(August 2019) – Kids and horses are a magical combination. Seeing the joy that washes over a child’s face while he or she rides for the first time is truly inspiring. If you are a parent, grandparent, or other guardian looking for ways for a special young person in your life to get into riding, rest assured that there are plenty of options. The Certified Horsemanship Association has a primer on the best ways for youth to become involved with horses.
The Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) offers options through its members, who are riding instructors, driving instructors, instructors for riders with disabilities, vaulting coaches, trail guides, equestrian facility staff, or camp staff. If you want to try lessons for the child in your life, CHA’s certified experts are a great option. It’s important to understand the credentials of anyone you work with, do thorough research, and make a careful decision, to ensure your child gets off to the right start and has a positive and safe experience. In a past blog post, CHA explored why it’s important to find a certified horseback riding instructor.
To look for CHA certified instructors in your area, along with accredited CHA facilities, that offer riding opportunities, you can search the free online database at CHAinstructors.com. Once you have a list of options in your area, CHA offers more information on how to choose a riding instructor or you can listen to CHA’s interview of two experts on the subject on an episode of the CHA’s Training Tuesdays podcast on “Horses in the Morning.”
In addition to lessons, many children have their first experience with horses at a camp. To find a CHA Accredited Facility, visit CHAinstructors.com and type in “camp” into the search field. To read more about finding a camp with horses, check out the following blog posts: “Attending a Camp with Horseback Riding” and “How to Find the Best Horse Camp.”
In addition to CHA instructors and camps, there are additional options in the equine industry for youth to get involved. Some of the most well-known ones are mentioned below.
The purpose of Time To Ride is to sustain and grow the equine industry by creating the next generation of knowledgeable, dedicated horse enthusiasts and owners while also teaching children valuable life lessons. Time to Ride accomplishes this by introducing school-age children to horseback riding and horse care in a safe, professional, welcoming environment. Time To Ride is a program of the American Horse Council Marketing Alliance. For more information, visit TimeToRide.org. CHA is an educational partner with Time to Ride.
The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) is offered for kids in grades 4th through 12th, and participants do not need to own a horse. Riders of various levels compete on IEA teams in hunt seat and Western disciplines throughout the school year for individual and team points and accolades. IEA teams are offered through public and private schools and through participating barns. There are more than 11,000 members competing in hundreds of events across the United States. For more information, visit www.RideIEA.org. CHA is an educational alliance partner with IEA.
4-H is the Cooperative Extension System’s youth development program with 110 U.S. land-grand universities involved, which helps to make it the largest youth development organization. More than six million kids are involved between the ages of 8 and 18 in more than 3,000 counties across the United States. Every state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and 50 other countries have local offices. The equine curriculum includes “horseless” activities along with riding and horsemanship. To look into joining or volunteering with 4-H, or to learn more, visit www.4-H.org. CHA provides discounts on its educational materials to 4H leaders.
The National FFA Organization, mostly known as FFA, or the Future Farmers of America, involves teaching youth about livestock, including horses, and agricultural topics, although it is not just for those who want to be farmers. Students participate in classroom and laboratory instruction, supervised agricultural programs, and student leadership opportunities within the organization. And for those who start FFA as a child and want to continue, there is the Collegiate FFA, programs for adults, and the opportunity to volunteer as an adult. FFA allows participants to connect with a mentor, win awards, and participate on horse judging and horsemanship teams. FFA has local school-level chapters, which are connected to your state’s association underneath the national organization. To learn more, visit www.ffa.org. CHA provides discounts to FFA members on its educational horsemanship materials.
One organization helps youth and youth leaders in the equine industry regardless of breed or discipline affiliation. The American Youth Horse Council (AYHC) serves as a national information center with ongoing training opportunities for youth and people looking to teach kids about horses. AYHC also strives to provide opportunities for youth leaders to network among adults in the industry. It also produces high-quality educational resources for kids. AYHC grants help youth to attend equine activities in the U.S. For more information, visit www.ayhc.com. AYHC and CHA work together on many projects to help kids connect with horses.
The United States Pony Clubs (USPC) provides horsemanship and horse care instruction. Its core values include horsemanship, organized teamwork, and respect for horse and self through horsemanship, service, and education. Participants can now stay within the organization until they are 25 if they meet requirements. There are Pony Clubs in many countries worldwide, and the U.S.’s organization was originally an offshoot of the British Pony Club. USPC offers mounted and unmounted meetings, clinics, rallies, certifications, exchanges, and other special opportunities. Membership is through local a Pony Club or a riding center recognized by the USPC to administer the Pony Club program. Many riding centers can provide a horse for a child to use for Pony Club activities if the child does not own one. To learn more, visit www.ponyclub.org. CHA and USPC attend each other conferences providing education to each other’s members.
In addition to these organizations, there are also youth organizations within most horse breed and discipline organizations. These organizations offer a variety of activities, leadership opportunities, ways for children to be mentored, events and conferences, and even all-youth championship horse shows. CHA partners with AQHA, APHA, ApHC, and AHA.
Many organizations offer contests and youth awards through their youth associations or through the parent organization. Some awards are not just for riding achievements; many are given to those who exemplify sportsmanship, volunteerism, leadership, commitment, dedication, and other similar traits that adults are trying to teach to the next generation. Several youth awards offered by breed and discipline organizations include scholarships and grants.
So whether you own a horse or not, there are a variety of options for youth. To learn about even more opportunities, please read the original blog post that CHA published on this topic.
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