Child Friendly Horses

The mare I bought in late 2012, O, had a lot to live up to under saddle and on the ground. One of her selling points was that literally anyone could handle her. Camp kids to grandparents, she was a peach to be around. Then I snagged the amazing lease on Dee, who again, was a complete saint. She allowed my crying infant to “lunge” her (she cried in baby carrier while I lunged), groom her, share food, whatever. Even the big grey draft I rode in between available horses loved kids, and handled my daughter’s “affection” with grace.


Essentially my daughter has had full rein of the horses I spent substantial amount of time with, with very few consequences. They’ve put up with the eye pokes, the yells, the constant noises and God knows what else that should’ve terrified them.

All of them, except for Cooper.

img_0563My current ride, who is a fantastic guy, is teaching me a lot about the holes in my training, so this is not a black mark on his record. I’m asking a lot honestly.  But…Cooper hates my daughter. Maybe hate isn’t the right term…he is not her biggest fan.  He doesn’t understand her noises, he hates the invasive little fingers when she pets him and generally he would rather her stay about 10 miles away from him at any given time. He’s not mean about it, but when you’re over 17 hands and not naturally graceful…it’s a recipe for disaster.

It doesn’t change much for me, except for the fact that I won’t take my daughter to the barn alone while I’m riding him.  He’s plenty enough horse to keep track of, without wondering if my daughter is annoying him.  Again, not his fault, it just won’t be fun for anyone.  It does create a bit of a hiccup in my usual riding schedule, but we are working on it.  Lately my Dad has been coming out to watch and wrangle said child while I hack or lesson.  I’m very lucky to have that as an option.

So I guess what I’m saying is: Cooper, I’m really sorry buddy, she’ll still be around…but I’ll make sure that she keeps her distance if you keep yours.  *If not, there’s me or my 6’2” Dad to act as buffer between the two of them.*  This hasn’t changed my views on having my daughter at the barn, I do believe that children have to learn how to behave in many different circumstances.  I work very hard to create situations where both horse and child can have mutual success.

While there is not judgement on Cooper’s part, there is a major learning curve that continues to form any future horse in my mind.  I never would expect any horse to babysit a toddler, because that’s never going to work, but it’s my hope that my next lease or purchase will be more keen on having kids around.

So what do you think?   Do you consider your horse child friendly?

20 thoughts on “Child Friendly Horses

  1. Hmm interesting question! I actually have no idea how Rio would do with kids. He can be a bit nippy if you continually hold your fingers in his face (because treats and all) so I would worry about that. Rio isn’t much of a spooker though so I think he’d be fine with noise/strollers/etc.

  2. I always considered Gavin to be a good kids horse (he’s very tolerant of non-horsey people brushing him, leading him and being up on him), but about a month ago my horse crazy niece came to visit him and he nipped her hard enough to draw blood when I was grabbing something out of the tack room. It was such a pony thing. She had just fed him a carrot and he’s a bit nippy anyways and I think he decided a little nip would get him another carrot. She didn’t tell me for about a minute (when her hand started to bleed). Ultimately she handled it like a very stoic champ, but I will forever watch him now around the younger kids.
    I sometimes forget that horses are big and can be dangerous – especially for little, inexperienced ones.

  3. All of our barn horses are kid trained to a degree as several of us brought out our littles during hacks and lessons. My mare even when young was so very tolerant of kids, even when unsure of what their ear piercing screams and laughter meant for her safety. I never loved her more than when my normally timid son at maybe 2 or 3 walked some carrots over before i could intervene and she gently took them from him. Cause she loved rolling my fingers in her mouth on occasion. She also never spooked or went over a crawl when i had a kid in the saddle with me.

    All the barn kids also get trained.

  4. The thing I’ve always loved about almost all my mares is they love baby everything (human or animal). They might not be great about adults or older children, but they love babies.
    I don’t know if I would own a horse long term that wasn’t good around babies and not because I have children or want to have children. I just like the nurturing attitude.

  5. Interesting topic! I’m incredibly lucky that Roger LOVES kids. Even when he first arrived to the barn (he was 4 at the time), he was always extremely aware of the little ones around. He stands still as a statue when kids/non-horse people groom him, he’s very careful when taking treats from adults or kids, and he always walks and moves cautiously when little kids are in the barn…it’s kind of adorable actually. There’s a lady that rides with me who has a young son and daughter, and her son loves Roger so much that he’s named his stuffed horse Baby Roger. I die of cuteness on a regular basis.

    While I don’t see myself ever having (human) children, I’m very thankful that I can trust Roger around kids in the barn.

  6. I haven’t thought too deeply about this other than appreciating that both Isabel and Charlie have been very kid friendly. Neither would be truly safe for a kiddo to handle alone – Isabel was too much of a dancer and Charlie is too big and too unaware (I get stepped on a lot – it’s a work in progress). But both are very gentle and inquisitive with kids that want to say hi and give pets, and both can safely accept treats from even the tiniest tots. I wouldn’t call this particular quality very high on my list of needs in a horse, aside from how it generally fits in with my #1 priority that the horse be generally pleasant to be around.

    • I definitely think that I’m just typically more attracted to the sweet natured horses who might be a bit more child-friendly. Because basically I want to be 12 years old again and torture them with my love.

  7. Some horses who are otherwise 100% non-spooky solid animals just can’t handle small kids. I saw this occasionally in horses who were at the therapeutic riding center for a trial. My guess is that children are often unpredictable and some horses really don’t like that.

    I was surprised that Candy is my best horse with kids. Moe and Gina aren’t bad, just kind of suspicious. But Candy will happily let babies, toddlers, and a youngster with Down syndrome who regularly comes to the barn poke, pet, and make noises at her.

  8. All of my horses have been used as lesson horses at some point during the yard’s ups and downs, and I will not have horses in the yard that are unsafe around kids. I just can’t. Nobody has that much control over the kids. The only one I don’t really trust is much-abused Nugget, who is kept in a field far from kids and would just run away anyway. As for the rest, kids can go under them, on them, up their noses – they’re chill. I think I’m more annoying than most kids anyway!

    • That’s amazing!! We definitely have a few at the barn who I would trust – but I understand that not everyone picks their mounts based on kid-friendly features. I can’t judge them on that, I just make note to avoid the horses in particular.

  9. I’m so worried about my dogs with kids, I haven’t ever thought about how my horse would be with them! ha ha. I think Georgie would have been fine, she did walk right up to some kids at a birthday party… Macy would be a nightmare and we’ll see about June!

    • Hahaha! My little girl is currently really into grey horses, so she would love your grey herd. Again, I totally feel your pain with dogs. Kids love animals, but it’s my job as a parent to also make sure that the pet/owner is not uncomfortable either.

  10. Haven’t ever thought about this too much. Both Houston and Annie are very good with kids riding them. Annie can be handled by just about anyone. Houston isn’t bad but his sheer size keeps me from letting kids handle him entirely alone. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Not worth it.

  11. This is timely for me as I’m about to find out if Mystic is kid friendly, I have a little person coming to meet her next week with hopes of going for a ride…. We’ll see! Apollo seems to really like kids but all of my horses have limited exposure.

  12. Leo is surprisingly pretty great with kids – he seems to understand that they’re more fragile than full-sized humans. He is calmer for them to lead and always will put his head down to their level to enjoy scratches and snuggles. I can stick a child on him and he’ll chill on a loose rein and walk around (although I always make sure to walk next to him just in case!)
    I don’t know how Spring is yet – she seemed a little freaked out during the two camps that happened since she’s been at CEC, but then again that is A LOT of exposure to a group of not necessarily well-behaved children swarming about all at once. One on one she’s very sweet, but doesn’t necessarily have a great sense of personal space; unlike Leo, she doesn’t exhibit a different attitude towards kids.

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