Ideas for a Lesson
At the barn, I have a friend who is 12 (I'm 15). She is very nervous about everything- I would call her timid which makes her arab mare spooky. She has been having lessons with the BO for a while and the last lesson she rode my bomb-proof gelding for a confidence boost. The BO had her trotting and cantering, and then set up a small cross rail. Then she added a small (less than 18") vertical. This is about the highest this girl has jumped. The BO then set up a good 2ft oxer and asked the girl to canter it. The girl refused and said she'd rather work on the cross rail still. The BO said, "I'm done teaching you if you don't jump that." The girl didn't jump it, so the lesson was over. Mind you, this had been a VERY frustrating lesson because the girl wouldn't use her crop on my horse. He has to be ridden with a crop or spurs because he can get LAZY. Also, I've seen her other lessons and they go much like this, the BO says something and the girl gives a half-hearted attempt at it. I've helped her in the past and I know it can be frustrating, but the BO didn't have an appropriate response. After the lesson was over, I talked the girl through her fear and after 15 minutes, I got her to jump the oxer both directions a few times and we were done. The BO realized she was wrong and apologized, but would rather not teach her (this is the first time I've ever heard her be tough and I was shocked). The mom and this girl have now asked me to give her lessons. I agreed, but refused to be paid- I'm not a professional.
Does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with this girl? I'm having her ride my gelding on wednesday, and then afterwards, get on her mare so I can help her with that. She rides super tense in her legs (sometimes her feet hover in the stirrups, she's that tense), so I was going to have her drop her stirrups and drop her heels to really stretch into a good position. I was also going to help her count strides by setting up a ground pole and having her count strides to it. With her spooky arab mare, I was going to help her with what to do when the mare spooks, and get her to relax on her.
The thought has cossed my mind that maybe having a horse as a pet would be better than riding, but she has insisted that she wants to ride. She is seeing a sports psycologist to help with her irrational fears. Any help with this situation is appreciated and will be considered
Fear is something a lot of kids her age can get. At the barn I ride at, I often help the assistant trainer with those kids because they feel better if they have more than one person.
Does this girls horse lunge nicely? You may put her on the lunge line with the arab until she feels comfortable.
Another thing I find that really helps with fear is instead of giving them something challenging to do (Like the jumping), ask them to do fun things.
For me, I struggle a lot with focus and overthinking things. Back in the day, my trainer would play "drill team" with me and a couple others. You can do it with just two people too though. If you haven't seen a drill team before, look it up on youtube. Or search "OHSET Working Pairs" and you will see some of what you can do for two people. It's fun to play with, and you get so busy thinking about where you have to be at all times that you forget to over think and you forget to be afraid.
Remember, this girl is only twelve....She's still got a lot of growing up to do. Playtime may be the best solution for her confidence on her horse.
Are your parents prepared to pay for this child's medical bills should she get hurt riding your horse while under your instruction? Are your parents even aware of what you're planning to do? Because this could be a VERY big hit on them financially if this child gets hurts.
I'd say your parents and this girl's parents need to sit down and hammer out a written agreement that your folks won't be sued should the other people's daughter get hurt while you're teaching her. This needs to be witnessed and notarized, which will go much better in court than nothing at all.
You have no idea of the liability under which you've just placed your parents, and they need to take action to make sure nothing happens to them financially should things go badly.
My parents are aware that I'm doing this- I can't drive myself anywhere, so they pretty much know everything I do. This isn't the first time she's ridden my horse, or that I've helped her. Just the first time formally. My parents take care of the "legal" stuff, I take care of the horse stuff. My dad's a lawyer, and they already had a sit down and talk with her parents. I guess that I should've included that :) Any tips for the horse side? Thanks for the suggestions SorrelHorse! I knew that it had to be fun, but I wasn't sure what to do. Any tips on getting her to relax because I think even playing a game, she will be tense
Have her sing or play music while you ride. When you are nervous, you subconciously breathe shallower or hold your breath and clench your jaw. Therefore, your whole body tenses and it makes the horse tense. When you sing, you have to breathe and unclench your jaw, therefore your body will relax. Don't let her stop singing. And when you have a fun tune to ride to, your subconciously will make your seat go in beat with it and your horse will sometimes pick up the beat too. :)
I'm a therapeutic riding instructor and have more than a few nervous students. I've found making games out of it takes their mind off the fear and onto the challenge of the game.
It's aright for them to be afraid, telling them "don't be afraid" or "that's silly to be afraid of" is putting down their fears and denying their feelings. They are honestly afraid, so be careful to avoid saying things like that - it's hard to tell when you're doing it, so keep that thought in the back of your mind.
Some games I use to encourage my students-
Obstacle courses, My favorite starts with a pool ring on a barrel, they pick it up (put it around their wrist), weave through a set of cones, then over 3 poles, then down the 'horsey freeway' where the 'speed limit = TROT!" then at the end of the long side is another pole a "speed bump" to remember to slow down to put the ring back on the barrel. It gives them a targetted job to do, keeping them focused on the task, not completely focusing on the difficulty or speed of riding.
Another fun thing to do, if the horse is bombproof is "jousting" the student holds a skinny pool noodle, and you (on the ground) hold up rings, all over the arena, the student has to walk or trot by and catch the ring on the pool noodle. Be sure to help them along if they have trouble to keep them encouraged.
You could try having her practice fake barrel racing at a trot to increase her confidence steering while trotting, if she's comfortable, she could canter back to the starting line.
Also ask the girl what HER riding goals are. Many students goals are very different from what their trainers goals are. Ask her what SHE wants out of riding, if it's just fun, make games! If she has a specific goal just get creative, make games to make it worth it for her to do the skill.
As for her being afraid to hit the horse with a crop, I teach my students "ask, tell, command" ask the horse with a gentle squeeze and a cluck, if no response a big kick and a little growl, still nothing, a shwack with the crop and a big kick. Many students are afraid of the crop because they're afraid the horse will lunge forward, not because they're afraid of hitting them. So be sure to reassure her that the horse won't do that - or better yet teach her how to prepare herself for it by keeping her heels down and sitting light to be able to move with the horse.
If her goals are actually jumping, try integrating jumps into the course, do some real easy ones and some medium tough ones - don't make them 'jumps' or 'oxers' or 'verticals' make them a "speed bump" or a "bunny hop" or a "river" or a "fallen log" or "construction road". Most students, if they aren't told how big a jump is - don't really understand what jumps are more difficult, they wont be so scared.
The point is to make it part of a job, maybe she has to help a beany-baby dog make it back to it's family on the other side of the ring. Get creative :)
I also find giving them options helps a great deal - if she's nervous with both cantering and jumping, ask her "want to canter or jump first?" "want to spend more time on cantering or jumping?" and so on. Often having a sense of control helps them approach their fears a little braver.
Sounds like you're gonna have fun! These students can be the most rewarding IMO because you can watch them flourish and overcome so much. And remember, make a HUGE deal out of every little achievement, it's a huge deal to her to conquer that fear, it should be a huge deal to you too. Stay positive all the time, getting negative will put her in a negative mood.
Thank you so much! I often hear her mom (who also rides) saying "Don't be afraid, you can do it," This sounds encoraging, but your right- she is allowed to be afraid. The games are really going to help. I was thinking we'd do some leg exercises to get her stretching down through her heels. I like the idea of an obstacle course. Maybe do one stretch trough these cones, over some poles, another stretch over here... I was planning on asking her what to work on, but I'm expecting her to say something that's not very helpful to me- in which case, I need ideas. And thanks for the singing idea, I think that will help her relax too. Maybe she can sing Just Dance- I noticed that my horse has the same rhythm/tempo as it in Show Jumping if we are going to make time, so I would sing it in my head to keep us on track ;)
Be sure that the horse will tolerate the swimming noodle :)
Other games- the water cup one, egg in a spoon, relay races, red light/green light, Simon says, barrels at a walk/trot, poles at a walk/trot, keyhole racing at a wall/trot, simple obstacles (weaving through things, going through a gate, etc)
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Red light green light would be good. It might get her to use her leg. This will be the most fun lesson she's ever had :)
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I made little red and green signs around the ring that say 'woah' and 'walk' is the slow yellOw sign and 'trot' is the green go all around the obstacle courses. She will have tons of fun!
Getting her to use her legs is a great idea you could try doing a few minutes where you hold the reins of the horse, but she has to steer the horse with her legs. Having you there jolding the horse will guve her the confidence to try, but dint help by steerig for her!
Sorry for all the typos my thumbs are to big for my phone :P
You can have her have the horse sidepass around a ground pole. She can also have the horse do direct sideways movement with it's forlegs in front of the pole and hind legs behind it, then her single leg pressure to move him directly sideways. This will be good for teaching her the importance and strength of leg cues. You can also make it fun like part of a 'zip line' gotta go sideways not straight sort of thing as part of the ibstacle course. Have an arrow sitting in front to tell her whether to go sideways or forward and so on.
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