How to Decide if It's Time to Change your Child's Horse - With Tips from the McLeod Sisters

Posted by Amber Wighton on

From Abby ( autocorrect on this platform, but I like it):
When I was five I got my mare Jessie and I took barrle raceing lessons on her.  We would always lope up and down my neighbors rode. When I turned seven when I started to compeat on her she would pin her ears back when I wanted to go fast.She would also buck at my house. I got scared to go out and ride bareback or in a saddle.I felt so scared. It changed my atutude and made me feel different. I had a really bad attude tords my family. You should not be afraid to do something you love and even though it is sad to see your horse go it might help you achive goals and move foward instead of going backwards to tacking baby steps. It feels good to get back on a horse that I can move forward on again.

November 7, 2017 was a super scary night for us, Abby and I went to an arena we frequently competed at.  At this point, Abby (then 8) was having some struggles with her mare Jessie but was really pushing forward and trying to make it work.  She was in weekly lessons to get better at barrels, despite several set backs.  While her fall wasn't nearly as bad as I know many of you have experienced with your kiddos, it scared the ever loving crap out of this momma.  You'd think we would have changed it up...NOPE!  We kept going.  PERSEVERE, NEVER GIVE UP, DON'T QUIT, GET BACK IN THE SADDLE, are all mottos of our family.

I could have avoided many riding days full of fear, tears, sass due to fear (and being 7/8, anyone else with me on that haha) and huge arguments by using just a couple tactics.  With contributions from the accomplished McLeod sisters, here are some points to consider before you make a change for your child:

1. Is the horse sound and healthy?  
Sometimes our horses act out when they're not feeling well.  Things that can cause a horse to act out when being ridden include; teeth overdue for a float, soundness issues that aren't visible, chiropractic needs, improper nutrition and ulcers.  These can all be determined by your vet and he/she can refer you to a specialist to strategize how to get your horse well.

2. Do you have the proper equipment?  
How does the saddle fit, is the cinch pinching, do you need a different bit?  Make one small change each session and see if it makes a difference.  If possible, make sure an adult hops on to test the change.

3. Has the horse simply learned it CAN behave poorly to get out of its job?
This doesn't mean you have a BAD horse, it just means you have a smart one haha.  

"The horse may learn to take advantage of the rider and at that point needs an adult or a trainer to get on for a while," says Jenna McLeod-Dana. "Someone who knows what they're doing."

This doesn't mean you have to put your child's horse into a full blown training program, if you don't have those resources.  Try getting on yourself to understand the issue and make the horse work properly for you, first.  If you have a handy friend, ask them to get on.  

4. Has my child's abilities outgrown the horse?
Lindsey McLeod has first hand experience with step-ups throughout her childhood, she says, "A child needs to switch horses when the horse has taught them all they can and the child is ready for the next step."  

"Having said that," McLeod continues, "it's super important for parents to be cautious about getting your child a step-up horse because although they're ready to go to a new level, you don't want to scare them, get them hurt or ruin their confidence."

If your child is ready to go faster or compete at a higher level, it is important to note that safety should never be compromised.

"The step-up horse can be just as safe as the beginner horse," says Jenna McLeod-Dana.  "You can get a horse that can take your child all the way to the top level of their sport while still being able to meet the rider at their level."

Above all, trust your momma bear instinct.  If you are scared to get on the horse...then don't put your child on it.  If you have taken the above steps and the horse and your child are not making incremental improvements, but perpetual steps back, it's time to make a change.  

"Safety is key," says Katelyn McLeod, "you want to make sure the child doesn't ride in constant fear or start to dread riding."

Perseverance and not giving up are qualities we all want to teach our children, but I have begun to think of their horses as people they might be in a relationship with someday.  If it's not making you better, or you're getting hurt, get out (I know, I can be extreme sometimes)!

Love and Horses,






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  • Hi, i couldn’t find another spot to ask questions about your tack. Our horses like a wide tree. Is this saddle going to pinch their withers?

    Julianne Siddoway on

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