A sport like horse riding requires many skills, including stamina, problem-solving and animal handling. As well as the physical benefits of exercise, horse riding has many psychological benefits, says Alison Stout, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at the Evergreen Health Sport & Spine Center. Riding can be an extremely relaxing experience, helping the rider achieve a sense of peace. It can also be a great confidence booster. If you're looking for an activity to build your child's confidence, horse riding could be the perfect choice.
Encourage your child to take horse riding lessons to learn a new skill, make new friends and set herself goals. Book an introductory lesson at a local farm or ranch and go with your child. Spend plenty of time talking to the instructor about the safety aspects of horse riding and what is expected of a beginner. Make sure your child is happy and comfortable to proceed with the lesson. Don't force her into anything before she is ready. Put any fears of your own aside and take part in the lesson yourself to show your child how supportive you are.
Help your child to improve her horse riding by accompanying her to lessons, watching her practice and working out realistic goals for her. Consult the trainer to identify what skill level she should be aiming for after certain time periods, and what she can do at home to make progress, such as learning about horse care and the importance of team work. Encouraging your child to try a new activity that involves cooperation is particularly effective in building self-confidence, says the pediatrician Dr. Sears.
Give your child gentle encouragement to continue with horse riding but let her take things at her own pace. Don't put pressure on your child. If she feels that you have high expectations of her, this could be more of a setback than a boost. Avoid interfering too much with your child's horse riding, even if she appears to be struggling to master it. Be supportive from a healthy distance, advises Sears, and let her work through problems on her own, which will improve her self-esteem.
Encourage your child to make friends through horse riding. Offer to carpool to lessons, find out about social events and let your child invite her new friends to hang out at home. By widening her social circle and connecting with peers she has something in common with, your child will grow in confidence.