One of my favorite sayings in regard to kids and horses is, “green on green makes black and blue.” I’m not sure who coined the phrase but they are wise words to live by for any novice rider, kids included.
While most people understand that the horse they choose will likely determine how far their kids advance with their riding, it is unlikely that children’s tack receives the same level of attention. But it is nearly just as important.
There are dozens of choices in the kids’ saddle department. Today, you can find a saddle for nearly any discipline in miniature. Ask yourself these three questions before making a purchase:
How much riding will my child be doing? This will determine the quality of saddle required. There are synthetic saddles on the market that provide an affordable option for casual riders, but don’t hold up nearly as well as a traditional leather saddle. For more frequent and advanced riding, a leather saddle is a far superior option.
Be sure to check the classifieds and Craigslist for used kids’ saddles. Used tack sales and consignment shops are good places to look as well. Often saddles are outgrown before they are even broken in. But don’t delay; they tend to sell very quickly!
What kind of riding? Riding discipline is obviously another important consideration. If your child will be trail riding only, many saddle styles will do, but if they want to learn to rope, cut or jump in the near future, you will need to find a suitable saddle for the specific event they are interested in pursuing.
How long until he or she is ready for the next size up? You don’t want to spend several hundred or even $1000 dollars on a kids’ saddle if you are going to be trading up when they have their next growth spurt in a few months. Kids are tricky that way. Buying a saddle that is a little on the big side in the seat can be okay, as long as the stirrups go short enough. Stirrup length is by far the most important factor to consider when outfitting your kids with tack. If they are too long, your child will have a very hard time balancing and it will take them much longer to gain confidence with their riding.
I was recently at a horse show and saw a trainer’s son riding several horses for his dad in his dad’s saddles, they simply took a pair of kids’ stirrups that are made to hang over the saddle horn and moved them each time he changed horses. Worked like a charm.
The saddle pad you select should be well suited for your kid’s horse and also fit the saddle you buy. Pony pads are made to fit some of the smaller kids saddles on the market. They don’t leave excess material hanging out behind the saddle like a full sized pad will, to shift or get blown up by the wind potentially causing an accident.
As far as the bridle is concerned, this will have a lot to do with your child’s horse. But I do recommend starting kids out in roping reins (a single rein) as opposed to split reins. When they are first learning to ride, there are enough things for them to think about without having to hold onto two reins and not drop them (which they will). Once they get confident with a single rein, then they can advance to split reins.
Do you have additional pointers about choosing kids’ tack? Leave a comment below!