Horse & Rider

Finding the First Horse


A child’s relationsh­ip with his or her first horse can make or break the rest of their equine careers. Finding a safe, enjoyable mount that’ll serve the needs of a young, inexperien­ced rider is a tall task, though. Just how broke does a kid’s horse need to be, what type of training should he have, and what degree of soundness issues can you manage?

Charlie Cole, of Highpoint Performanc­e Horses in Pilot Point, Texas, is an American Quarter Horse Associatio­n Profession­al Horseman. He’s helped hundreds of riders get their start in the arena, and he knows a thing or two about gentle horses. Here are the elements he demands in a kid’s first horse.

Safety First

When I’m looking for the first horse for a kid— whether that kid wants to eventually compete or not—I’m looking for safety first. A good, old gelding is really the best bet. I want a horse that’s been there and done that and isn’t easily excitable.

I want a kid’s horse to guide pretty well. I don’t want him dragging a kid around the arena doing whatever he wants, but I’m also not looking for a horse that’s too quick to respond to the reins, either.

On the Ground

You want a gentle gamer, so that means you want a horse that’s gentle on the ground, too. Most importantl­y, a kid’s horse can’t be sensitive at all on his rear end or sensitive to the touch. I want to be able to grab his tail or hock without him reacting.


There’s a fine line when it comes to soundness issues in been-there, done-that horses for kids. I’m most concerned with whether or not the horse is sure-footed. You can have some soundness issues and have a really good horse for a kid. I want a horse I know or have a really good history on, preferably one that’s been ridden by other kids. If the horse has a proven record as a safe kid’s horse, I don’t worry about what the x-rays say.

Where to Look

Because having a history on a kid’s horse is so important, finding a horse through friends, family, or a trusted mentor is important. You don’t want anyone to unload a bronc on you for your kid, and you really don’t want something from a stranger sight unseen. This could be the most important horse you ever buy, so be sure to buy from someone who understand­s what your kid means to you.

Looking for more horse-crazy kid help? Visit HorseandRi­der .com to find our new blog, “A Safe Start,” for more in-the-saddle resources for parents.

 ??  ?? The relationsh­ip that a child has with their first horse is critical to building confidence in his or her horsemansh­ip skills.
The relationsh­ip that a child has with their first horse is critical to building confidence in his or her horsemansh­ip skills.

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