The number one piece of safety equipment for riding is a helmet. Your riding stable should provide one is ASTM certified and fits your child snugly (not too tight, never loose) with a chinstrap. If you prefer that your child not share a helmet, find a local tack shop (a store that sells riding clothes and equipment) in your area and have them help you select one that fits properly.
You can find helmets starting around $30. NEVER buy a used helmet because once they’ve taken an impact, they no longer provide protection, and there’s no way to tell by visual inspection. Bike helmets are not suitable substitutes; the standard for their certification isn’t the same as a riding helmet.
Children should wear long pants that cover their ankles to prevent chafing and rubs from the saddle and stirrup leathers.
Proper footwear is important to prevent your child’s foot from sliding through the stirrup or getting stuck in it. Sneakers are not a good choice; for riding, shoes should have a small heel. Work boots or hiking boots can work just as well as boots designed for riding.
In cooler weather, dress your child in layers and select a jacket that is short enough that they don’t end up sitting on it.
Mary Zak is a sales representative for Hudson Valley Parent, a sometime freelance writer, and a horseback riding trainer.