Firstly, take this opportunity to get involved in your daughters riding. There are many parents out there who have no idea what is going on at their kid's lessons - even if they are there watching - leaving their child alone with their coach.
Many coaches out there, want the $$, so they will teach students to jump before they are ready to. Far too many, allow holes in their students training - and all the while, parents are left in the cold about it because they have no idea.
Get involved. Learn and educate yourself as well. Be there every step of the way - be there to ask questions, be there to defend your child if needed, be there to say "wait...my child cannot even do a 20 meter circle at a controlled rhythmic canter, she shouldn't be doing 3'0" yet" *that was just an example*
Be just as involved as your child will be. I highly encourage that. That doesn't mean you have to be in the saddle, but educate yourself. Train your eyes, train your mind - you are your childs backbone.
I have far too many younger friends who wished that their parents were involved. Many times they come to me for advice, and I'll ask "can you get your mom to talk to your coach about this" and the resonse always is "no, because my mom has no idea" - don't be that mom :)
Here is an article, written by a top quallity Hunter/Jumper Coach, who is also an R rated Judge in the Hunter/Jumper World - Mindy Darst.
This lady owns a 60 stall fascillity and runs a comprehensive year round program for riders from Newbies, Young Riders to Juniors compeing in nationsl equitation finals and junior jumpers, young riders, and adult amateurs.
She wrote this article because she, along with many others, are sickened at how many young riders are being allowed to go over fences before they are ready to - turning out uneducated riders, unprepared riders and riders with holes in their training.
I would encourage you to read this -
"I've been a Hunter trainer and a judge for years, and lately I've noted a growing weakness in the basic skills of young, beginner riders.
Many are in over their heads, and showing scared, others are too brave for their skill level and are galloping toward disaster. They haven't mastered the basic concepts and skills that are untiately going to make them secure, effective, confident riders.
During the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, I teach these concepts and skills to a group of beinnger riders that we call the "Unicorn Club."
They start to learn about equitation, their position an control of the horse, in a positive, safe enviornment. They begin to understand that the more correct their positions, the more control they have. And with thi solid foundation, in stead of getting hurt or giving up, they'll have a sport and a passion they can enjoy and excel at for years.
All it takes is a system, and in this article, I'll share my system withyou. It instills confidence in a raw beginner, and I can't tell you how often it has restored confidence in a kid who's been scared.
It's not rocket science, you need a logical progression. A good position is like a series of building blocks, and a logical, progressive syste keeps you and your students from missoing or skipping any of the blocks.
Completely solidify one skill before you attampt to build on it. That isn't to say you cannot teach more than one siill at a time - you just have to keep it simple, stay consistant, reward a lot and, especially with the young riders, make it fun.
1)They begin on he Longe Line
. It is safe and it is controlled, so right away, the child can focus on what he/she is learning. Start with "full-seat with balance" where the rider lets go of the safety strap and starts to feel and develop an independent seat by swinging their legs forward over the flap, putting one hand behind their back, swtiching their hands back and forth or holding their arms out to the side.
When that feels solid, move on to "two-point with control" where the rider again, is holding the safety strap, grabbing mane or learning and early crest release while the rider has contact with their legs only, and their shoulder and knee, and hip and heel alinged.
Then it is "two-point with balance" again, with one arms out, then the other and eventaully , both.
While all of that is going on, introduce the idea of independant eyes, which is very important to develop as early as possible *We've all seen that young rider in the ring who's a deer in the headlights because they cannot control where they are looking)
Teach them to look anywhere in the ring as they are going around by repeatedly holding up your hand asking "how many fingers?" Use parts of the horse to relax the child, and from the earliest days, help them not only to develop an independent seat, but horsemanship.
"Reach up and touch the Poll, reach back and touch the dock, touch the pommel, touch the girth etc, etc, etc" Even your breaks can be educational, they can be spent learning about horse parts, colors or breeds. Ask vet questions about colic, thrush or splints, quiz them on different gaits, and later, the sequence of steps. 2) KEEP IT SIMPLE:
Whether you are introducing full seat, half seat, in the saddle or two point, leg position, upper body, arms, hands or eyes while on the longe line - the rider needs to first understand the reason for a skill. Then they need to see it, they need to feel it and finally they need to be tested a little.
I will explain to a young rider why they want to be firmly seated with their heels down. Then I will have an older student demonstrate a full seat, half seat, heels down position as they ride. *much more discussion on importancies of work on the flat and longe line* *I will move on* 3) Once a young rider's skills are solid on the flat and on the longe
- we will move into jumping
. But to really feel how position alighnment and joints have an impact on their mounts over fences, I have them jump off of a mounting block first.
I have the young rider on the block, lean slightly back and jump off - naturally they will hit the ground with a thunk and flop down on their rear end. Have them jump again, this time with their upper body ahead so they topple forward upon landing.
Then have the rider jump in a correct half seat position with their shoulder over their knee and their hip over their heel - they will land in balance and feel great.
While they are having fun and laughing, they are learning about ankle, knee, hip and elbow angles and they are discovering that if they bend these angles as shock abosorbers instead of bracing them as resistances, they are going to land on their feet in balance.
To teach a young rider not to jupm ahead or fall behind on the tackoff of the jump, have them "canter" up and jump a ground pole while on their feet horseless. Then put a backpack "rider" on their back with a couple of books in it, and have them jump the pole again. After they have done this a few times, run up and grab the backpack and lift it or pull back on it.
When the young rider doesn't feel so capable of jumping
anymore, they will realize that is exactly how incapebale they are making their horse feel when they jump ahead or fall behind. 4) Ready to show
- whether a child is just beginning or I've been working to restore their shattered confidence, I start them off with our "horseless horse shows" where they get to "canter" around little courses learning about track, pace and leads.
IF they can demonstrate control of position, pace and track in a small group lesson under saddle, I will then allow them to enter walk/trot and ground pole classes.
The student has to beable to stop, start, turn, pass safely, and demonstrate their ability to obey my "elephant rule" *Always maintain the distance of one elephant between themselves and the horse infront of them. And they have to beable to safely circle, cross or pass so they can stay by themselves in the warm up ring or on the flat* 5) Communicate with their parents
- my number one rule is NEVER ALLOW PARENTS TO PRESSURE YOU INTO ADVANCING A YOUNG RIDER FASTER THAN YOU THINK IS SAFE.
They are going to get frustrated with the basics. They want to see their kids in the show ring winning blue ribbons. But most parents will settle down when you share your sustem and explain that your primary goal is safety.
It is also important to keep progress in perspective. I tell my parents, "This is the only sport that your child starting out can only practice one or two hours a week. They cannot ride three hours each afternoon the way they can shoot baskets in a park out back. IN a months time, they may have had only six to eight hours doing the sport"
If they threaten to go to another trainer because they don't like your go slow method, LET THEM!!! Never sacrifice safety out of fear of losing a client. It will always come back to haunt you."
Sorry for how long it is -
I just wanted to show and share with everyone that successful instructors out there are not throwing their kids over jumps without the essential basics, ground work, flat work and knowledge.
I love how she explains how to keep it informative, educational, Safe and FUN all at the same time and is patient and makes sure her students have the essential building blocks and a strong foundation before they start jumping.
I hope this article helped you out - and what to ask and what to look for. Do not be a parent who allows holes in their child's training.
All the best :)