Our facility has a minimum age requirement of 8 years of age for riders, be it in lessons or for a trail ride. The problem we face is that parents continually "misrepresent" the true age of some children just to get them on a trail ride. We do offer Pony Rides for younger guests...a lead line ride in the arena, with a staff member and the use of either a horse or a pony. Unfortunately, many parents discourage their children from riding in the controlled environment and become angry and very verbal with staff. We have recently included a height requirement in addition to the age requirement. (It is ridiculous when people try to pass 4 and 5 year olds off for being 8). Our goal is for these children to have a safe and positive riding experience, and this is difficult to provide when the child is so tiny they cannot keep the horse moving down the trail or stop their mount from snacking along the way. Do you have any creative ideas about this topic?
Establishing a minimum height and/or weight requirement is the best way to go. You could use a height, weight AND age requirement and that would probably slow down the lying parents.
Taking a lesson from Disney World, you can use a walkthrough measurement for kids to walk through and most families are familiar with that type of screening for amusement park rides and are used to being compliant. In fact, it is indeed what Disney World uses at its trail ride concession in Orlando . I think a creative person might be able to have a little fun with the walkthrough device and make it fun and attractive to small children.
Another suggestion is to explain to the parents, in a way that makes them feel responsible and culpable, that it is a safety issue, not an act of trying to deprive your child ("of course you, more than us, should have the best interest of your child in mind").
This is an age-old question for group riding programs. Maybe someone else will read this and send us a more creative idea that we can publish in this magazine!