Creating a Positive Riding Experience

A guide to choosing the perfect dude ranch for your family—and making it the best experience of your kids' lives!
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How to Create a Positive Riding Experience for Your Child

  1. Be honest and supportive. If this is your child's first time on a horse, acknowledge that it's OK to be afraid as horses are big animals. Encourage your child to try without denying his or her feelings. Never force a reluctant or crying child to get atop a horse.
  2. Sometimes kids are less nervous when riding without a parent. Ask your child what he or she prefers.
  3. As a rule of thumb, think down one level in ability from controlled ring-riding to trail-riding. If your child is an advanced English ring-rider, he or she should sign up for intermediate (not advanced) trail rides.
  4. Wear appropriate clothing. No shorts, canvas shoes, flip-flops, or baggy pants. Jeans are fine. Instead of buying expensive leather boots, chaps, and a cowboy hat, keep the costs down by bringing jeans (at least two pairs), sturdy, athletic sneakers (not hiking boots, as ridges on the sole can catch your foot in the stirrup), a baseball cap, a pair of gloves (even in spring), and a tightly fitting raincoat. Don't wear those bright orange, loose pullover ponchos. These not only get you wet, but when they fly up in the wind, they tend to spook the horses.
  5. Don't buy an elaborate kid-sized riding wardrobe until you're sure your kids love riding and want to continue.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 31 Jul 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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