Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
Is Your Child Ready for a Horse?
Every child that has taken lessons and catches the horse bug at some points begs their parents for a horse of their own. If you are a horse person yourself, you probably feel more than qualified to make the decision of whether or not your child is ready.
But for a lot of parents, their child’s desire to ride is what got them into horses, and they might not feel confident in knowing how to tell when their child is ready for a horse of their own.
Let’s assume your child has been taking lessons and you already have a relationship with an instructor. The first thing you want to do is discuss with your instructor what their thoughts are. I know it may be hard to hear if they say your child is not ready. Just remember, a good instructor wants to see their student be safe and succeed. If they say no, they are just looking out your child’s best interest.
Instructors everywhere have stories of enthusiastic families buying a horse for their child too soon. These are usually not good stories. Finding out after you bought the horse that you are in over your head is a recipe to ruin your child’s confidence.
For the die-hards, they work through the challenge and learn from it. For the timid at heart, finally owning a horse of your own and not being successful with it could be the end of your child's riding career.
A child owning their first horse should be almost a right of passage. We want them to be proud and dedicated. Most importantly we want the horse to help them grow in their riding careers.
Once you have made the decision that you are ready to take the leap, finding the right horse will be the next step. That is another article for another day. For now, I want to help you take the first step, which is determining whether or not your child is ready. I’m going to try and break it down as simply as I can!
Six Questions to Ask Before Buying a Horse
Ask yourself or your child’s instructor the following questions:
1. Is my child a confident or timid rider?
If the answer is timid, leasing a horse first, or just giving them more time on the lesson horses is probably a safer bet for now.
Remember: If you have been in a lesson barn situation, if you buy a horse, this will be the first time your child will be without someone always there to help them handle things. Obviously, we wouldn’t want your child to ever ride without someone else there for safety reasons. Instructors are there to teach whoever is paying them at the time; they aren’t babysitters.
If your child is confident to work through things on their own, that is a good indication they are ready to own a horse.
If they are timid and unsure, they probably aren’t ready yet.
2. Is my child able to catch, groom, and tack up on their own?
If you have been in a lesson program, there is a good chance that your child has always had help with doing these things. If you purchase a horse, they will most likely be on their own at least some of the time.
Catching a horse that is turned out in the field or bridling a stubborn horse are the types of scenarios that could occur. Not that you can’t ever ask for help, but when you own a horse, these are things that you should be able to handle on your own.
3. Can my child ride a variety of horses?
Horse shopping requires riding new horses, so by the time you get to the point of deciding to buy one, you want to make sure that your child is confident on more than just one school horse.
4. Does my child know what their riding goals are?
Before making the decision to buy, you will need to know what your child wants to do with the horse. Otherwise, you won’t know what you are looking for. Having an idea of what direction they want to go is a big help, that way you can buy the most appropriate horse for the job.
5. Does my child have an interest in all-around horsemanship?
Once you buy a horse, it is your responsibility to make sure it is healthy. If your child is only interested in riding but doesn’t show an interest in learning about the nature of the horse and how to care for the horse, they shouldn’t own one. You can never know all there is to know about horses, but if you are going to buy a horse your child should want to learn as much as possible.
6. Does your child have the time to dedicate?
If your child is only a once a week rider and has commitments on all the other days, you probably should not buy a horse.
The most well-behaved horse on earth will quickly become not so perfect if they aren’t ridden to reinforce their training. Not to mention, your horse will need exercise to keep it physically fit and bored horses can pick up bad habits.
More Questions to Ask Before Buying a Horse
If you discuss these topics with your instructor and they confirm your child is ready to be a horse owner, congratulations! Here are a few more things you now need to consider and ask yourself:
- What is your budget? Your instructor won’t be able to help find your child’s dream horse if they don’t know the price range.
- Consider boarding options. Ideally, you would like to be at your instructor's barn—do they have openings? What is the cost and what are the options for boarding they offer? What other options are in the area and would they be a good fit for you?
- Can you afford it? Between boarding, farrier bills, dentist, and any other professional service your horse might need, it is a big financial commitment.
- Can you afford lessons, too? In order to be successful, your child will still need to continue taking lessons. Can you still afford that on top of all the other expenses associated with owning a horse?
Do you have the time to get your child to the barn to ride on a regular basis? If you normally don’t stay with them, you need to find out what your barn’s policy is as far as minors being there without supervision. Some barns are okay with it as long as there are other people there. Others require the parent to stay and supervise.
Honestly, if you are thinking about getting as involved as owning a horse, you should want to stay and be there with your child, at least as often as you can.
- Do you have your own tack? If not, did you consider that cost into your horse budget?
Is the Answer Is "No"? Here's Your Plan B
As sad as it will make your child if you ask their instructor and he or she says they are not ready for their own horse, remember they have their best interest in mind. Here are some things you can do to help build your child’s skill set, to get them ready for horse ownership in the future.
- Take more lessons: Take multiple lessons each week to help your child progress more quickly, and hopefully give them a chance to ride a variety of horses. Now that your instructor knows that ownership is your goal, they will probably be more than happy to put you on a variety of horses.
- Lease a horse: You could lease one of the lesson horses that your child is familiar with. It is sort of like taking horse ownership for a test drive. It is really a natural progression to go from weekly lessons to multiple lessons each week, to leasing. I recommend that to all my clients.
- Go to camps and clinics: Have your child attend riding camp or participate in any clinics that your instructor might offer.
- Volunteer: Have your child volunteer at the farm if there are opportunities, the more time they spend in the barn with their hands on the horses, the better!
- Read and learn: Read horse books and magazines! Learn as much as you possibly can, the more you learn now before you own a horse the better. This will hopefully prevent you or your child from having to learn some horsemanship lessons the hard way.
I have heard many parents say that buying their child a horse was the best decision they ever made. It gives them something to focus on and keeps them busy enough to keep them out of trouble.
Owning a horse will teach your child responsibility, dedication and give them a great sense of pride. If you work hard as a family you will get there, and being prepared will be well worth the wait!
This article should not be used in place of getting advice from someone who knows you and your child. These are generalized suggestions I have gathered during my career with kids and horses.
Should I Buy a Horse? Questions to Ask to See If You're Ready - pets
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Expect a Quiz
The best breeders want puppies to go to a forever home that provides proper care and training. So expect to be quizzed on what you expect and can offer to their treasured baby. If there are no questions from the breeder, run the other way.
Ask if the breeder has ever turned down a sale. You want the answer to be YES, rather than learning they’ll let a puppy go to just anyone who asks.
A healthy puppy from a reputable breeder with a good bloodline won’t be cheap and can run several hundred dollars. Local newspapers may post advertisements for much less. Backyard breeders and puppy mill establishments offer “purebred” puppies dirt cheap, but they won’t pass any of these test questions. You’ll get what you pay for.
Romantic questions to ask
Now, this set of questions is for when you have started pursuing each other more in your relationship. These are good questions to know the answers to and they can give you a great insight into your partner.
Some are light, some are lusty, and some will get you thinking. It's just important for you to make a mental note of some of their answers to specific questions like a dream date, so that you can make their dreams reality, within reason of course.
51. What's your dream date night?
Finding out their dream date will give you an idea of something nice to do for them in the future.
52. What makes you feel the most loved?
Learning someone's love language is super important if your goal is to have effective communication.
53. What's most important to make your relationship last?
If you're thinking long term, this question will give you a map of how to get there.
54. What do you love most about me?
Listen carefully. If they can't come up with something, run! This question should be easy to answer and make you feel reassured.
55. What's your favorite romantic movie?
Their favorite romantic movie will give you an idea of what their dream romance is like.
56. What kind of music puts you in the mood?
Take notes and play this the next time you want to heat things up.
57. What's your love language?
This is an awesome way to find out what they need to feel loved.
58. What was your first impression of me when we met?
This is a nice way to feel reassured in your relationship because it will show you how you've progressed.
59. What's your favorite way I touch you?
This gives them the opportunity to tell you what they want more of and maybe what they want less of if something makes them uncomfortable.
60. What physical feature of mine is your favorite?
Ask this when you're feeling like you could use a little self-esteem boost.
61. What's your idea of a perfect date?
Finding out what they want to do for fun together will help you understand what they consider quality time.
62. What song do you think of when you think of me?
Even if they don't have one come to mind right away, this will give them the opportunity to do something nice for you and find 'your song'.
63. What could I do to improve our relationship?
It's important to have small check-in's like this to find out how things are going and If they need to improve in any way.
64. When was the first moment you wanted to kiss me?
This will spark a romantic memory for both of you and definitely lead to a passionate kiss.
65. What do I do that helps you calm down?
Part of being in a relationship is helping your loved one to cope with stress. Asking this will help you understand how you can do that for them.
66. When are you the happiest with me?
Their answer will show you what they enjoy doing together the most.
67. What was your favorite part of our first kiss?
This is another question to ask if you want to spark some romantic memories of your first few special moments together.
68. When and what was the first moment you knew you were in love with me?
This is a great way to find out how long your partner has been falling for you. Not everyone says 'I love you' as soon as they feel it.
69. What do you say to others when you talk about me?
If they don't tell their friends or family about you, you can assume they want to keep things casual or just aren't there yet. This will tell you where they are in the relationship.
70. What's one thing you want to do with me that we haven't done yet?
Now you have an idea for your next date!
71. What great adventures do you think we'll achieve in the next 5 years?
This will help you find out if they see a future with you. If they get super freaked out by this question, they probably aren't thinking long term.
72. What do you think I find most attractive about you?
This will show you what they are confident about in themselves.
73. What's been one of the funniest times we've had together?
Want to lighten the mood? This is a great way to visit memory lane and remind him of a great time you had together if maybe today wasn't so great.
74. What's your biggest relationship dealbreaker?
The most important part of compatibility is having similar values.
75. What do you like best about our relationship?
As mentioned before, little check-ins like this are vital to make sure you're on the same page and things are going smoothly.
76. Is there anything you're afraid to accomplish that I can help you with?
Heping your partner to feel like you support them will help you bond. They will have an easier time trusting you if they know you have their back.
77. What values are most important in a relationship?
Always ask this when you start to get serious with someone to make sure you have similar outlooks on love and life. If your values aren't in alignment, fundamental issues could arise within the relationship.
78. Has anything surprised you about our relationship?
This allows your partner to have an opportunity to tell you things that are on their mind whether they're good or bad.
79. What's your favorite memory with me?
Reflecting on memories as a couple will help you strengthen your bond.
80. What moment would you want to relive again and again?
Finding out what their favorite moment with you is, is a great way to find out how to plan similar dates in the future. You can even try to recreate their favorite moment as a cute date idea that shows you listen.
81. What is something little I do that makes you smile?
Your partner will find this question sweet and it will give them the opportunity to tell you what they want more of.
82. What's your most scandalous memory of us?
This question is a great one to ask if you're looking for things to get steamy. Reminiscing on past romantic moments will help to set the mood.
82. What can I do to spice up our love life?
Checking in with your partner is about the physical aspects of your relationship is equally as important as checking in with them about emotional aspects. Finding out if their physical needs are being met will help your relation stay strong.
83. What do you think is most important for communicating in our relationship?
Again, it's important to know if needs are being met in your relationship. Knowing how your partner prefers to be talked to, especially during an argument, will help your relationship stay healthy.
84. What weaknesses do you see in our relationship?
Hopefully, nothing comes to mind when you ask this but if something does you have just opened up a conversation to fix it.
85. Has anything surprised you about me?
We all like to discover what someone's first expectation of you was. This is a fun question to see what they were expecting and how different it is from how you are.
86. What strengths do you see in our relationship?
Discovering your strengths will aid in healthy communication, intimacy, and overall a lasting relationship.
87. Is there anything you'd like me to be willing to change?
Communication is key! It's important in a relationship that we acknowledge that sometimes we need to work on our behavior as well. Your partner may be uncomfortable with certain things and asking this will help them to find their voice.
88. What goals would you like to set up for our relationship?
Asking this question will help you see how long term of a commitment they expect you to have. If they do see a future long term, now is a great time to discuss when you want to buy a house, etc. It's important that you are on the same page about these topics.
89. What can I do to encourage you on a regular basis?
This is another question that will show your partner your support. Even if they don't have an answer they will appreciate knowing that you truly care.
90. Is there anything about me you might not know but want to know?
Continuing to learn new things about each other will keep the romance alive and the spark burning. It also gives your partner reassurance that you're an open book.