Most of us are aware of how wonderful horses and ponies are but have you ever considered that our love of our equine friends may bring us actual health benefits as well as joy? What happens we are introduced to our four-legged friends in our formative years? In short, LOTS! The mental, social and physical benefits increase exponentially if that interaction begins in childhood. Here we look at eight of the top benefits of spending time with our pony pals.
1. Gets children active
You might not realise it but horse riding besides being fun, is also a form of exercise. We’re all aware of the figures relating to obesity and those concerning obesity in childhood. Horse riding is a great way for children to get some fresh air and to fit some exercise into their day in a fun way.
British Show Pony Society (BSPS) judge, Fiona Dymond, says:“I like that when my children come home from school they don’t sit in front of a screen, but go out and ride or groom their ponies. I think this is much healthier for them both physically and mentally.”
2. Increases well-being
Older children who take up a new sport or hobby have a much lower chance of continuing that new pursuit into adulthood. As numerous studies have proven, the long-lasting positive effects of having a long-enjoyed pastime include equipping one with the ability to take time out from daily stresses.
3. Helps make new friends
Increasing time spent on digital pastimes means that children are spending more time alone than ever before. Getting a child into new situations and environments is a great way to help children, particularly quieter children, to make friends.
Show rider Natalie Reynolds says: “The friendships gained within riding disciplines are often life long, and it can be beneficial that children have different sets of friends to only their school friends.”
Learning to care for an animal that’s much bigger than them is hugely confidence boosting to children. The encouragement and compliments they receive while their skills improve can go a long way towards increasing their sense of self-belief. Going from having never been on the back of a horse or pony to successfully being able to ride one is a massive accomplishment and hugely empowering.
5. Instills valuable life lessons
There’s no doubt about it, horse riding is fun - but it is also hard work. Grooming and mucking out stables can take a lot of time and some schools have a policy of asking students to do the hard work before/after they get to ride. This practice demonstrates to children that privilege is only earned with effort. Horse and pony riding and care also encourages empathy, patience and kindness.
It may not seem like it but spending time around horses teaches them lots about respect and discipline. Horses are proud and sometimes stubborn creatures that do not respond well to unpredictable or erratic behaviour. Riding a horse requires a commitment to both respect and behave responsibly towards the animal at all times – qualities which will be of huge benefit to the child as they make their way towards adulthood.
Lottie MD Ian Harkin at the Childvision Centre in March 2018
7. Equine Therapy
Did you know that horses can be hugely therapeutic to children with conditions such as autism, Asperger’s and ADHD among many others? Horse riding provides multi-sensory stimulation which can have a calming effect on the physical and emotional systems of children with autism. Earlier this year, Lottie dolls partnered with Ireland’s oldest equine therapy centre, Childvision, in Dublin, Ireland to launch a gifting drive to promote the value of such therapies. You can read about the great work done byChildvisionand our collaborationhere.
8. It’s fun!
Childhood is an exciting time, full of adventure and imagination so learning to ride and ‘playing ponies’ can only add to the enjoyment! Check out our Lottie Stables which is made from real wood and contains remarkable attention to detail.