Talker during lessons. Help!
My daughter, I'll call her H, has been taking lessons since April. She has a good instructor, isn't timid at all, and really seems to be enjoying herself. Here's the problem, H really likes to talk. She's 8 years old, so I figure that's normal, but it's starting to interfere with her concentration. She likes to make jokes and be goofy, and while both her instructor and myself have told her many times, being up on a horse is not the time for jokes and goofiness, sometimes she just can't help herself.
There are times when her instructor will give her direction, but has to say it 2 or 3 times before H hears her because she's too busy talking. I've told her if the talking doesn't stop, her lessons will. She doesn't want that and I know she understands why it's important, but she's a talker and staying quiet and just concentrating for an entire hour is hard for her.
Sky is a good horse, she's never done anything to make me think she could be dangerous. I'm an adult though. My weight on her back means significantly more to her than H's 40lb self. She's still a good listener durring lessons, Sky that is, but her one distraction is her baby Red. He's put in a stall at the other end of the 2 acre pasture, and every once in a while, Sky will try to walk off towards him. H then has a hard time stopping and turning her back on track, usually because she was too busy talking before she realized Sky was going to walk off. It would be nice if we had a round pen, or any other enclosed area besides the pasture, but we don't.
So I guess my question is, has anyone delt with this issue with your kid or a kid you were giving lessons to? How did you handle it? Did the situation improve? I was also wondering if I should change bits for H's lesson. I use a dogbone with shorter shanks, it works just fine for me, but I was thinking of H using something with longer shanks to help her with control. I know her concentration is the bigger issue, but once she starts to correct Sky, she has to put everything she's got into turning or stopping her and sometimes it's not enough. Any ideas?
My suggestion would be for starters, just do a half hour lesson. I'm a grown adult & can easily lose focus during an hour lesson if in the right mood.
I find that a half hour lesson for my 10 yr old is PLENTY
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No advise about bits, what I know about western bits can be written on a postage stamp.
Switch to shorter lessons, but it sounds like your daughter is doing this all lesson anyway, even in the beginning. She's being told to stop, and is ignoring that direction. So her lesson stops, until she can do what she is being told to do.
Talk to the instructor, and as soon as she starts talking, the instructor or you walks to her, stops the horse, and nothing happens until she stops talking to herself. Repeat as often as necessary.
I realize she's only 8, but she does need to learn what is acceptable behavior. I bet the instructor is frustrated with it too.
Give her one warning, and then, if she continues to talk, have her dismount, put the horse away, and end the lesson. She'll get a clue pretty quickly, I would guess, and while you may end up paying for one or two lessons that she didn't actually GET, she'll get more from her lessons in the long run. (I have 3 kids that ride and they ALL love to talk, this works well for them.)
I can't tell you guys how many times I would get yelled at for talking during lessons when I was a kid, lol. When I got frusterated, I started goofing off. But goofing off was also my way of saying I was D.O.N.E. My brain was well done & crispy, and nothing else was going to be accomplished.
I've seen more and more coaches only offer 1/2 hour lessons for kids under a certain age, simply due to the idea they simply aren't capable of processing or focusing on stuff for more than that. Sure there are still the talkers, but I've noticed that even they are more focused during a shorter lesson.
I have a few student's who like to talk. First I would have the instructor tell her to be quiet and concentrate on what she is doing. Point out when and why the horse isn't listening. Second I tell my students when they can talk. Let her talk a little in the beginning durning warm up, when that it done then the instructor should tell her "It's time to get to work, chatty time is over. We can talk again on our next break". Expecting a chatty 8 year old to be quiet is difficult and structuring it should help. If all else fails if she is not listening and taking the no talking rule seriously I would do three strikes and out. Give her a warning, second time make her get off to run a lap/push-ups/etc, and if that goes unheeded then she comes off the horse.
I used to have one lesson kid that was a hugggge talker. She, like your daughter, loved to tell stories and jokes the whole time during her lesson and it was definitely an experience!
The two thing I did with her were:
1. Let her talk on the ground. If it took her longer to tack up (which it always did), she got less time on the horse, etc. Of course, as the one paying for a lesson, this might not work so well for you. Eventually though this girl did figure it out that if she talked less, she got to ride more.
I'd keep track of the time and make sure I let her know that she could choose to keep yammering and ride less, or we could buckle down, get that tack on, and get to ride more. Sometimes she would choose to talk and I'd decide to play a game with her (like pointing out where all the horse's body parts are by name or braiding the horse's mane and tail) instead of letting her ride. That way she got to connect with me AND we were still doing horse-learning stuff.
I also found that asking leading questions like "ok, the saddle is on her back, now what?" etc, got a better response than "ok, tack her up." If I stayed involved and present, and just kept being like "step one, step two, step three," we got more accomplished.
2. On horseback, we would play "I Spy." I found that, even though the things we were spying were totally unrelated to horses, the fact that we were taking turns talking and looking really seemed to keep her attention on the horse matters at hand. She couldn't as easily get caught up in her story-land or telling a long involved joke because it took away from "I Spy"!!
I liked to try to end a little early with her (hour long lesson, she usually got 20-25 minutes to tack up and talk, 20 minutes to ride, then the remainder of the time was talking/untacking/feeding/bonding time) and make sure we got to chat about whatever she wanted to chat about.
I guess this is maybe a bit different than "usual" riding instruction but I'd like to be a "grown-up" that is foremost a friend, then the instructor.
I know when I was growing up, my riding instructors had a HUGE impact on my life and I still remember them to this day, solely because they took the time to hang out with me and make me feel like I was worth something. I had a really hard time growing up and if it weren't for the instructors that just listened, I can guarantee you that I would not be in such a good place now.
I want "my" kids to know that they are worth something and not just worth something because they learned so so much from me[not saying this is your or the intructor's goal, just that it's a mindset I have seen from parents when I tell them I teach a bit "differently" haha] .
Heck, I have one kid that's been taking lessons from me for 3 whole years...and she still can't ride more than a fast walk, and even then. But, in her case, he mom and I have decided that I'm her "horse friend" and we really just hang out. Learning to ride is secondary to the relationship that tells this little girl that she's gonna be fine.
Ok, you've all given me great advice. I know I need to have more follow through on my threats. I think I am just really enjoying watching her ride, I would hate to take it away from her. But I might have to.
I think what I'll also try, instead of shortening her entire lesson, is asking her instructor to just shorten her riding time. Maybe limit her to just 30 minutes of riding, and using the remainder of the lesson to work on other things.
I totally agree with @busysmurf. Start small then increase soon hour lessons will be focused.Good Luck
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