We all dream of having our own horse, but many times it just isn’t possible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your equine passion alive! Lessons, leasing, summer camps, and reading are all super ways to delve into the horse world when you are horseless.
1. Learn in Lessons
The more horses you ride, the better rider you become. If you’re horseless, taking lessons on school horses is a great alternative to owning your own horse or pony.
McKenzie takes a lesson every week at a hunter barn in Pennsylvania. Her trainer lets her ride all kinds of different horses. One week she might ride a Thoroughbred, and the next week she’ll be on a 14-hand pony. Getting to ride so many different kinds of horses is teaching McKenzie all about how every horse is different and how important it is to adapt to the horse you’re on.
“When I started riding, I just rode one pony,” she says. “I got really good at riding him. When I rode another horse, it was so different!” Luckily, her trainer was there to help. Every horse has a different personality and different way of moving. And riding so many new horses is teaching McKenzie a ton.
One of the best things about riding a lot of different kinds of horses is that you get to figure out what you like and don’t like. You might have always dreamed of riding a big, tall horse, but after riding one in your lessons, you might decide that you prefer ponies. Or maybe you always dreamed of riding a hot, spirited horse, but in reality, you have more fun on a lazier ride.
It’s better to learn your preferences before you start looking to buy a horse (no matter how far in the future that may be!). When the time comes, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
2. Lease a Horse
McKenzie is hoping to lease a horse next year and begin competing. Her lesson barn lets the students do part-leases on the school horses; these students can ride on their own twice a week and then have one lesson a week on the same horse.
Leasing is a lot like owning a horse. You get to form a relationship with your new friend, sometimes even compete them, and get a taste of what riding one horse consistently is like. However, unlike owning, leasing doesn’t have the same commitment. This makes leasing perfect for a lot of horseless kids.
Different leases are set up different ways. Sometimes a full lease is offered, where you are the only one riding the horse. Part-leases usually mean you get to ride about three days a week. Some leases include lessons to make sure you are still learning and improving with your new friend. Sometimes a lease will require a yearly commitment, and sometimes shorter time frames will be offered.
For McKenzie, she hopes to lease the same horse for at least a year. Her goal is to qualify for some riding awards in her local show circuit and get the experience of continuous improvement with one horse. After that, she says she will decide if she wants to lease the same horse again, switch to another one, or buy her own horse!
3. Summer Camp: Perfect for Horseless Riders
What could be better than spending the sunny days of summer with horses and making new friends? Julia doesn’t have a barn close to her house, but she goes to an overnight camp for a couple weeks every summer. At camp, she gets to ride every single day, help take care of the horses, and has daily “stable lessons” where she learns about different horse breeds, equestrian sports, and more.
“I get to make friends who also love horses,” she says. “Some of them have a horse back home, but most don’t. It’s fun, because after camp is over, I can keep in touch them!” This way, even when Julia isn’t at camp with the horses, she still gets to talk about all things horsey with her friends during the school year.
Julia’s camp has a horse show on the last day where she gets to show off what she has learned to the other campers and her parents.
“Every year, I get better and get to jump more,” she says. Julia feels encouraged that while she can’t take lessons most of the year, her camp adventures are helping her progress and prepare for when she can eventually have her own horse.
In addition to the horsey activities at camp, Julia and her friends get to go rock climbing, swimming, hiking, and do arts and crafts. This past year, she painted a wooden horse cutout of her favorite camp horse, Pumpkin.
4. Books, Videos and Magazines
If you’re horseless, what can you do in addition to lessons, leasing or camp? Books and videos are an amazing way to learn. There are tons of books about different breeds, horsey fiction, and the basics of riding. Your school or local library might have some you can borrow, which is a budget-friendly way to boost your knowledge.
Julia says she reads lots of books during the school year when she can’t ride. While some of her friends might be getting time in the saddle, she still learns about horses and their care. That way, when she gets back to camp, she doesn’t feel like she has missed much!
YouTube and other video platforms and websites are amazing tools. There are many channels about every subject related to horses. Did you get to take some lessons but need more tips to improve your posting? See if you can find a video about what other kids have found helpful. Want to learn how to wrap a leg? Videos abound! (Always make sure to ask your parents’ permission before going online.)
Of course, you can also read magazines—such as Young Rider and Horse Illustrated—to learn more every month (or two). Between the training tips, health topics, real-life stories, and DIY projects, there’s plenty to do and learn about even when you don’t own your own horse.