Scared 9 year old - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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Scared 9 year old

I recently inherited a 9 year old student from my sister (who just made it into the police academy! Woohoo) who is rather shy and timid. The switch was difficult for her, she was pretty attached to my sister. She is a very beginner rider. Finally can post her trot off the lunge line, but we stay in the round pen most days because she cannot get the horse trotting on her own because there is not an aggressive enough to keep the horse moving (which is what we are working on).

My dilemma started two weeks ago. She was walking around and the horse turned around to bite a fly (hard to believe this has never happened before) and she lost her marbles. Threw the reins down, screaming, sobbing.. the whole nine. I get it, its scary. I explained why horses do that, how they can get bugs off, how we bug spray them, the horse isn't being mean, etc. The following lesson the same thing happens. Crying, sobbing, screaming... The whole nine. I let her relax then we got back to work. Lucky it didn't happen again but she was shrieking every time the horse so much as shook her head.

I think I may have to talk to her mother and do unmounted work with her. Maybe work on driving the donkeys or something. I'm confident the horse isn't going anywhere or will react to the screaming, but its still unsafe behavior. That, and God forbid the horse bite her or she thinks she got bite... It's not going to be pretty.

Has anyone ever come across this before? How would you handle it?
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post #2 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 04:19 PM
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My daughter is a panic-er.. it took me a long time, and a LOT of patience to get her to where she is now (shes 6yo, w/t/c and popping a small pole)... but to be fair, the main contributor to her progress is her pony (thank you ol girl!).

Patience is the way forward, and often I found that the less reaction I gave the situation, the less of a display she put on. For a while DD would go into fits of tears if the pony would shake her head - pure panic that she was losing control. If I reacted to the situation, she was worse than ignoring the situation and putting the focus elsewhere. She got into a strop, I concentrated on a game or bringing her attention elsewhere. Games were a HUGE impact on her confidence, it took the intensity of a lesson away and made it more enjoyable.

Time will be the biggest thing, we all progress at different stages and different speeds.. sometimes it's hard for us who are older to remember that.

Best of luck with her! :)

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post #3 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 04:24 PM
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I don't expect I'll be too much help as I'm a new lesson person myself. However, I have been scared on my lesson horse, so I can relate a little. ;). Because I'm new, the tiniest things scare me. Like my the horse's rump moving slight upward as it rubbed its belly with its knee to get at a pesky fly. Super scary. Lol

I wonder if time interacting with the horse on the ground would benefit your student. My instructor has me get the horse out of the stall, brush, tack up, etc on my own -- (under decreasing supervision, and I have not yet done the bridle) I also brush her down and put her away on my own. I feel so much more comfortable brushing her now, after 6 lessons, than I did at first. It has been really helpful to simply have my hands on her. I notice a difference in my comfort level compared to my first few lessons, and also notice that I am much more comfortable with her than other horses just on the ground walking past them. Basically, brushing her and "getting to know her" that way has been beneficial to my comfort level, though I'm still nervous in the saddle.

Maybe something like that could be helpful? Poor girl, she sounds terrified, but she sure can't continue with her big reactions.
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post #4 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 04:31 PM
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Who's idea is this horse thing? The kid or the mom?
Might not be the activity for this child. Just a thought...

If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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post #5 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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I know the mother pushes her to do a lot of things but I know she likes horseback riding, or so she says.

Lilacblossum, after it happened I ended the lesson early and explained diffent ways horses get ride of flies, about how we fly spray them and we observed horses stomping, biting, shaking and twitching. Her lessons are only 30 mintues long so we typically don't do any unmounted work besides cross tying and putting the reins away.

I don't really give into her fits. I say "your ok, take a few deep breaths, it was just _____. Let me know when your ready to continue." very matter-o-factly.
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post #6 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 05:20 PM
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Has anyone ever come across this before? How would you handle it?
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I had one student who was similar in the sense that she was very unsure of herself and lacked confidence but I've never had a student that was THAT scared of the horse.

I think you're on the right path in thinking that ground work is the way to go. I would have her handle the horse as much as possible (grooming, especially handling the feet, clipping, etc...) and then work on leading and line work. I found that making them responsible for the horse's actions helps build their confidence and they feel better on the ground because of the sense of control that comes with it.

I wish you guys luck and also... totally congrats to your sister, one of my besties is in the Academy right now and I barely see her. :(
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post #7 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 06:28 PM
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We had originally got our haflinger for my granddaughter as a Christmas present. She was so into horses and wanted one, so Santa was good. Well one day the hafie took off on her and she fell off. We tried everything to get her back on that day but nothing was going to do it. That was back in early Feb. So I took the hafie over, and have been working with her(the horse). My grandson came along and decided he wanted to ride also. So I took him into a leadline class. He got a 3rd, 4th and 5th place ribbon for his classes. My granddaughter I believe was jealous, so she became interested in horses again, but not the haflinger.
We took her to pony camp for one week in July and then private lessons in August.
She was petrified the first couple of times back on a horse, to the point of shaking and crying. But she wanted to do this and continued. Thank goodness for the patient trainers. My granddaughter did barrels today at the trot. She is learning to steer and trot both sitting and posting, but they also do some fun stuff like the barrels and trail rides and round the world.
She had to learn during pony camp to brush and take care of the horses on the ground, leading them around etc.

So long story short, I do believe first you should find out if its this girls desire to ride or her parents wish. If its the girls, I think with time and patience she will get better. This will be a baby step kind of thing. I also agree with others that starting on the ground might help also. Brushing, picking hooves, leading around etc. Leadline her on a trail, play some games, make it fun. But again, all in time with baby steps.

Good luck to you and best wishes for the little girl.
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post #8 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 07:01 PM
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I think everyone just about covered it here. Yes, time and exposure is your best friend at the moment. We do the same thing when we start a green horse and desensitize one that spooks at everything. LOL! And definitely don't make a big deal out of her panic attacks. Gently talk her through them and keep going which it sounds like you're already doing. And also as mentioned, it's not for everyone. I was a toddler when I was first exposed to horses and adults used to freak out because I was NOT afraid of them... at all. I couldn't get enough of horses. And I'm not talking shetland ponies either. And if something negative happened, I was that much more determined to rectify the situation even at a very young age. I remember being 7 or so years old and was bitten quite badly in the side by a pony at a birthday party. I would not leave that pony's side, despite the bite, and I would not let a soul know it happened. My mother almost had a heart attack when she found the bruise that night. I'm now 40 years old and just as crazy about them and have 4 of my own. Obviously I had the bug since birth and never had to warm up to it. LOL! Now I have 6 kids and only 1 of them ended up with my bug. She's just as nuts. I never had to push. They've grown up around my horse habit and if they showed interest, I'd go from there. If they eventually lost interest, oh well. My 9 year old ate it up from the start and hasn't looked back. So long story short, if she continues to have these panic attacks after several exposures, it may just not be her thing. I don't think you can teach passion.
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post #9 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 10:10 PM
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This little girl may be more in love with the idea of having a horse than the reality.
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post #10 of 25 Old 08-27-2013, 10:44 PM
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If a child is scared and 'really' does want to ride (not just the Mom), I put them on a very gentle, slow, little horse I have named Shorty and go to the pasture on a lead-line. I tell them that I have some neat stuff to show them and I'll lead Shorty there because it is a long way to go. We go to the pond dam and look for turtles and tracks from animals; we go to the 'bone yard' and pick out what bones went where on the cow or horse that left them there; we do everything BUT bark orders and riding instructions. I just make the horse ride fun. In no time at all, most of them are ready to ride Shorty in the round pen.

If they are still scared, I keep him on a longe line and just teach them how to go forward and reverse them toward me so I can let them just work on the line. I just do that until THEY are ready to go on.

The absolutely most important part of the equation is not to 'over-mount' them. They have a very difficult time following too many directions and instructions -- so don't bark too many orders at them. Make it fun and not a 'school class'.

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