Children and Showjumping
Showjumping is a daunting sport and not for the faint hearted. Neither is it something which can be tackled by novice horse riders. It can also be a very dangerous sport if the rider does not know what they are doing and cannot control their horse. But none of this prevents children from enjoying watching and even taking part in showjumping. It can give them something to aspire to and aim for, a way to improve their riding, or, if they prefer to watch, just an innocent pastime which will surely fuel their love of horses.
Children Competing in ShowjumpingAs with most sports and disciplines which are horse-related, the Pony Club is the best place to start with regards to children. There are Pony Club branches across the country and they all hold rallies which will include taster sessions of showjumping. These allow youngsters to see if they like the sport before they take it any further. Once they have decided that showjumping is for them then they can move onto inter-branch competitions. From that stage they will be able to compete in Pony Club wide competitions of which there are three. They are loosely categorised as junior, senior and an indoor contest.
There is no real age limit for children to start showjumping – what is far more important is their horsemanship. How they control a horse and how experienced they are, will be far more relevant in showjumping than their age. The one factor to watch out for when considering your child’s age is if they get nervous. Of course, younger children are more prone to nerves and less able to handle them. So if they do get nervous, it may be wise to wait until they are older before starting to compete.
The Parental RoleIt can be, and usually is, very hard work to have a child who wants to compete in showjumping. The first role of the parent is to drive the child to and from lessons and competitions. Very often, the parent will need to drive the horse as well, so this may even entail passing a separate test depending on what type of horse box you have. Other practical help the child will normally need includes cleaning, both of the horse, equipment and stable and financial assistance. Showjumping is not a cheap sport with entry fees, equipment, not to mention the horse itself.
The other main role of the parent is as support. Unless you are the child’s coach, do not try to coach them – leave that to the professionals. The child will need you to be supportive without putting on the pressure, as this can impact on their enjoyment and lead them not to enjoy competition.
SpectatingYour child may not be ready to start showjumping or may not even want to. But this does not mean they cannot derive some enjoyment from the sport if they have shown an interest in it. They can be taken to watch all kinds of showjumping contests both junior and senior. Perhaps they have an older brother or sister who is competing and they want to watch them. Watching the sport will give them something to aim for when they are older. But they should never be pressured into taking part if they don’t want to. They may be contented to watch or get involved in horses in some other way.
Showjumping is a great sport for children – whatever it may appear on first glances. They can keep fit, learn teamwork and how to think of others through the sport. Whether they are competing or spectating, the sport of showjumping can bring lots to their lives and certainly enhance their enjoyment of horses –something that will stay with them for a lifetime.