SMALL CHILDREN LOVE pony rides, but by the time they are about 5 years old, the thrill of riding slowly around a small ring is pretty well gone. By age 6, children are ready for bigger adventures--sitting on a full-sized horse and controlling the reins alone.
Rental stables used to be plentiful in Southern California. But urbanization has turned many stables into subdivisions, and insurance costs have made it prohibitive for others to stay in business. Fortunately, there are still stables and equestrian centers that rent horses by the hour or day. Many of them are convenient to trails that take riders through some of our most scenic areas. In general, stables do not accept reservations--plan to arrive early, especially on Sundays.
Rental stables have varying requirements for young riders. Some will send a guide or escort along (even on adult rides). Others will permit small children to double up with a parent or other adult. Some adjust their requirements after sizing up the situation at hand. An apprehensive 4- or 5-year-old will probably be asked to ride behind an adult, but a confident rider the same age will be given the reins.
Stables that rent horses to children include J.P. Stables in Burbank--children must be at least 6; Sunset River Trails Equestrian Center in El Monte--smaller children may ride double with a parent; El Cerrito Stables in Corona--children must be 7 to ride alone, younger children may double up with a parent; Sunset Ranch in Hollywood--guides accompany all rides, children must be 6 to ride solo; Smoke Tree Stables in Palm Springs--family horse-back riding; Hilltop Stables in south San Diego--parents must sign consent/release form, children must be at least 5 and able to control a horse to ride alone, and Sandi's Rental Stable in San Diego--children 5 and under may ride with an adult.