We'll call the boy Matt, 11, though that is obviously not his name. He has been riding with his grandfather, who has proven to be an equestrian dolt, who has bestowed upon his hyperactive grandson horrible riding habits. His cousin, who will be called Maddie, rides with similar horrible balance.
I'm scared to death that one of these children will, someday or another, fall off. While this is a risk anyone takes when riding horses, I don't want it to be because of their lack of proper instruction.
Maddie is the typical early teenager. She can't take critique and has quit frequenting our barn because we weren't shy to tell her when her posture would fault, unlike her grandfather who babies her. But my biggest concern is Matt, who is at the barn almost as much as I am at.
While at the arena, my boss asked for a trot out of the riders. We happened to notice that Matt would lean forward a dramatic amount, push his legs backwards, and stick his hand almost all the way up to the poll. He also takes a white-knuckle death grip to the saddle horn hoping to improve his balance. (Below you can see pictures showing the posture I'm referring to.)
My boss and I had to shout out instructions in order for him to hear us over the other horses and their sound of movement. After a while an much of him bouncing (when he would canter, his butt came up nearly a foot out of the saddle -- YIKES!), we asked him to dismount and let one of our senior riders, an ex-barrel racer, ride his horse to help us display proper posture.
While we stood and watched the new rider rounding the arena, we discussed with Matt what he was doing and what he should be doing. I took pictures of the senior rider to help show him, in still motion, just what she was exactly doing. It was then that I noticed that he was crying.
Some people here suggested in the previous topic that we move his stirrups up just one notch. I aim to try this.
Later that day I rode another one of our horses and showed him how I ride, and did my best to explain to him what I was doing in means that wouldn't confuse him. When I trotted, I told him I squeezed the horse gently with my legs and pushed my heals down. When I cantered, I told him I leaned back just a little bit, pushing my legs ever-so-slightly forward (in case the horse were to refuse or halt, I would have just a split second longer to compose myself and not go flying over the horse's neck).
I'm terrified that he's going to fall off in our care, and even more so that he was crying. The last thing I want is for a student's "mother bear" to be jumping my case because I did my job as an instructor and critiqued her child.
Matt went on after we dismounted to blame his posture on his horse, who's one of our best beginner horses. When that didn't fly with me, he blamed the reins -- "they're too long," he said. I tried to explain to him that what was happening was lack of instruction and bad habits he learned from riding family members, and how scared I was that he would fall off. He aspires to ride Darla, one of our "expert" horses who has a tendency to buck up a little bit when she's fresh or having a nice day. I told him that, if he displayed such posture on that horse, he was likely to go flying off because he would have no balance. I also told him, as an "ego booster," that he was a better rider than Maddie, who rubs it in his face that she has her own horse (she only bought the tack for it) and can ride better than he. You know, the typical relative-rivalry.
Do you guys have any tips on how I can critique him without making him feel so hurt again?It could have been my tone, or the sheer fact that he realized that he wasn't as great of a rider as he thought he was. I'm not sure. But, regardless, I want to do my best to help this child's self-esteem and improve his riding.