always ride with a qualified instructor or a experienced rider who can guide you and help you in case of trouble. You should also ride in a safe and familiar area, such as a riding arena or a trail, and avoid busy roads or unfamiliar terrain.
Follow the rules of the road: If you have to ride on the road, you should follow the same rules as other vehicles. You should ride on the left side of the road, signal your intentions, obey traffic signs and signals, and be courteous to other road users. You should also wear reflective clothing and use lights or reflectors on your pony and equipment to increase your visibility.
Be aware of your surroundings: When riding a pony, you should always pay attention to your surroundings and be alert for any potential hazards or distractions. You should also be aware of your pony's behavior and mood, and respond accordingly. If your pony is nervous, scared, or excited, you should calm him down or dismount if necessary.
Respect your pony: Your pony is a living being with feelings and needs, not a machine. You should treat him with respect, kindness, and patience. You should not force him to do anything he is not comfortable or capable of doing. You should also reward him with praise, treats, or scratches when he does something well.
How to Find a Pony Riding Center Near You
If you are interested in pony riding, you need to find a place where you can learn and practice this activity. There are many pony riding centers around the world that offer lessons, camps, clinics, trails, and other services for riders of all ages an