Tips on halting a lesson horse, please?
My almost 10 year old daughter is a beginner rider ("advanced beginner"):D. She took Western lessons for two summers, walk only, and has been taking English lessons since October, where she progressed to trotting and cantering. I have no experience with horses and even if I'm trying to learn, my knowledge is not enough to help her out.
She volunteers at her old Western barn, and gets to ride occasionally, but doesn't take lessons there. The instructor there is not very skilled / experienced--she is a wonderful person, but prefers not to teach trot and canter, and her instructions even for walking are the most basic ones. I Haven't heard anything other than "heels down, loosen the reins", ever. In contrast, her current English trainer gives lots of very detailed feedback on her position.
There's a horse at the Western barn that my daughter has bonded with, a 25 (?) year old mare. My daughter wants to do a fun show on her next weekend, and she had two lessons today--for free, in exchange of her volunteering there. She came home in tears that Jessie just doesn't halt for her. The point of the show is to do frequent halts, picking up things, putting them down, walking through a gate (opening and closing).
The instructor is not telling her much rather than maybe riding a different horse.
This is what my daughter says she's doing. Several strides before she needs to halt she focuses on the horse halting (sends her will to it, she says :D). Then tightens her body, and pulls gently on the reins. When this has no effect, she pulls harder, but Jessie lowers her head, and is basically stronger than my daughter. This is also hard on my daughter, because she is interested in natural horsemanship, and is very aware of the bit hurting the horse. If Jessie stops, it is only for an instant, and then keeps on walking.
Is there something she can try? She will have one more lesson with Jessie, the day before the show. Or should she take another horse to the show, someone who will halt easier?
Also, any words of widsom to her? She is worried that it is her fault that Jessie is not listening, and that she must be doing something wrong. On the other hand, she is not getting any proper feedback on this issue from the istructor. She plans to aks her English instructor for any feedback this Friday, but the show is on Sunday, with just one more lesson on Saturday. I'm not sure this is an issue that can be solved "long distance", but I thought I'd try, just in case. She's asking me questions, and I have no clue what to say to her about the riding part of it.
I'm sure the bit isn't hurting the horse.
It sounds as though this mare needs a refresher... probably not good for your daughter to be riding a mare that doesn't like to stop. Training the stop is something that takes a lot of consistent reinforcing, correcting, and can get very tiresome for someone that isn't used to it.
Is there someone that can help her with this horse? The way you describe it, there are a few steps missing.... she's only teaching the horse to brace and resist.. not stop.
Or is there a more suitable horse she can ride?
I wouldn't send her to a show with this horse, honestly.
The horse is consistantly used as a lesson horse, because she is eager to go, and doesn't like to trot. I have a feeling the horses are not being trained per se. Jessie is difficult to bridle, and my daughter has been teaching her to lower her head, and was able to bridle her herself for the last several times. She really wants to ride Jessie, as Jessie was her first lesson horse.
Do you mind telling me what steps are missing? I can totally see that by what she's doing she is teaching the horse to resist.
She might be able to ride another horse, but she doesn't feel the same bond.
Is this a good progression? Horse Training Articles: How to Train Your Horse to Stop, Slow or Woah
Obviously can't be done before the show.
But if the horse needs only a "refresher" maybe it won't take that long?
I will ask about her riding another horse, but she's really torn over this. She feels like it is her fault, and that she's betraying Jessie.
She said that last year Jessie had the same issue--it took her a long time to stop. Now even if my daughter is timing her stop way before the spot where she actually has to stop, it still doesn't work out.
It's something that has to be shown in person, hence why I asked if she had someone that could help her.
Pulling back is a huge no.. that teaches the horse to brace against the bit/reins (or the noseband/reins if you go bitless) and not stay soft and relaxed. Some horses will fight through that backward pressure and then you've taught the horse to go into pressure.. instead of give it to.
Following so far?
What she could try is instead of pulling back, first giving the cues to stop
1. sit up tall and stop hip motion
2. stretch legs down
3. Close fingers on the reins and engage ab muscles (does she know how to use her abs and make her tummy hard and then soft? That's important!)
Now if she doesn't stop, try lifting the inside rein up and out and turning her into a circle, still with your seat not following, until she decides to stand. Then release the rein (as in, instead of tight closed fingers, relax a little) and praise lots.
Or you can try finding a rail to do the stopping cues and directing her to the rail so she has no choice but to stop.
The important thing is as soon as she stops, praise lots.
If she stops for a second.. repeat the process. Don't race through it, but because your body is already tall and stretched down, you can go ahead and close your fingers slowly and get her circling (disengaging the hips) until she stops again.
There are other things you can do to reinforce the stop but I don't think it's appropriate to share as a trainer should be doing it, not your daughter since it can get bad if she misses a sign from the horse or the horse tests her, etc.
Lesson horses tend to become less refined due to all the mistakes that beginners make so they need to be ridden by trainers or schooled by more advanced riders so they don't develop bad habits.
From what you're telling me, she's definitely due for a good refresher on forward and halting, once physical pain/restrictions are ruled out.
If the horse was getting schooled more frequently then the refresher wouldn't be a big deal, probably one or two lessons she'd be good to go. But it sounds like this is an ongoing issue...
I feel the same way when I ride other horses than my own.. but let her know that she's not betraying Jessie. She's trying to help Jessie but Jessie is being stubborn and she'll come around. The best thing your daughter can do, IMOP, is ride a variety of horses. And I'll tell you why.
Each horse has something to offer.. and not one horse will teach you everything as they are all different in build, personality, intelligence, and at different levels of training and understanding. So the more horses she rides, the better a trainer and rider she becomes so she can help Jessie get where she needs to be, and enjoy the rides rather than come up with problems and not know what to do.
She'll realize that in time :)
As long as Jessie isn't running off with her, I think she will be fine to use her for the fun show. It will be a great learning experience; full of frustration and tears, no doubt, but also fun. It's amazing how things change when both horse and rider have a goal . The intensity of focus of the rider goes right down into the horse.
As to the stopping, I am so pleased to hear your diaighter's explanation of how she stops a horse. Very cool that she mentions the use of her "intent" and her stopping of her body's motion. She is getting some good instruction.
It will be important for her to be strong in her seat. Even a small person, if sitting vertically, with some bend in the leg,. properly adjusted stirrups, core muscles engaged and chin up can keep a horse from getting it's head down.
To help her on this, she needs to stop the hrose, and if the horse goes through the reins, then start applying one rein a lot stronger than the other. If the horse bracess really hard against this, take up that strong rein all by itself and make that horse circle around a few times and then ask it again to stop. This isn't a textbook one rein stop, and it isn't a full explanation of how to do a stop. It's just a way for a smaller person to disallow a horse to brace and get it's own way. It cannot brace against one rein, so if it won't accept the two reins for a stop (with the use of her body and mind as she is learning), then stay sitting up straight and go to a one rein , lifting upward and break the horse out of this brace and into a circle.
Do this a few times and she might stop when she feels the one rein start to apply more pressure and not require your daughter to go all the way into circleing .
You're gotten some really great advice already. Here's my $0.02:
Unfortunately I've seen that a lot in experienced lesson horses who've figured out that they're bigger than the kids riding them and who don't get ridden much by adults who "lay down the law", so to speak.
It's one of those hard situations. What it sounds like Jessie most likely really needs is for someone to come along and really tell her that "stop" means "STOP!!!". That will probably entail really shortening up the reins and hauling on her mouth.
HOWEVER, since your daughter is taking lessons, she's really not the person who should be doing that to Jessie. It's not your daughter's job to retrain this horse, it's the instructor/trainer's job. For me (I teach lessons as well), if a child started disciplining my horse without my permission, they'd be released from my lesson program immediately.
For myself, I make sure to ride my mare very regularly and if she's shown any inkling of any issue in any of her lessons during the week, she's drilled on the issue until it's a non-issue. Sometimes I've even had to cancel lessons because she's being a brat but for me, the confidence of my kids is more important than the money I might lose cancelling.
In any case, I've ridden at my share of barns where the lesson horses are just ridden by lesson kids and it's truly unfortunate.
Anyway, I really don't know what to tell you other than I might start considering putting some distance between your daughter and this barn. It'll be hard now but it'll be even harder in 5 years when you little one feels like she's Jessie's trainer and feels responsible for her (trust me, I was there with my first lesson horse - I put so much training in on him, just to watch it continuously ruined by people who let him "bully" them and then when I offered to buy him, my offer was refused on account of the improvement my training had made in his behavior). It was so painful for me, "good" life experience but terrible for me emotionally.
It sounds like she's cuing Jessie 100% correctly for a stop. If she really "has to" keep working with this horse, I'd have her "forget" about "hurting" the horse with the bit for a few stops. She needs to "Ask, Tell, Demand" - asking = gently pulling on the reins+sitting deep, telling = pulling harder, demanding = pulling with every ounce of might she has and MAKING Jessie stop. I can't guarantee that'll work since Jessie is probably getting away with not stopping with a lot more kids than just your daughter, but in any case "Ask, Tell, Demand" is what she should always be doing with horses. Most horses, after they respect their handler (after going to the "demand" stage a few times), will only require "ask" but she needs to be willing to go to the "demand" stage. With horses, you have to seem like that old cliche of a man with nothing to loose - horses will walk over you if they think they can, you gotta make sure they believe you'll do what it takes to get the job done - no matter what. And she doesn't have to be "mean", she just has to seem like she'll go there if the horse pushes her.
Has she ever watched a herd of horses? Watching a herd of horses for a couple hours every couple of days gave me a lot of insight into how I can treat horses in a fair but confident way. There's a lot of interesting things she could learn by just sitting outside a fence, watching a group of horses. :)
I'm sorry for how long this is! I got passionate! :lol: I hope it's not too overwhelming... :oops:
She says that the main problem is that Jessie starts moving without any cues to move, but I haven't even observed those lessons, so I have no clue of what's going on. I'm a bit irritated that she is not given more feedback, but at this point we don't pay for the 3 pre-show lessons, so obviously I won't complain. The owner means well, is a lovely person, but she gets distracted, as someone always wants a piece of her--not a quiet moment ever. :D
She says she will try your tips late on, and maybe Jessie will do better for the fall fun show.
Thanks again! :D
my parents (knowing nothing about horses), bought me a pony when i was 7 years old. he was advertised as a perfect pony for children, and was used as a lesson pony for years.
looking back, my pony was only used for lessons because he refused to trot, and was thus "safer" only not exactly. it wasn't until years later when i learned more about horsemanship did i realize that the pony actually was not broke at all. he never learned to give to the bit, he didnt understand what pulling on the reins actually meant. he couldn't stop, and he was very hesitant to change gaits with a saddle on his back.
what happened was that the pony that was being used for kids lessons was just gentle enough to let people get on his back. he had huge holes in his training and had never actually been "taught" these things at all. unfortunately i see this happen a lot at lesson barns.
i agree with wallaby 100% i suspect this mare has some holes in her training and it needs to be remedied by a trainer and not a beginner.
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