The family Johansson

Tilde is four and her big sister Moa is ten. Moa started taking riding lessons at four and a half, so has already been riding for more than five years. Tilde rode for one term, but then the riding school in Österby closed down. Now she can't wait to turn six and start at the new riding school in Kvibille. Unfortunately they don't have groups for younger children.

Luckily for Tilde, until she's old enough the for new riding school, she can sometimes join Moa and her friend Alice to ride Alice's friendly Gotland pony, Fluga. We meet Tilde, Moa and their mother Angelica one afternoon when they're tending to Fluga in the stable.

– It's fun spending time in the stable with the kids and their friends and having a shared hobby, says Angelica.

– I took riding lessons as a child, and I think it's great to learn the basics of riding and caring for a horse. You can never learn this skills so thoroughly on your own.

Moa has one riding lesson a week.

– We mainly do dressage, but we sometimes do jumping and we also learn theory. I like jumping best, but theory's quite fun too. It's a chance to get to know the others in the group better. We talk about saddles, bridles and other useful things, says Moa.

Very important

Including the time they spend with Fluga, they visit the stable up to three times a week. Both parents work full-time, so time management is quite a challenge. Moa and Tilde's older brother Kevin has many activities too, and then of course there's homework and family life too.

– We spend at least two hours in the stable on each visit, so of course we have to prioritise some activities over others. If the weather's nice on a Saturday, we prefer going to the stable instead of shopping or visiting friends. I think it's very important for the children to have a hobby and an activity they enjoy. Caring for horses and other animals teaches you to take responsibility, and that's very valuable too, says Angelica.

Starting off by practising balance

Angelica had no doubts about letting the children start riding as young as four.

– To start with, the lessons were mainly about practising balance and caring for the horses. The lessons are adapted to the children's age. They have fallen off a few times, but it wasn't serious.

– I fell off once when it got bumpy. I was scared at first, but mum held on to the horse and Åsa, my teacher held on to me, so it wasn't that bad trying again. You can fall off a bike too, says Tilde sensibly.

Moa fell off once at the riding school, when some snow fell off the roof and startled the horse.

– I was terrified, but mum told me to get back on straight away and now I never even think about it, she says.

No prior experience needed

The girls' dad Niklas had no experience of horses to start with, but he sometimes drives Moa to the riding school.

– At our riding school, the parents don't need to know anything or help with the horses at all, so we can leave the kids there if we want. Different schools vary in how must they require the parents to get involved. But the general idea is to teach kids to ride even if the parents have no knowledge of experience. If parents are expected to help, the school usually gives them thorough introductory information so there's no need to be worried, says Angelica.

Angelica gave up riding at fifteen, but has gradually started again.

– It's such fun to share a hobby with the kids. Moa and I have been riding together on Icelandic ponies, and I think Tilde will soon be old enough to join us.

Buying a horse can wait

Of course the kids would love to have their own horse, but Angelica says it's too early.

– I think they should be thirteen or fourteen to be mature enough to have their own horse. Having a horse also means a lot of work, and there isn't space for a stable where we live, which would have made it easier. Also, attending a riding school means they make new friends, go on summer camps and take part in other fun activities, things you can easily miss out on if you get your own horse too early. We are lucky to help Alice care for Fluga. For now, this is a good compromise between going to the stables and having your own horse.

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