This section is from the "The Young Mother. Management of Children in Regard to Health" book, by William A. Alcott. Also available from Amazon: The Young Mother
While children are very young, I think it both improper and unsafe to take them abroad on horseback; I mean so long as they are in health. In case of disease, this mode of exercise is sometimes one of the most salutary in the world. But after boys are six or seven years old, and girls ten, if they are ever to practise horsemanship, it is time for them to begin; both because they are less apt to be unreasonably timid at this age, and because they learn much more rapidly.
So few parents are good horsemen, that if there is a riding school at hand, I should prefer placing a child in it at once. But I wish to be distinctly understood, that I do not consider it a matter of importance, especially to females, that they should ever learn to ride at all.
Some of the principal objections to riding on horseback, by boys, as an ordinary exercise, are the following:
1. Walking, as I have already intimated, is one of the most HEALTHY modes of exercise in the world. It is nature's exercise; and was unquestionably in exclusive use long before universal dominion was given to man, if not for many centuries afterward; and I believe it would be very difficult to prove that it interfered at all with human longevity; for the first of our race lived almost a thousand years.
2. Young children, in riding on horseback, are rather apt to acquire, rapidly, the habit of domineering over animals. It seems almost needless to say how easy the transition is, in such cases, should opportunity offer, from tyranny over the brute slave, to tyranny over the human being. There are slave-holders in the family and in the school, as well as elsewhere. It is the SPIRIT of a person which makes him either a tyrant or slave-holder. And let us beware how we foster this spirit in the children whom God has given us.