Categories
Photography and Video

How to Find the Perfect Photography Class for Kids

With today’s technology — especially smartphones — kids of all ages are having fun capturing the world around them.

But your child is different. You aren’t really sure how it happened, but your one day your kid picked up a camera has been taking snapshots ever since. Or maybe your smartphone is filled with kids-eye-view photos of the world. Something tells you your child might just have a natural knack for visual arts. Maybe you have a budding photographer in the family.

So why not try a photography class?

I myself took multiple photography classes throughout high school and college, which allowed me to hone my passion for taking pictures and my skills of working a camera, both film and digital. Given my experiences, I know that when choosing a photo class for your child, it’s important to know exactly what you are looking for. You want them to be inspired, because that is when their best work is going to shine through and they will actually have fun. So here are a few things to think consider:

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Where to Start

Consider what your goals are. Make a list of your priorities, and if your child is old enough, invite her to participate in the exploration. Do you just want your child to have a chance to take photos with friends? Or do you want her to learn specific skills? Do you want her to know how to use a DSLR camera? How to take a picture? What techniques make for a more unique photo: lighting, composition, shutter speed, etc.? And what about learning how to manipulate photos in PhotoShop?

Search for Classes Near You

Shameless plug alert: We recommend that you search for photography classes or summer camps on ActivityHero. Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll find hundreds of options from lots of different teachers, so you can do a side-by-side comparison.

When you’re looking at the descriptions, refer back to the priorities on your list. (And if you don’t find the info you want, be sure to contact the provider by email or phone to ask more.) Look closely at the class level.

Another detail to look for: equipment lists. Some beginner-level classes don’t require much equipment, but you might be interested to see what’s involved with the more advanced classes at each location.

If you really want to be thorough, check out the work of the instructor teaching the program. This can give you an idea of his/her skills and focus. It isn’t necessary for them to be highly accomplished, but it will give you comfort knowing that they can implement the skills that they are teaching your children into their own work.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Revisiting the Basics

It may seem too simple or boring to go over all the controls and features on a camera in a beginner class, but I recommend looking for classes that cover this info. If your kid doesn’t learn those things early, then she may never really be able use those settings properly and in turn will never fully unleash her photography skills. (I have taken three different beginner photography classes in my life just to refresh and master all of the settings on my camera. It isn’t hard to take a good photograph using the Automatic setting, but that isn’t where the art is.)

Look for a class that starts in the classroom and then quickly gets your kid an opportunity to try out the complex techniques. This really helps the material stick and might make it less “boring”. One of the best classes that I ever took did the first 20 minutes inside studying the concept of the day and reviewing pieces that mastered said concept, and then the rest of the class we were sent outside to practice what we had just learned. Then the next class would be used for reviewing and critiquing our work.

Kids may also like to combine digital photography with graphic design using software such as Photoshop. You’ll find photography and graphic design summer camps offered by Digital Media Academy.

Ask the Right Questions

Here are some additional questions you might want to ask, depending on your child’s level of experience.

What to Ask for Beginners:

  • Is this class for beginners?
  • What is the ideal age group?
  • What will they be learning?
  • Do they need their own camera? Any other equipment?
  • Is any outside work required?
  • Are there other activities besides photography? (more common in camps to keep kids entertained)

What to Ask for Intermediate Photographers:

  • How much experience is needed?
  • What concepts should they know already?
  • Aside from a DSLR camera, are there lenses or other specific equipment required?
  • Is Photoshop provided or do they need their own computer/license?
  • Are the photos critiqued or graded?
  • Is a portfolio created in the end of the session?
  • Does the instructor have any freelance or scholarship opportunities/contacts upon completion?

Finalizing Your Choice

Once you’ve gotten through your exploration, take a step back and do a gut check. This is where your child’s interests are going to play a major role in the decision. As mentioned before, one of the most important parts of photography is inspiration. If what your child is being asked to shoot doesn’t inspire them at all, then they probably aren’t really going to enjoy the program. When it’s time to go out and take photos, what will be the focus? Some classes highlight urban settings, nature, black and white photography, portraits, sports, and more. As they get older and more experienced, there are even options to travel internationally — which can really spark creativity.

From beginners to advanced photographers, there are camps and classes available to help any budding photographer master a passion for snapshotting the world around them. It is just a matter of a little research and questioning to find the perfect photography course for your child! Check out these photography classes and camps offered in your area!

Categories
Tennis

Will Your Kid “Love” Tennis?

According to the United States Tennis Association, tennis offers plenty of perks for kids and teens, including making new friends, learning teamwork and sportsmanship, building discipline, enhancing coordination and flexibility, and increasing bone strength. Those are strong incentives for parents to sign up their kids for tennis camp—but will they actually enjoy it? And how can you tell which tennis camp is the best fit?

To find out, I interviewed the dynamic duo Danielle and Brittany (commonly referred to as The Beauty and The Beast around their high school tennis court) and Colleen (another accomplished tennis camper and instructor), who spent a collective 14 years in tennis camp during their teenage years. Here are their best insights for tennis players of all levels. I hope this helps you find the perfect place for your kid!

tennis-campD.H. and B.K at Tennis Camp in 2006, Morrisville, PA

Why attend tennis camp?

For Brittany, tennis camp was a great way to spend time with friends while training for her upcoming high school tennis season. “Kids should expect to play a lot of tennis and get into good shape since there will probably be a lot of conditioning as well,” says Colleen. Tennis camp also teaches kids a skill set that will be with them forever, says Danielle. “Campers should expect to learn correct form and the rules of the game, while also learning how to work with and communicate with a variety of people.” Colleen still treasures the new friendships she built with many of the players. “It was a fun environment where I could hang out with people my age,” she says.

How can you choose a camp that meets your goals?

“I think it’s important to understand what you want to get out of the camp,” says Danielle. “If it’s for summer activity instead of for training, the instructor should be fun and patient.” Her advice: If your child doesn’t know how to play and needs to learn the basics, you’ll want a camp that is more low-key. “If you are there for training—to really improve your skills—you should be looking for a camp with more structure,” says Danielle. Some questions to ask the camp director: What are the skills that are being taught each day/week? Are there different levels? How quickly can a player move between the levels? How will the players’ skills be tested throughout the camp?

What should you look for in an instructor?

“Instructors should be knowledgeable, in shape, uplifting, and fun!” says Brittany. “They will also strongly value the instructor-player relationship.” Colleen’s thoughts: “I would recommend looking for an instructor who has experience running a tennis camp and also encourages you to participate in other activities outside of tennis.”

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What do kids like most (and least) about tennis camp?

“My camp included fun and exciting activities outside of the game itself, like pie-eating contests and races, which helped bond the tennis pros and the tennis players/campers,” says Brittany. Her least-favorite part? Running a type of sprinting drill called suicides. “During the summer, I was more interested in having fun than being at any kind of tennis boot camp,” she says.

Danielle says that her camps were organized by skill level. “The age range of each group could be very wide, especially when I first started attending,” she says. “As the years went on, that changed, though, and the groups became competitive and I became less age-conscious.”

How can tennis camp help kids in the long run?

Danielle’s love of tennis grew, along with her skill set–thanks, in part, to her summer training. “I made it on my high school’s varsity team during my sophomore, junior, and senior year. I was also a hand-selected tournament player throughout high school, and I played on the club team while in college,” she says. Brittany also played tennis throughout high school, and Colleen even taught tennis for four summers!

Any tips for kids starting tennis camp?

I would say just go into it with an open mind and have fun,” says Colleen. “Don’t take it too seriously or it could become a chore.” On the other hand, says Brittany, do remember that tennis camp involves a good workout. “Be prepared with lots of water and sweat towels, which will definitely come in handy on a hot summer day,” she suggests. Also remember to pack snacks, sunscreen, and other summer essentials each day. Most of all, enjoy yourself, says Danielle. “Get ready to have some fun being active and meeting new people!”

If you are looking to enroll your child in tennis camp or tennis lessons check out some of the facilities in your area!

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Snow Day Snowmen for the Kids

With the temperatures still dropping and the snowstorms only just beginning, you and the kids are probably going to be spending some more quality bonding time inside. Instead of panicking when you see the school closures banner at the bottom of your TV, celebrate the idea of a snow day. You know the kids will be wishing all winter long for a day off, so you might as well be armed with some fun activities to pass the time when it does actually happen. Where is a better place to be when it is cold out then in the kitchen cooking up something sweet? I certainly can’t think of anything better, unless maybe there was a fireplace in the kitchen. Then I would actually never leave. Anyway, for your next snow in, give this little kid-friendly recipe a try.

Rice Krispies are a classic and the perfect ingredient to play around with in the kitchen. From breakfast to dinner to desserts, you can create so many fun things with this amazing cereal. So while the snow is falling or it is just too cold to go outside on your next snow day, why not build some snowmen inside? It will be great practice for everyone when it comes time to build the real thing. With just a few ingredients you and the kids will be off and building in no time.

What You Need

·   Box of Rice Krispies (6 cups per recipe)

·   Bag of Mini Marshmallows (4 cups per recipe)

·   Butter (3 Tablespoons per recipe)

·   M&Ms

·   Sour Strips

·   Pretzels

You are going to start just like you are making normal Rice Krispie treats, adding 3 tablespoons of butter to a medium sized saucepan and heating it on low. Then add those yummy mini marshmallows and stir until everything is fully melted. Once that is ready, add the cereal to your mixture and stir together until everything is fully coated. Now this is where these directions are going to change a bit. In order to form the balls for your snowmen’s bodies, you will want to work with the mixture while it is still warm. It is time to enlist the little ones help! Using a buttered spatula, remove the mixture and scoop it onto wax paper, and then have the kids start grabbing pieces and rolling them into 3 sized balls: large, medium, and small. From there, start having them build those snowmen! Once the shapes are formed, it is time to really start playing and decorating. I always loved using M&Ms for the buttons, sour strips for the scarves, and pretzels for the arms, but if you don’t like your kids eating any of these things, just improvise! You can also make popcorn snowmen if you aren’t a fan of Rice Krispies! The directions are incredibly similar.

While you are making these delicious and adorable snacks, put on some fun tunes and have a dance party in the kitchen. Since you are building snowmen, possibly a little Frozen is appropriate? Unless of course you can’t stand to listen to that album one more time (you aren’t alone); in that case just find something fun to sing along to. This will also make the cleanup process fun for everyone! Memories like these will last a lifetime. I still remember making snowmen with my mom and sister when I was a little kid. If you really want to make it something special, have it become a snow day tradition so you never have to dread another snowstorm. If you all are really ambitious and are stuck inside the entire day, you can make these tasty treats for your kid’s class, if that is allowed. If you’re not sure if the class allows outside food, just ask the teacher. Makes going back to school a little sweeter for everyone. Before you know it, you will be the one going to bed with your PJs inside out, wishing for some snow. So it’s time to build a snowman. Go on, go and play!

 

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Choosing Figure Skating as a Sport

The days of tot classes are now far behind you, and your kid wants nothing more than to be on the ice. Go figure! Figure Skating is often an underrated sport in my opinion because many people just don’t understand the dedication that is put into it and how fiercely competitive (and selective) it truly is. For most, figure skating is associated with winter as a fun cold day activity or an entertaining Olympic sport, but not many actually pursue it as their sport of choice or competitively. If your child couldn’t get enough of their beginner classes, it is time to get them skating more consistently. Here are a few ways to get your ice princess or prince where they want to be.Dollarphotoclub_59678328.jpg

Private Lessons

Private lessons will vary in price depending on the instructor that you choose. If your child liked the summer camp that they went to, start with either that coach or at least at that rink to find someone they have synergy with. Since figure skating is mostly an individual sport, it’s especially important to find a coach that your child trusts and one that understands your child’s intentions within the sport. They will be spending a lot of time together and hopefully moving up the levels, and you don’t want a coach that is going to put too much pressure on them. Like I mentioned before, figure skating is a very competitive sport, and it’s important to be supportive but not pushy. I have seen way too many good skaters leave the sport because the pressure was too great. Beyond that, setting up a consistent training program with the coach you choose will help your child get better and better. Once your child has a training schedule in place, it will be time to start testing up the levels and most importantly, competing! Even if you can’t afford for your child to compete in every competition in the area, have them do one or two to just get the experience. Aside from just training on the ice, figure skaters are often required to supplement with off-training classes such as ballet, yoga, and Pilates, in addition to weight training, to make sure they are receiving a well-rounded training program.

What They Need

Like previously mentioned, skating in not an inexpensive sport. So if you are worried about costs, start with the basics at first until your child in well associated with everything. If they are in a consistent program, even a consistent camp program, you are probably going to want to buy them their own pair of skates so that they fit correctly. A good pair of skates will make all the difference. If you kid is going the competitive route and quickly advancing in the sport, it is time to look into custom skates. Ask your child’s coach if they are ready for this before making any purchases because they are very expensive and if your child is still growing, they will quickly grow out of their skates and will need to be replaced.  So you will want to make sure that is the correct move to make. Aside from skates, make sure they have a few pairs of tights. I always liked wearing two pairs of tights, one pair that was close toe and then a second pair that covered my boots, if I was wearing a skating dress. Double layering keeps you warmer and will protect your skates while training. Wearing a pair of closed toe tights with yoga pants or leggings is another popular option and more common these days. Just have your child pair them with a fitted fleece or shirt, and they will be good to go. It is just important not to wear anything too bulky while training since the movements require fluidity and precision. If they can’t move, they can’t be accurate. Then just add a pair of gloves, and they are good to go!

Figure skating often feels like an exclusive club since so few people actually pursue it seriously as a sport, so if your child is interested in giving it a shot, go for it! It may be expensive, but since it is so selective, if you child is good enough and sticks with it, it can be very fulfilling. It could even get them into an amazing college! If anything though, I have no doubt that your kid will have an amazing time escaping the heat of summer while in camp and come out with some great stories they can share the rest of their life.

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Parenting Resources

Starting Life on the Edge: Ice Skating for Tots

Growing up, ice-skating was an activity that every kid in my area participated in, at least for long enough to teach them how to stay up on their skates and make it once all the way around the rink. It could have just been the thing to do where I grew up, but either way, it was an amazing experience and a lifelong skill. Whether we went on to be little ice princesses/princes, hockey stars, or just casual rink goers, we all started in the same place: tot class.  So if you are interested in having your child start their life on edges, let me get you started.

Best Age to Start

It will be important to decide when you want to start your little one out. Technically speaking, if you are feeling adventurous, you can start your child on skates once they are able to walk. But it is more common for children to start between the ages of 3-5 once they’re already established

on solid ground, and then have them learn to balance on two blades. Some rinks have a specific age in which they allow children on the ice as well, so that is something to be mindful of when you are looking around for programs. Once you have decided they’re ready, it’s time to find a tot class in your area. Some places will have tot classes separated into figure skating and hockey classes, but it isn’t necessary to pick right away if you are unsure of where to go; they’re just learning the basics.

What You Should Expect

Tot classes are group classes for children ages 3-5 and are meant to be a fun way to learn and master the fundamentals. What does this mean exactly? Well for starters, you and your child are going to learn how to correctly lace up the skates to ensure maximize safety before stepping onto the ice. Then the instructor will teach the kids how to fall and stand back up the right way because, lets face it, falling is inevitable with this skating and they have to learn not to be scared of it. Being taught how to fall and get back up correctly will hopefully avoid any injuries when it does occur out on the ice. Your child will then move onto marching, often times in a long line across the ice (this can vary though), just to get the feeling and balance of being on blades. They will move to gliding on their blades once they understand the marching concept. After these basics are covered, 2-foot jumps will be added in addition to beginning swizzles and snowplow stops. Throughout the session, the instructor will teach these movements while simultaneously playing games or adding fun activities to keep your child’s attention and interest.

Getting Them Ready for Class

Hanging out in the rink can get a little cold for the little ones, especially if the lesson lasts for a ½ hour or longer. To maximize their safety and warmth, just start with a few basic items. Tights, leggings, or fitted sweatpants are going to be your best option to keep your tot warm and covered. It you do decide to dress them in leggings or pants, make sure they have warm socks on but not ones that are too bulky to fit in their skates properly. If the socks are too bulky, then you won’t be able to pick out the correct size skates, which is dangerous. Similarly to the pants, have your kid wear a fitted long sleeve shirt and/or jacket so that they are warm but not in too much that it makes moving on the ice difficult. Pair these with a pair of gloves so that their hands don’t get too cold in the rink, especially if they do fall! Last but not least (and definitely not least important), you kid will need a helmet. Even if they don’t want to wear it, they have to when they are starting out. I know that you agree with me on that! Let them decorate it or pick out a fun color to match their skating outfit so that they will want to show it off every week. Many places will offer skate rentals, so you won’t have to worry about buying any off the bat if you don’t want. Just check before the first class. Then they will be set to go.

Tot class is just the beginning for your little skater. Whether they want to move to hockey groups or figure skating groups, starting with the basics will get them ready to take on the ice! From there you have competitions and/or games to look forward to. But before we get ahead of ourselves, just let them have fun learning their way around a pair of skates. If you really want to have some fun, some rinks even offer parent/kid classes so you can learn together, even if you already know what you are doing!

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Horseback Riding Programs in The San Francisco Bay Area

You may be knee deep in all things winter right now, but before you know it, summer will be here, the kids will be out of school, and you will be responsible for filling their endless days. Can you think of a better way for you kid to spend the day than learning how to not only ride, but also take care of 600-pound animal, while also bonding with other like-minded children and learning their way around a barn? The Bay area offers multiple opportunities, both camps and training programs, that will inspire your child and help them flourish within the sport of horseback riding.

Woodside

Tayside Sport Horses: There are a number of barns located in Woodside that offer comprehensive and fun programs for kids of all ages. Tayside Sport Horses has an extensive training program supporting a variety of disciplines: Eventing, Jumping, and Dressage. In addition, they teach horsemanship, grooming, and conditioning techniques to the riders at their facilities.  This is a terrific environment for your children to start riding at. Although they do not have a summer camp, their lesson program is extensive, and they can be contacted for further information. New clients receive their first 4 lessons for $80 each, and there are schoolmasters, which are expertly trained horses, available for lessons. In addition, they have both half and full leasing programs that students can graduate to once they feel ready.

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Emerald Hills Training: Similarly, Emerald Hills does not have a camp promoted on their site, but they have a great program set up. With a classical training style, Emerald Hills Training is focused on the Hunter/Jumper disciplines. In addition to offering a full training program, which includes 5 days a week of training, they offer a lesson program to fit everyone’s needs. From 45-minute privates lessons to 1-hour group lessons, both $85, the program allows riders to build their own schedule.

JP Training at Portola Farm: As a full service Hunter/Jumper barn, JP Training offers a comprehensive training program, clinic program, and Summer Horsemanship Camp. The Horsemanship Camp is for children ages 7 and up and teaches children the proper technique, position, fitness, and care of horses. In addition to teaching the basics of riding, this camp program features lectures from vets, farriers, grooms, and more, giving students a well rounded riding education. There are 8 riders per session, and it is offered on select weeks in July and August. The cost per session is $550 for students on horses provided, $400 for students ½ leasing a horse, and $300 for students involved in a full lease or own their own horse.  Beyond camp, JP training offers private and semi-private lessons ranging from $80 to $85.

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B.O.K Ranch: If you are looking for a therapeutic riding program for your child, B.O.K Ranch may be exactly what you are looking for. PATH certified, B.O.K takes the times to build lesson programs for each of their riders individually. Lessons are filled with creative games and sport activities, in addition to the typical horse care, grooming, and equipment use training.

Portola Valley

Seven Oaks Farm: Although Seven Oaks does not have a camp displayed on their website, they have a wonderful dressage training program. With school horses available, including horses, ponies, and schoolmasters, their training program offers children and adults of all ages an opportunity to learn and perfect dressage. In addition to individual lessons, they offer partial and full training programs when the next step is needed. The lessons vary in price from $35-$85 and consist of private, semi-private, and group lessons.

Webb Ranch: As a multi-discipline barn, serving English and Western riders, Webb Ranch offers programs for beginner and intermediate riders in dressage, western riding, hunt seat, and even trail riding. Lessons, which include group, semi-private, and private options, range in price from $58-$78. An amazing feature of this farm is that they hold camps during Holiday and Spring Break periods, in addition to summertime. The summer sessions are limited to 24 students and they split them up into groups of 8.

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 Spring Down: With over 50 show quality horses available, Spring Down is a great place for your kid to begin their riding. In addition to basic riding instruction, students are able to pursue Jumping, Dressage, Horsemanship, and Western here. They offer spring, winter, and summer camps for children ages 6 and up. Their camp program not only teaches the basics, but also provides kids with live demos for further, real-life education. The winter camp costs $425, and the intermediate summer camp costs $395. In March, the farm even offers a $125 mini-camp for interested students.

Isola Stables: Offering Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing, Isola Stables has everything a rider could want. From private and small group lessons, to shows, to trail rides, every rider’s needs are addressed in this program. To get started, camp sessions are offered for 6 weeks throughout the summer. Riders ages 6-14 are welcome to attend the camp, which includes a minimum of 1 hour of riding, horsemanship activities, and arts and crafts. The cost for a session is $550 per camper.

 Menlo Park

California Riding Academy: California Riding Academy offers a comprehensive program for all levels of students, from beginners to advanced riders. They have well school horses and ponies available for riders to advance and grow on. They offer private, semi-private, and group lessons ranging from $75-$100 in price. Additionally, they offer both ½ day and full day Summer Horsemanship Camp options. There are beginner, intermediate, and even some advanced classes available. Children ages 5-15 are welcome. In addition to riding, kids are taught horse management skills, given horse breed knowledge, and participate in games and crafts. ½ day of camp cost $589 and a full day is $825, each for one week. They also offer Spring Break camps!

 Palo Alto

Page Mill Pastures: At Page Mill Pastures, riders will learn the basic techniques on lesson horses available at the barn. Both English and Western lessons are taught and private and group lessons are provided.  A private lesson costs $60 for 1 hour of riding and a group lesson for 3 or more kids for 1 hour costs $45. They also offer partial and full leases for students to take over when they are looking for more consistency in their training program.

Riding during a camp is a great way for your kid to spend the summer and finding a farm that has a good training program to continue your child’s training is key.  These are just a few options available in the Bay Area, so check them out and see if any of them fit what you are looking for. You can also ask around for referrals from friends and family to find your perfect fit, in addition to doing further internet research.

Categories
Sports

A Guide to Horseback Riding for Beginners

Do horses keep coming up in conversation with your kids? When you’re in the car, when you’re making dinner, when you’re on the way to school…the questioning is relentless. Your kid has riding on the mind and probably won’t stop asking about it until they are able to try it. Horseback riding is really one of those sports that everyone should at least try once in their lifetime, no matter what age, even if its just a fun trail ride because it such a unique experience building a bond with an animal that you can’t really get from any other sport. Before you let your mind get carried away with costs and other worries, let me help you get started.

Horseback Riding Camp

Start by choosing a day camp or a horseback riding camp. Camps are an amazing opportunity to be introduced into everything from barn work, to horse prep to riding with other like-minded kids. It’s important to look for a camp program that will give your child this type of experience because it will not only be more interactive, but it will make them a better rider and more responsible in the long run. Year after year, I see kids’ confidences and passions flourish over just a few weeks of camp, and they really start taking pride in all of the work they are doing, whether it be the stall they cleaned or the trot they perfected. Riding at camp will leave your child with a memorable experience. If your kid leaves camp wanting more or you are more interested in a solo starting experience for them, private lessons are another great starting point.

Find horseback riding camps near me>>

Private Horseback Riding Lessons

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Training programs will vary by barn and by trainer, so there are a few things to consider when looking for both of these things. If you are in completely unfamiliar territory, don’t panic. Start by asking around to friends and family to see if any of them know of farms in the area with good reviews or trainers that teach introductory lessons. Not every farm has lesson horses, so it’s just a matter of asking questions once you find them. Another great way to get information is by going into your local tack shop. Often times, the people that work there are riders themselves and know of contacts in the area. They also have bulletin boards with trainers and information about their riding programs. If you prefer to work online, you can also do a search for barns and trainers in your area and then check out their websites to find your best match. You can also do a search for local associations based on the type of riding you are pursuing, ie Dressage Associations, Hunter Jumper Associations, Western Associations etc, and find barns and trainers advertising on there.

Once you’ve found a barn and a trainer, you can decide on a program. I recommend starting with private lessons, at least for a few months. Like I mentioned before, every barn has a different way they set up with lesson programs. So when you’re making your decision of where to start, compare every program. It’s ideal for kids to be able to build a relationship with their trainer and build up their confidence on a horse in a one on one environment without being overwhelmed. Then once they are solid in the saddle and trust their trainer you can add in group lessons, which are a great way to start integrating your kid into the barn group. They will get to know the other kids, learn with them, and have fun. Private lessons are a great way to teach and refine, and then they can hone those skills in a group setting where they are really asked to focus despite the added distractions. Together, private and group lessons create a solid training program.

Dressing the Part

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Hopefully, you feel more comfortable about how to get your kid started in the world of horses. The next challenge is to get them physically ready. There are so many things that your kid could use, but when they are first starting out, just go with the basics and get what they absolutely need because otherwise it adds up too quickly. So what are the basics? The most important items to focus on are the helmet and boots. It’s essential for these to fit properly for the safety of your child and horse.

Always buy a helmet new. You will probably see some that are on consignment, but it isn’t safe because you don’t know if any falls occurred in them or other problems. Stop by your local tack shop to try on different styles and get the perfect fit. You can also measure on your own and order online, but know that every style will fit differently so it may take a few tries before finding the best one. For beginners, the IRH Equi-Lite Helmet is a great choice and it comes in a variety of colors and sizes. Remember though, helmets are not one brand fits all. If you are not familiar with fitting helmets, definitely go into a store and ask for help. Just so you know what they are looking for, the rule of thumb for fitting a helmet is finding one that provides even pressure all around your head. It should lie about 1 inch above your child’s eyebrows and not wobble around when they move their head or shake. The nice part is that many helmets come with adjustable pads that will help you perfect the fit, once you find the model that works best.

After you have found the helmet, you want to make sure they have a pair of good paddock boots, also known as short boots, which are perfect for beginners. You can look for a nice pair on consignment or purchase them new. My personal favorite brand for paddock boots is Ariat. Lastly, get your kid a pair of gloves and riding breeches and they will be set to go! It’s always a safe bet to start with less and then add to the wardrobe once they get more involved in the sport.

However you choose to get you kid started in the saddle, the most important part is that they like the barn and the trainer. Everything from there will fall into place and they will quickly fall in love with the sport.

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Horseback Riding Sports

Should You Buy or Lease a Horse?

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So your kid loves horseback riding lessons and now they want a horse of their very own, right? Should you buy or lease a horse? In this article, I’m going to help you with that decision by giving you some pros and cons. It’s a big move I know. Go ahead and take a moment to digest it. To be honest, the answer is different for every family and is dependent on where your child wants to go with their riding. Are they on the path to competing, have they physically outgrown the pony they are on, or are they just looking to have the responsibility of their own horse? Before jumping on the horse owner train, let me give you some tips from someone who has been there before…a few times.

Leasing A Horse

Going from taking weekly lessons to owning your own horse is a huge step. Instead of throwing yourself into something before you and your child are completely ready, why not consider leasing. I’ve been in this sport for 14 years now, and I’ve watched more people go through horses than you can imagine because they rushed into buying something before finding the right match. If you aren’t completely ready for the commitment of buying a horse, talk to your trainer about starting a leasing program. This gives you the opportunity to find a horse that your child is compatible with and can grow with. Leasing gives your child the responsibility and consistency they are looking for but keeps some of the pressures and financial burdens off of your plate. In addition, leasing doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. When your child wants to move up to higher levels or is looking for a new experience, you can start a new lease with a new horse. Once you and your child have the experience of temporary ownership that leasing allows, you might feel ready to own your own horse; maybe even purchase the horse that you are leasing.

Owning A Horse

Having a horse of your own is a very large responsibility, but it’s also an amazing experience. It’s completely different from taking lessons or even leasing because you now have full decision-making capabilities. With that though comes vet bills, boarding, shoeing, tack, etc. which can get overwhelming very quickly. If that is something you are ready to take on, then absolutely go for it. Now is the time for you to sit down with the trainer and go over what everyone thinks is the best plan. I recommend not only looking for a horse that your child likes, but also one that they can grow with, in size and performance. You will be spending a lot of money, so it’s a smarter investment to get a horse that will be able to advance with your child, instead of one that will need to be sold within a year or so. If your childs horse skills increase, you could even sell the horse at an even higher value than you purchased it. I’m getting ahead of myself here but the point is, look beyond just the present when you are making your purchase. If you make a plan and organize your finances, it will not be as extreme of a change like picking any old horse would be.. Also, make sure you do a thorough vet check so you are fully aware of your horses health. People are not always upfront and truthful with problems their horse may have, so make sure your trainer and vet are involved in all steps of this process. Once everything passes, it’s time to have fun!

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Affordable Ways to Horseback Ride

If you and your child are not in the financial position to pay for a lease or purchase a horse, have your child start offering their riding services to other boarders in the barn, when they themselves can’t come up and ride their own horses. Sometimes this can even be done for money. It may not give them the consistency of riding the same horse all of the time, but it will make them a very good rider. Being able to adjust to different horses on the spot is a very unique skill to have, and believe me, not everyone can do it. Only the best riders know how to use their skills across the barn, not just on their own horse. It’s a great way to learn and advance, without having the financial pressures of owning.

Whether you’re leasing or buying a horse for the first time, my biggest piece of advice is just being patient and taking your time. It’s a big move and commitment, so it has to feel right. Work with your child’s trainer, have your child try a lot of different horses, and do a full check-up before finalizing anything. And have fun with it!

Check out some of these horseback riding camps!

Neophyte Farms Horseback Riding – Simi Valley, CA

Almaden Equestrian Center – San Jose, CA

Redwood Ranch Stables – Oakland, CA