By Ellie Riley, Her mother Jo, and father Kevin, were not riders, but from the age of six, Lauren Kieffer
took an interest in horses and was given riding lessons at a local barn. Little did her parents know, this hobby would become her profession and just a few years later, land all three of them in Rio, Brazil as Lauren competed in the 2016 Olympics as a member of the United States Eventing team. Her parents have seen her compete all over the world, and have attended over 200 horse shows to support her. For any parent whose child is interested in equestrian sports, the Kieffers can impart great advice on how to support their dreams, keep them safe and keep everyone sane in what can seem like a foreign world. You’ll notice when you begin any sport or hobby, that a certain amount of equipment is required to participate. Horse equipment and equestrian fashion and clothing choices can seem daunting at first, the Kieffers suggested you start out simple and safe. Helmets being first priority and the other basics being useful, properly fitted to the horse, and not extravagant. Here at Horse Tack Co., we compiled a list of products that will fit the bill for any young rider just starting out on their journey into the horse world.
- A helmet, a helmet and another helmet for when the first two have any age on them or are involved in a fall: Until your child is showing and at the lower levels, you can get away with a schooling helmet. Something like the Troxel Intrepid Low Profile Riding Helmet is perfect for comfort and safety. When show ring attire becomes necessary, the Charles Owen JR8 is a great option for all English disciplines and at a price point that won’t break the bank when head size may still be changing. When riding cross-country, your child may need a skull-cap, like the Charles Owen J3. The Kieffers recommend prioritizing based on the advice of your trainer.
Boots and breeches: This is heavily dependent on your child’s discipline, as riding dressage will require much different equestrian attire than riding in the short stirrup hunters. For lessons and every day riding, we love the On Course Cotton Naturals Adjustable Waist Breeches for growing bodies and wash and wear convenience. You can’t go wrong with a basic, sturdy, paddock boot like the Ariat Youth Scout Zip Paddock Boot for daily wear.
- The Kieffers started out with borrowed saddles and blankets and emphasized the importance of a good fit for the horse you are riding, rather than the latest trend. Every horse crazy girl does appreciate having her own fun saddle pad and we suggest the PRI quilted all-purpose pony saddle pad, which comes in 17 colors and is also available in horse size. Most lesson barns do not require you bring your own saddles pads or tack, but it’s a treat to get to pick out things in your favorite colors.
For the non-horsey parent who is jumping into the horse world between the selection of tack, equipment and apparel combined with the pressure to buy the first horse or pony it can be daunting. The Kieffers reiterate that that “its only time to buy the horse or pony when the child is ready to sacrifice in order to have one. They must be willing to spend substantially more time at the barn than they spend actually riding and the purchase of an animal is a serious commitment in time and money and the child should be even more committed than you are.” Most importantly, Jo wants the non-horsey parents to know the following: “Whether the interest is casual or all consuming, a barn is a great place for kids and teens. All the normal things learned from caring for another living creature, practicing a skill, persevering after defeat, is there; but I have found some other benefits that I believe are unique to horse sports. The confidence that comes from convincing a 1,200 pound animal to work with you as a team is empowering. As your child faces the normal butterflies that come with giving a speech in front of peers etc., they can look back on their weekend, getting around a new XC course and maybe realize that this new test might not be so hard after all. Also, they usually have an entirely different set of friends at the barn. So maybe their peers at school will have a bit less influence, since they aren’t their only source of friendship. If they are looking forward to an early start Saturday and Sunday for the horse show, they are less likely to be out till all hours on Friday. And as my husband always says: ‘It’s cheaper than rehab’. In a barn, all sorts of people, of all ages, meet and interact on a different basis. I have seen professionals and other adults seeking out teens for help and advice with a problem with their horse. You are judged by how well you ride and how hard you work, not how much money you make or what school you went to.” Supporting Lauren in her work towards riding for the U.S. has been a family affair, the Kieffers often travel to shows with Lauren in their camper and enjoy getting to share in the competition as well as the downtime. They are famous for cooking out and inviting other competitors and friends for dinner and they love the ability to have their own beds and pets with them, rather than going from hotel to hotel. They’ve made a big commitment as a family, but say the decision was easy when they saw what riding meant to Lauren and how hard she was willing to work for her dreams.
Eventer Lauren Kieffer and pony, Emily, enjoying the snow in the early years. Photo by Jo Kieffer
From those early days on a pony called Emily, to watching her leave the start box at Rio this year, the Kieffers say they are so proud of what Lauren has accomplished. Whether your child has Olympic dreams like Lauren did, or just wants to ride the animals they love, equestrian sport can be beneficial to their health and development. Keep them safe and prepared
with everything from the basic equipment needed to get started, to high end tack and apparel suitable for the Olympic podium at Horse Tack Co.
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