Great for horse fans of all ages. A love affair with a horse can start at an early age. But having a horse in your life is a big responsibility even if you are just taking beginner horseback riding lessons. Horses, like people, need to be groomed and fed. They need exercise, and must go for regular health check-ups and vaccinations.A healthy horse and rider can form a strong relationship and enjoy New Hampshire's trails, stables and competitions.Events range from backyard shows where kids wear hand-me-down blue blazers to the pomp and circumstance of a Grand Prix with prize purses between $50,000 and $75,000."You can compete every weekend for about six months in New Hampshire," says Jenn Capone, owner of River Crest Farm in Nottingham.She acknowledges competing is expensive, but there are many types of shows for different levels of riders. As a stable owner, she offers lessons for all ages and sees children develop a love of horses."Horses are nice for kids," she says. "Parents know where their kids are. They'll be at the barn, not at the mall. Being with horses is such a learning experience. They learn responsibility and how to take care of the animals."Says Capone, "Horses are a great outlet for kids these days, something for them to do. It's outdoors, it's active. You are not in front of a computer. Kids make friends with other kids and the horses. As a parent, it's nice to know where your kids are."Marty Basch can be reached through www.onetankaway.com. Gear BoxLook smart and ride safely with the Charles Owen JR8 Riding Helmet (www.doversaddlery.com, $150). High-quality and comfortable, the microfiber suede touch gives it a spiffy style.Now it's on to toes and the Children's Cadet Flex Riding Boot ($35.90) in sizes 1 to 4. Affordable and waterproof, the boots should last a bit before moving on.Horses need love and care. Show the love with the Roma Ultimate Grooming Kit ($21.95) that comes with various brushes and combs.Impressive FactHampton Falls hosts an annual Grand Prix competition featuring top international riders and Olympians.Expert AdviceOwner of River Crest Farm in Nottingham, Jenn Capone is a certified New Hampshire horse trainer. She's been riding for 30 years and also provides lessons for riders and full boarding for horses. Capone trained horses and furthered her equestrian skills in Ireland following college while also achieving accreditation from the respected British Horse Society. She competes across the Northeast.What's the difference between Western and English riding? It's a question of style and the tack - the equipment - you put on your horse. It's like swimming and water polo. They're both in water but they are different. There is no jumping in Western and the Western saddle has the horn. The English saddle is a flat saddle. There is a difference in the clothes, too.How do I choose a good riding school? There are a few things you can do. Go online and look for riding academies in your area. Have an idea if you want to ride English or Western. Usually instructors will do one or the other. Then take a lesson. A lot about choosing a school or stable is about how you feel. Also, watch a lesson. Make sure the stable is clean.What is taught in beginner classes? Beginners are taught the basics of riding and how to get comfortable around the horse. They learn how to steer and, very important, how to stop. Depending on the stable, students can get more involved with the care of horses. We are a hands-on barn and let kids come a half hour before their lessons to help get the horse ready. Then after the lesson they can help untack the horse and put them away. Other places might have the horse ready for you once you arrive. You take your lesson and then leave.What do I need to wear if I'm taking a riding lesson with a goal of competing? A helmet is most important. Most places will provide one for you. They can run between $50 and $500. Wear jeans or tight fitting pants and a boot with a heel. Don't wear sneakers or any opened toed shoes or sandals. That goes for parents and friends who are watching, too. Once you get better and decide you want to compete in shows you'll need a riding crop, britches, jacket, boots and a set of brushes for the horses.Can you explain some horse terms: canter, trot, gallop and dressage? All of that has to do with beats and steps. A trot would be like a jog while a canter is more like when you are starting to run. A gallop is flat-out running. Dressage is another discipline. That is more like dancing with the horses.How do I choose a stable to go on an easy trail ride with my friends? There are stables in New Hampshire, like up in the North Conway area, that do trail rides. They have walking trail rides with horses that do nothing but follow the trail.
This article appears in the August 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine