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Horseback Riding for Kids: Child Safety With Horses and Ponies

Holle is an expert in all things dogs, gardening, and horses. She is a professional writer by trade.

My grandkids love horses!

My grandkids love horses!

My Long History With Horseback Riding

I got my first pony when I was eight years old. It was a surprise Christmas gift and turned out to be my best childhood Christmas. When I was 12, I got a horse for Christmas. I’ve had horses all my life up until the last few years, and my kids grew up riding. That’s before most folks used riding helmets. When I gave my granddaughter a pony for her sixth birthday, however, I made sure she had a riding helmet to go with her other equipment. I suppose I was more concerned with child safety as I aged.

For those of you who are familiar with equines, you don’t need to read this article. This information is more for people who aren’t used to being around horses and don’t understand how equines think and behave. For these people who might be buying a first horse or pony for their kids, I’m providing some tips on the following:

  1. Biting
  2. Kicking
  3. Feeding
  4. Riding Helmets
  5. Riding Safety Tips

Hope you enjoy the pictures! Some of them are of my kids and grandkids and their mounts.


Horses have powerful jaws—they have to in order to grind dried corn and other grains. That’s all fine and good until the jaws and teeth are used on you or on a child. A horse bite is usually very painful. I still have a scar on my left arm where one of our cow horses took out a plug of flesh. She had injured her head at the time, but I didn’t know it. It was dark, so I couldn’t see the injury. As I went to grab her halter, she bit me.

Some horses are biters, but there are ways you can turn a non-biting one into a biter. Of course, you don’t want to do this.

  • How to handle treats: Don’t tease when you’re giving it a treat (like offering it and then pulling the treat away). Also, unless you know them, it’s better to give larger treats like carrots and apples. Don’t keep small treats in your pocket, either. The horse or pony will smell them and investigate with its mouth.
  • When reaching for the head: Whenever you need to reach for the animal's head, do so gently. Making sudden movements might alarm them, and if that happens, the equine might bite as a defense mechanism.
A horse kick delivers a powerful punch!

A horse kick delivers a powerful punch!


A kick can be serious! Equines have some powerful hindquarters, and when they’re used on you— ouch! Even a gentle, well-trained horse will sometimes kick when frightened.

  • Don't approach from the rear: It’s best not to approach a horse or pony from the rear. But if you do, make sure the horse knows you’re there.
  • Use a low, calm voice: Speak to it in a low, calm voice before you get into kicking range.
Horses can get aggressive at feeding time.

Horses can get aggressive at feeding time.


If you have more than one, or if your horse is in with other horses, be careful at feeding time when the horses are eating as a group. Horses and ponies can get pretty possessive of their chow. This isn’t usually directed at humans, but you can easily get caught in between two or more angry equines.

  • Feed your horse separately: If your horse is stabled with others, feed it separately. Take the horse to a stall or outside the fence that encloses the rest of the herd.
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Riding Helmets

Please consider riding helmets carefully! I used to scoff at them, thinking they were for “wusses.” When my grandkids began riding, however, I changed my tune. When I was two years old, I received a head injury that required 10 stitches, thanks to falling from a horse. When I was 12 or 13, I got a fractured skull from falling off during a race. The same thing happened to my middle daughter when she was about the same age. Even worse, she had amnesia for a day or so. Scary!

A riding helmet will go a long way in protecting your child’s noggin. The proper riding gear is paramount.

Horseback Riding Safety Check

Riding Safety Tips

  • Familiarity: Don’t allow your son or daughter to take off for trail riding until you’ve gotten to know the equine and until your child has adequate riding skills. Hopefully, he’s taken plenty of riding lessons.
  • Buddy: It’s best for kids to always ride with a buddy. Horses are unpredictable—even well trained mounts—and riding them can sometimes be dangerous. You never know what might happen on the trail. The steed could get spooked, it could fall, or it could buck or rear. If your child is all alone when this happens, things could turn deadly.
  • Cell phone: It’s also a good idea to send the kids out with a cell phone. Also, make sure you know where they’ll be trail riding and what time to expect them back.
  • Good habits for bringing the horse back to the barn: Please, teach your child to never run the horse back to the barn! My riding pals and I learned this the hard way. The equine will become “barn sour,” which can become a dangerous situation. Some barn-sour horses will run pell-mell for the barn, with no other thought than to get home to rest, relaxation, food, and its buddies. In such a case, the mount will be extremely difficult for the child to control, and child safety will go out the proverbial window.
My middle daughter as a kid.

My middle daughter as a kid.

School Your Kids!

Before turning your child loose on or around equines, please review basic safety with them. Horses and horseback riding are awesome! There are, however, pitfalls and inherent dangers. Horses and ponies are incredibly strong, and they can easily overpower a child. And as I’ve already mentioned, equines can be very unpredictable.

By addressing safety and issues from the start, your kid will be well on his way to having a safe, enjoyable experience.

Trail Riding and Crossing Water

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Tori Leumas on March 06, 2014:

Great hub overall, but I do not like the picture do show a horse kicking. The man has a rope around the horse's legs and that is abuse! The horse in the picture is also too skinny.

The pictures of the kids with the horses are really cute, though! I like those!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Leah, horseback riding is great for developing/toning leg muscles. It also improves balance.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

I agree, drbj, but we never could find a riding helmet large enough for our horses! lol

Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 08, 2011:

habee, we've actually looked into it as a form of therapy - our little guy has weaker muscles and we've heard great things about hippotherapy! He's doing a LOT better now, though, so he might not need it as much. But he would certainly enjoy it! He's my little animal lover!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on November 08, 2011:

Great photos, Holle. made me want to get a horse of my own. Almost. And I agree with you about the helmets. Every horse should have one.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Carol, thanks a bunch!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Leah, I'm sure your kids will have a blast horseback riding. It's such a wonderful activity for kids - and for adults! lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Rebecca, I have a granddaughter who's just as horse crazy as I was! I hope your girls enjoy the horse pictures.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Thanks, Teri!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 08, 2011:

Oh, I love the horse pictures in this hub. My kids would LOVE to go horseback riding! This is a wonderful article - we are planning on visiting a friend in Indiana who has several ponies and horses, so it will be great to review the safety tips with the kids before we get near the horses!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Prasetio, I hope you get the chance for horseback riding someday, my friend. It's awesome!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 08, 2011:

Mary, I told ya - sisters! I'll go read your hub now.

Carolyn Sands from Hollywood Florida on November 07, 2011:

Hi Habee, this is a very informative hub with a bunch of beautiful pictures. Amazing.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 07, 2011:

Great Hub. My Granddaughters will be impressed.They LOVE horses. Nice pics.

Teri Silver from The Buckeye State on November 07, 2011:

Excellent and informative.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 07, 2011:

Habee, this was great information. Actually, I had never riding horses. But I hope my future kids has a chance to ride the horse. I really love all stunning pictures. Thank you very much for share with us. Rated up!


Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 07, 2011:

Oh, habee, you and I talk the same language, I swear! My kids all grew up with horses, and it meant a great deal to them. I had a friend once who went up to a horse who was in a stall, and had sugar cubes in her breast pocket. The horse smelled the sugar, of course, and he took a big bite. Luckily, she wasn't too injured! Did you ever read my Hub about Bonnie's surprise? I enjoyed the photos of your Grandkids on their horses. Sure brought back some good memories. See you again, soon.

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