Dealing with a sensitive student?
As I posted before, I'm looking for ways to help one of my co-volunteers (also a "student" when my boss and I give him lessons). I had the previous topic removed so I could show pictures but properly edit his face out of the picture.
We'll call the boy Matt, 11, though that is obviously not his name. He has been riding with his grandfather, who has proven to be an equestrian dolt, who has bestowed upon his hyperactive grandson horrible riding habits. His cousin, who will be called Maddie, rides with similar horrible balance.
I'm scared to death that one of these children will, someday or another, fall off. While this is a risk anyone takes when riding horses, I don't want it to be because of their lack of proper instruction.
Maddie is the typical early teenager. She can't take critique and has quit frequenting our barn because we weren't shy to tell her when her posture would fault, unlike her grandfather who babies her. But my biggest concern is Matt, who is at the barn almost as much as I am at.
While at the arena, my boss asked for a trot out of the riders. We happened to notice that Matt would lean forward a dramatic amount, push his legs backwards, and stick his hand almost all the way up to the poll. He also takes a white-knuckle death grip to the saddle horn hoping to improve his balance. (Below you can see pictures showing the posture I'm referring to.)
My boss and I had to shout out instructions in order for him to hear us over the other horses and their sound of movement. After a while an much of him bouncing (when he would canter, his butt came up nearly a foot out of the saddle -- YIKES!), we asked him to dismount and let one of our senior riders, an ex-barrel racer, ride his horse to help us display proper posture.
While we stood and watched the new rider rounding the arena, we discussed with Matt what he was doing and what he should be doing. I took pictures of the senior rider to help show him, in still motion, just what she was exactly doing. It was then that I noticed that he was crying.
Some people here suggested in the previous topic that we move his stirrups up just one notch. I aim to try this.
Later that day I rode another one of our horses and showed him how I ride, and did my best to explain to him what I was doing in means that wouldn't confuse him. When I trotted, I told him I squeezed the horse gently with my legs and pushed my heals down. When I cantered, I told him I leaned back just a little bit, pushing my legs ever-so-slightly forward (in case the horse were to refuse or halt, I would have just a split second longer to compose myself and not go flying over the horse's neck).
I'm terrified that he's going to fall off in our care, and even more so that he was crying. The last thing I want is for a student's "mother bear" to be jumping my case because I did my job as an instructor and critiqued her child.
Matt went on after we dismounted to blame his posture on his horse, who's one of our best beginner horses. When that didn't fly with me, he blamed the reins -- "they're too long," he said. I tried to explain to him that what was happening was lack of instruction and bad habits he learned from riding family members, and how scared I was that he would fall off. He aspires to ride Darla, one of our "expert" horses who has a tendency to buck up a little bit when she's fresh or having a nice day. I told him that, if he displayed such posture on that horse, he was likely to go flying off because he would have no balance. I also told him, as an "ego booster," that he was a better rider than Maddie, who rubs it in his face that she has her own horse (she only bought the tack for it) and can ride better than he. You know, the typical relative-rivalry.
Do you guys have any tips on how I can critique him without making him feel so hurt again?It could have been my tone, or the sheer fact that he realized that he wasn't as great of a rider as he thought he was. I'm not sure. But, regardless, I want to do my best to help this child's self-esteem and improve his riding.
put him on a horse bareback, and don't let him use a curb bit. Be really encouraging. He might be getting pressure from the other side via grandpa and be stuck between the two of you, thus the crying.
I know it's hard for you to see someone riding a horse so out of balance, but the horse will survive. Put a snaffle on her to protect her mouth..
The minute you see him doing something even the tiniest bit right , point it out. Same as you would were you training a horse.
Hang in there!
Thank you, Tiny! This specific horse has a snaffle bit (as opposed to a lot of the others who has a curb bit such as this one). He's mentioned to me before about how his grandfather will "down" our company and our knowledge when it comes to riding, so that makes it harder. (We loaned them a blanket for a sick horse and his grandfather refused to use it, saying it would "make the horse more cold and more sick.")
While I'm concerned about the horse's well-being (should there be a horrid accident that they can't get over), I'm especially worried about the boy falling off and seriously injuring himself or losing his love with horses. While we have apt insurance to cover an event that may occur, it's in no way able to fix the emotional damage done to the boy.
I know. I mean I often "see" accidents happening in my mind, I am such a worry wort.
In a certain way, if he falls off it would do him a world of good. Usually kids arent really hurt, except their pride. If and when he does, well, my advice is to say NOTHING. let him put two and two together as to why it happended .
Is there any way for him to take private lessons rather than being with other riders? It may have been embarassing for him to have his flaws yelled at him in front of a bunch of others. Also, this way you could keep a particularly close eye on him without having to worry about anyone else in the arena. It's a shame the grandfather is being so stubborn and clueless. :(
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That may be dumb, but... How about his WALK? Is the posture correct, balance in place, and he's relaxed? Because if he's lacking all that at the walk, he won't get it at the trot. So personally I'd start with the very confident walk, then transitions: trot 10 strides, back to walk 5 strides, back to trot, etc.
Now (and please don't get it as offense :wink: ) lessons horses are usually tougher to ride than private (at least IMHO), so is that horse easy to slow/pick the trot?
I think you have to be honest with the kid. Explain that it takes hard work and he's doing a great progress, but need more work on balance...
As far as the bad posture - try the "ride a buck" game. Make it FUN for a while and then slowly work in correct. I do that with my beginner students. Fun, then work. Choose one problem at a time to correct and it will not be over whelming.
Maybe he thought that you were shouting at him rather than raising your voice to be heard by him. I'd make sure he understood what happened there, first of all. (since that incident made him cry!)
Then, before further instruction, I'd have a heart-to-heart with him, telling him just what you've told us, that you aren't bashing relatives, it could've been a stranger who taught him bad habits, but that your job is to teach him to be safe & eventually even have fun riding. I'm sure that he'll appreciate your clarifying your concern for his safety; how could he not, since it shows that you care?
You could also add that horsemanship takes a lifetime of self-improvement, & that not everyone has the passion for the dedication it takes, & that he must discover whether the passion burns within him. (No condemnation if not!, explain to him!) An option is to do other sports/disciplines for a while & see if he misses horses; lessons are expensive & time-consuming.
I'd also say that horsemanship isn't about rivalry with other humans, but about the relationship with your horse! He needs to see that his relative is missing the point entirely, so that he's no longer affected by such nonsense, wherever it may appear in future.
How are you correcting him? Obviously you have to yell to be heard but what type of voice tone are you using?
If you do not feel comfortable with his balance at the canter why let him do it out on the rail by himself? When he's that far from you and struggling to stay on he most certainly cannot pay attention to you and when he can all he'll hear is you yelling over the other activity in the ring. I don't let my beginners canter until I feel confident they have complete control at the trot (understand and can preform a figure 8, picking up correct diagonals and knowing when to change them and how, does not use the reins for a brace/holds the saddle or just bounces too much in general etc) before we have them learn the canter on a lunge line. That way he is never more then 30 feet from you, which is an easy distance for calm and quiet suggestions on what to change and you have control of the horse.
I, honestly, do not raise my voice at my students unless it's to catch their attention and ask them to bring the horse in to me. Even then I am careful to say only their name in a calm manner and try not to bark orders. Many kids shut down when they hear a raised voice with any tone of frustration (I know how frustrated you must be, I've been there!) and then you get tears. I make all corrections to my students position when the horse is standing next to me: toes up and explain why we do so, legs directly under shoulders and why that's important then I ask if they feel a difference between this position and what happens when they do whatever bad habit it is they have. I guess my log winded point is that lots and lots of calm explanation and one on one attention tends to work best.
Another poster mentioned lots of praise, which I completely agree with. Remember he's 11 and right now riding should be about fun. You also need confidence to do well when riding am I right? Feeling like youre being yelled at or not good at riding does not help some kids want to get better. Even for the tiniest things tell him how great it was.
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