New Adult - Different Horses
Hi - It's me again.
I have another request for feedback and advice. About a month ago, at the encouraging of one of the younger riders at my barn, I asked about trying a "more advanced" horse. I guess i wasn't ready mentally for a horse with more "attitude" than I was used to.
As part of my lessons, I'm expected to groom, tack-up, un tack, and regroom the horse I use for my lesson. This particular horse was recommended by one of the other riders for me to try, because of his size and more animated spirit. Trouble is, I hadn't dealt with a horse who was "stall possessive" and a bully before. He made me nervous when I first went into his stall, as I am 100% positive he was aiming to kick me. He was mad at a previous rider.
During my untacking, he was relentless in trying to crowd me while I had him on the cross ties. I shouldn't have been left alone with him.
When I mentioned to the head trainer that I was thinking I needed more help/supervision in dealing with him, I think it was interpreted that I was afraid and didn't want to try challenges. Since then, they've kept me with a great, albeit very gentle horse. The younger riders in the barn hint a lot that its interpreted that I'm afraid to challenge myself with "hard" horses. The trainers insisit that's not the case - that its best I get 100% comfortable with techniques and care before I deal with more challenges. One of them hinted that they thought the "spirited" horse really wasn't suitable for me, but I feel like a failure and wimp. BUT, I felt I had to ask for help and not keep quiet.
I guess I'm worried now that I'm being "babied." Only been riding for 4 1/2 months. I'm a 45 year old male. Should I ask them to push me more, or be more patient with myself? Earlier they told me they wanted me riding different horses all the time. Confussed.
Also - while they are very nice and helpful, the younger assistants I don't think appreciate that new, older students might need more supervision and guidance in dealing with ornery horses that need control and discipline. I think they take what they do for granted. Confidence of an older newbie doens't come as fast. It's also harder for us as 40 year olds to ask 17 year olds for help ;-)
I'd say take your time. I started at 50 by buying an Arabian mare who was "perfect for a beginner". More knowledgeable folks will see that almost as a contradiction in terms. In any case, a few months later she bolted (not for the first time). I got her stopped, tried to dismount, and she spun, half-reared and bolted in mid-dismount. I went flying, and my right lower back landed on a rock. Four years later, it still swells visibly at times after a run or a ride.
The mare & I are still together. She has taught me an enormous amount about horses and riding, but not all the lessons are good. I would be a better rider if I rode less defensively, but some of how I ride is based on riding a horse who can be a handful.
I'm very fond of Mia, but there are times I wish I didn't own her. Riding should be fun, and when it is too much like work, it isn't fun.
BTW - a more advanced horse is NOT a horse with more attitude. There is nothing advanced about a horse with attitude. Mia doesn't have attitude, in the sense that her fears are very real to her - but there isn't a malicious bone in her body. Mia is and always will be more challenging than a lot of other horses, but that doesn't make her 'advanced', and it doesn't make me a 'good rider' because I try to deal with her.
Riding for 5 months isn't the basis for handling, on your own, a challenging horse. It would be OK ONLY if the instructor is willing to watch and teach you. There are things you can do to minimize risk and to help the horse behave in a more productive manner, but there is no way anyone with 5 months of riding should be expected to know that without specific instruction. And learning by getting hurt is unacceptable.
And yes, as someone who started at an older age, one of my pet peeves is a young instructor who assumes you know something because he/she grew up around horses and knows it. There is a huge difference between being good with horses, and being a good instructor.
WHAT BSMS SAID X10!
Take your time and enjoy just learning to ride, for now. A more advanced horse in a lesson situation for beginners should be a horse with more training, more buttons to teach you the multiple ways you can ask for things and will teach you just which things work and which don't. A bully horse, or dominant horse, is not necessarily an advanced horse.
Find an instructor you click with really well and ask to take lessons only from that instructor for now, too many can be confusing. Let that instructor know that in addition to improving your riding skills, you want some instruction on improving your horsemanship skills. Too many riding programs concentrate on only the riding and not on teaching the care and handling skills necessary for actually managing a horse.
First of all, welcome to riding!
I'm one of those younger instructors, at 21 I often feel funny pushing my adult riders because I feel I'll be over stepping my boundaries to order around someone older and often much wiser in life then I. For me, I bring in some humor and remind them that riding is fun and to not be hard on themselves. I've noticed in nearly every new rider I teach over the age of 20 that they become very hard on themselves and cannot settle for small successes in the saddle or on the ground when really that's what this sport is sometimes all about.
If you were my student, I would step in and tell you that no, you probably do not need more supervision, you're adult and have the power to tackle the challenge of an animal who isn't a deadhead. Your problem here seems to be though that you have already talked yourself into not being able to handle this horse and he probably knows it. If it made you more comfortable I would come watch you catch the horse but (and this is strictly based off my experience with lesson horses at my barn and the surrounding area) would expect you to enter the pen and catch it yourself. A typical lesson horse, while feeling faster or moving their head more or is rumored to be a little on edge then the first horse you rode, is not a horse that a beginner cannot handle. Lesson horses are typically a bit saint like, but within schools can get bad reputations from the young girls who like to over exaggerate their poor experiences.
Here's where I get a little Caesar Milan/Zen like. You have to know, in your head and body, that you know how to talk to a horse and approach them with confidence. Horses can be very in tune to your body language and attitude and even some of the saint like lesson horses can come across as difficult if you fall asleep at the wheel so to speak and they feel like they've lost the leader you're supposed to be to them. The harsh reality is that a lack of confidence can actually hurt you faster then finding your inner power and stepping up to the situation. I've seen a handful of students get stepped on, pushed or have a pony decide to take them to the nearest grass patch because they're afraid to show the horse who's boss. Keep thinking, you're the boss! It's hard to truly offend a horse.
That was a long way to get to this point lol. Yes, you need to tell your trainer you want to be pushed harder. You also may have to open yourself up to be told to loosen up and put big boy pants on. Never mind that its hard to ask the 17 year old (sure that's how young she is? I look that young too at the barn....) for help because she's young, it's her job and she should be more then happy to help you get over this hurdle. Do not expect her to hold your hand though, I wouldn't, it wouldn't help you with horses in the long run. Failure happens in riding everyday, the best riders learn from it and move forward to the next experience.
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ETA- Oh great, I get to look like the insensitive young trainer!! Ill clarify that I do not believe you should have to learn through injury and by telling you to catch your own horse I don't expect to send you into a dangerous horse's pen and fend for yourself. I'm also questioning the ornery nature of this lesson horse, did he actually strike at you? In such a case of course ask the trainer for help, but I already said that. It's our job to help you and we enjoy doing so but you need to be honest about when you need genuine help, when you're afraid and when you are too intimidated to learn/do something. We may push you but we never intend to get you hurt.
I loved Zeke's post, coming from the perspective of the young trainer. she obviously is a very "wise" young trainer, and probably a good one!
It is very true that horses are masters at reading your body language and will find the weak link in your "armor" so fast you'll be humbled quite quickly.
however, the way to act around an aggresive or ornery horse isn't something we are born knowing. Nordicman may have all that he needs to put this horse in his place, but he just doesnt' know how much to use.
A lot of people new to horses don't use the power they have because they aren't sure it's ok to be that strong. They don't want to hurt the horse and have a conception of it as a dog or cat, so they would never be as strong and firm about discipline as may be required.
I would ask someone knowledgeable to demonstrate to NMan how to make the hrose smarten up and behave. How firm he can and must be to get a proper reaction from this horse, how to interpret what is bluff from the horse and what is a real, dangerous threat. He can then learn to imitate this person, until it becomes natural. Imitation is the first form of learning. You can't learn in a vacuum, out of thin air.
There is nothing 'natural' about communicating with a horse unless you grew up with them.
A student doesn't pay you to tell them to "Feel the Force". If you aren't willing to TEACH them how to communicate with the horse, you are not a good instructor. Something as small as how you walk up to a horse, put a halter on and lead it away will tell the horse if he should consider trusting you or not. But how is a beginner supposed to learn that, if no one teaches him?
I don't pay my instructors for zen. I pay them to teach me. "Oh great, I get to look like the insensitive young trainer!" If I had hired you to teach me, you'd look like the former young trainer, because I'd drop you in a heartbeat.
First off, Welcome to the great world of riding.
I read your other post and I think it is awesome that you are chasing after your life long dream.
You have only been riding for 5 months. That is not long at all! You need to be on a comfortable packer for a while. You have to learn and strengthen a lot. You just need to focus on you right now and not worry about the horse. When you do that your trainer will tell you when you should move up to a more challenging mount. And I agree with the above a ornery pushy headstrong horse is not a more challenging mount, that is just pure rude on the horse's part. A more advanced horse is NOT a horse with more attitude!
Keep going on the way you're going now! :)
I would just like to point out that, like other animals, horses live in the moment. The horse was not mad at a previous rider. It had learned through prior experiences that if it acted like a bully, it could scare off nervous handlers. You gave off signals to the horse that you were nervous and it wanted to take advantage of that to get whatever reward it thought would result, ie no work, more food etc. If you had stepped up, squared your shoulders, took a firm grip on the lead rope or what have you, as long as there are no underlying issues with the horse, he probably would've smartened up quick. If a horse shoves its shoulder or hip into me in a stall or crossties, it gets pushed back, but my pushing is pointy and localized in the correct spot to get a reaction of moving away. If they don't move to that response they get taken out somewhere with some room to move and get worked until they do respond.
If the horse is being pushy in the stall and a more confident attitude does not help, then you as a beginner should not be handling that horse, at least not alone. That horse has some underlying training or pain issues that need to be dealt with by someone with more experience.
BSMS Is totally right - riding and caring for our horses should be fun (I will disregard the freezing fingers and toes thing and dripping with sweat/eaten by bugs in the summer)
I'm sure that Zeke is very capable but I would have nothing to do with a trainer who had such little empathy and understanding of people who take up riding in adult life - though I've had many nervous young riders too on the whole when you are young you just dont see the dangers the way you do as you get older - which is why I did so many dumb and stupid things with ponies as a child.
OP I feel that you were unfairly put from one extreme to another and way out of your comfort zone to be safe - that is not the way to build up confidence.
I have been with horses all my life and now as an older rider - do I want a seriously challenging horse? No I dont. I want to enjoy myself. Let the youngsters have the risky stuff, I've been there and done all of that Thank you. No shame in staying within what you feel to be right for you
Horse smell fear!!!
Thank you Tiny!! I completely agree with your post as well.
There should be an example to go off of, I got ahead of myself on that one. I think it goes along with asking for help when you do feel you're in danger, and observing how your trainer handles it. You can/should even ask questions before and after you watch the situation be dealt with so you understand why force was used and when. Is your trainer open to spending a lesson on groundwork? It's sometimes hard for us to give up a riding lesson for work from the ground but it can be beneficial to your confidence.
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