How to teach kids to ride without ruining my horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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How to teach kids to ride without ruining my horse?

Next spring, we will be having guests who are expecting to get to ride our horses. We have 2 horses that are 30 and 31 years old and in the past, they have been the "company" horses. However, they're getting too old and the kids are getting too big....So, I think it's time for my trail horses to step up to the plate. I'm already worried about this because these horses are our "once in a lifetime" horses and we have spent a lot of time and money in training and getting them where we want them to be.

They are gaited, pretty well-broke but these are beginner riders. We'll be riding in an arena so there won't be any danger of runaways. These horses, being gaited, really move out with a long stride and a lot of energy. We ride them in mild short-shanked bits but both are familiar with D-ring snaffles. Both have very sensitive mouths and are responsive to the bit; they don't reliably neck rein well yet. My mare is really responsive to seat and leg aids, but my DH's gelding is not so much.

I am really feeling a dilemma here, because I have spent a lot of time with my mare to get her to be soft and responsive, and I really don't want anyone to hurt her mouth or teach her any bad habits. So, how do I go about setting this up for success? I know that the easiest thing is just to say that no one rides the gaited horses, but our guests will just think we're being selfish.

I'm needing advice as to how to make this turn out well. I realized in thinking about what I will be telling the kids, that I honestly don't know how to communicate to the kids what to do with their seat, legs and hands to that they can actually do a good job of riding. I've read lots of posts here on coaching adult riders, but didn't find any about kids!

Appreciate any advice!
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post #2 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 04:22 PM
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Hmm...I haven't had personal experience with this but an idea popped into my mind that I thought I'd put out there, I'm sure there will be much more helpful advice as well.
Have they been ridden in a regular old halter before? Because my thought is what if you put on both their halter and bridle, then had the kid control the horse with reins attached to the halter then have an emergency rein to the bridle (which could be a different material so it would be obvious which was which if they dropped the reins) that they are not allowed to touch unless as a last resort in an emergency?
It may depend on the age of the kids. I don't know if that would just get confusing, but maybe if they were soft enough in a halter they could go with just that...or something along these lines?

Just a thought. Best of luck to you!
rocky pony is offline  
post #3 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 04:37 PM
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WOuld they be old enoguh for lounge line riding. My old instructor would put her younger riders (under 8) on the lounge line so she hand some control over the horse if something went wrong.

Again, I'm not sure how old theses kids are, but what if you did shorter riding sessions (like a half hour or 45 min), then you get on your horse and "demonstrate" some riding techniques or tricks your horse can do. While you are on, if there is some behavioral issues that have been picked up on, you could possibly nip them in the bud before they become problems.

And one more thought; what if you spent more time on things like grooming, mucking stalls, and leading with these kids? Thye will get to be around the horses and they will get some good knowledge on how to care for a horse, but it may cut a couple of minutes off riding time in a non-intentional way?

Hope this helps!
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post #4 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 04:48 PM
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I am very sympathetic to your dilemma; frequently guests ask why they can't ride my horse (he's bigger/flashier/better looking that the guest horse) and I just cringe. I have a very real fear that he'd hurt a beginner, but I also must admit I just don't want anyone messing with him.

If the 30 and 31 year old are still sound and in work, why not start them out on them and only move your guests to your nicer horses when they have a semblance of control? Since you've stated that your nice horses like to move out with a nice long stride, they will probably be intimidating to beginners anyway. How much riding do your guests expect to be able to do? If it's a matter of a 30 - 45 minutes in the ring each day; I still think that your older horses are a better bet.
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post #5 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 05:07 PM
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I don't blame you for being hesitant to put the kids on your "good" horses (for lack of a better phrase.. they are all good I know!) it is different when they are young enough that you can plop them up on the horse and just lead them around the arena a few times.. But when they get old enough to actually start riding by themselves letting them ride the "good" horses is maybe not such a great idea.

I am going to assume that you are on your own farm, and it sounds as though your guests will be staying for quite a while? Two thoughts come to my head :)

Perhaps if you have the room and time you could take on a rescue (doesn't have to be extreme) work with it now, have it be the kids horse in the summer. Once they are gone maybe you are in love with it, or maybe you rehome it. Either way you are helping a horse in need.

Second thought is I know where I am from lots of horses are offered for free lease, perhaps you could get a horse on free lease for the kids to ride for the time they are at your house.

good luck!

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail
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post #6 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 08:18 PM Thread Starter
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I'm really getting lots of great ideas from you folks. I think I'll use a combination of all of your ideas - start out on older horses (if I still have the old dears by summer), graduate up to the faster/younger horses on the lunge line with halters and/or snaffles if I need to, and get right on the younger horses afterward for some remedial schooling if needed.

Now, another question or two - how do you start the youngsters on seat and leg aids? I can be clear when telling them to sit quietly in the saddle, legs off, and just use the reins, but the horses might not be too responsive without the finer aids. Ideas how to -- or whether it's too soon to -- express this to the kids? You guessed right that these are 30-60 minute rides on my property. The kids are 9 and 11, girl and boy. They are very respectful and attentive but green! Thanks!
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post #7 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 08:27 PM
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I personally would lunge them but not allow them to have the reins, make them use their seat / legs to get responses. Of course, you should give them something to hold onto in case of an emergency such as a horn on a western saddle, an "Oh s#$@!" handle, or even just a rope around the horses neck. That will teach them to ride them with their body/legs to get the horse to do what they want and their hands are just there to hold the reins.

You could also wean them off of the lunge line and perhaps put your horse in a snaffle and let them just walk on their own, attempting to use the aids they have learned and not use their hands.

I hope this helps!

"You know, for as long as I can remember, I've had memories." ~Colin Mochrie
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post #8 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Arksly View Post
"Oh s#$@!" handle
So funny, thats what I call the horn too!!!

Great ideas about teaching kids riding as I have two young kids and will be putting these ideas to use.
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post #9 of 22 Old 01-01-2011, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by maura View Post
I am very sympathetic to your dilemma; frequently guests ask why they can't ride my horse (he's bigger/flashier/better looking that the guest horse) and I just cringe. I have a very real fear that he'd hurt a beginner, but I also must admit I just don't want anyone messing with him.
Maura, what about non-beginners?

I'm curious, because when I was taking a lesson once last year the (dressage) trainer asked me if I want to use her GP horse or the 2nd level one (I was honest upfront when I contacted her that I'm beginner in dressage). So I assume she wasn't really concerned about me ruining the horse.

Ladytrails, I think if you let the total beginner to ride in just halter/very mild bridle on -very quiet and not forward- horse (even with lots of training put in) not much harm would be done. However in your situation personally I'd say "no" to the guests and explain that horses are very forward and one should know how to ride such a horse. Otherwise the most possible outcome will be them yanking on the mouth when the horse will go little faster than expected (which is in my experience little more forward walk).
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post #10 of 22 Old 01-01-2011, 01:44 PM
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Kitten, my horse is "special" - he's got a lot of attitude and is a little bit of a smart a**. He's actually a riding school drop out, if he were capable of being kind and forgiving of beginners and amateurs he'd still be in my friend's riding school, earning a living. You have to *always* be the alpha with him, or he will take wicked advantage. He also has quite the editorial buck, that I mostly think is funny, but I am afraid would put a lighter/less experienced rider on the ground.

As far as your dressage instructor's horses, that kind of makes sense to me. A new to dressage rider would be more likely to confuse/mess up a Training or First Level horse, an upper level horse should be confirmed enough in their training that a ride or two by a novice won't affect them. The novice might not be able to get them to work to their full potential, but certainly won't hurt them. One of my old dressage instructors kept her old GP horse as a schoolmaster for her students and he was fabulous.
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