I assume these are private lessons?
As a fellow instructor I have to say this is always a challenge. Trust is the most crucial aspect in a instructor/student relationship - especially for nervous beginners.
Originally Posted by jinxremoving
I should mention, of course if the rider is riding for "therapy" then by all means don't push her. I suffer from extreme anxiety myself but once you put me on a horse, I am calm as can be, until the crap hits the fan... then I need to be pushed. However, if she's not riding for therapy than the OP still needs to find what her ultimate goal is and go from there.
While I completely agree with what jinxremoving had to say about pushing the student at the right time, this can be a very delicate situation with students that have this level of anxiety. The last thing you want to do is lose your students trust. I would sit down and have a chat with both the parents and the student to discuss what her goals are for riding - IE: therapeutic only or does she have plans to eventually compete, as well as discuss her comfort zones. Sometimes speaking with the parents before the student is more beneficial because you get the inside scoop on where the child's anxiety issues stem from - that way you aren't going blindly into the discussion with the student.
Keeping the lessons fun and relaxed is key and will definitely help in the long run for her to overcome her anxiety. Encouragement and praise for every accomplishment will also go a very long way (although I'm sure you have that covered
). I commend you for planning to work on tacking, grooming and ground work with her as well, she is probably much more relaxed on the ground and this will hopefully build up a better trust between her and the horse as well.