New rider, confused about recent experience at lesson. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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New rider, confused about recent experience at lesson.

Hello! My name is Chelsea and I'm brand new to formal training. I'm learning western style riding, taking lessons at a stable nearby. I'm almost 30, so I'm their oldest student 😂 but I'm finally in a position in life to pick up riding as a skill and own my own horse in the near future. So the lady, we'll call her Miss L, is not the greatest communicator, but we get along great otherwise. She paired me with this horse, Simon, who is dead broke and kid safe. He's a little stubborn, a lot of woah. My first lesson with him, he was relentlessly chewing on his bit and it really seemed to be bothering him. I brought this up twice and was brushed off both times. When we paused to open the gate and lead him in, he refused to move forward. For the first time, I had to apply forward pressure to his lead line. (He's using a snaffle bit). Miss L hollered to hold pressure as he pulled his head back, and then Simon went on his rear legs and yanked the line out of my hands. Despite my burning hands, I snagged the line back as Miss L was admonishing me for letting go. She instructed me to swat him, and he got into the ring with no further complaints. We had a great lesson! Miss L reminded me like 6 more times to never let go of the line, I'm in charge, etc.

The next lesson, I led him out with just his halter, and he did awesome while I brushed him and picked his hooves. Miss L switched the halter out for the bridle, and she led with her horse to the training ring. Again, we paused, and I kept talking to Simon to keep him focused on me. When the time came to proceed into the ring, Simon got stubborn again and refused to walk. Miss L hollered for pressure again, and I started off super gently, so Miss L's friend, (girl who helps out at the barn and rides the horses frequently), grabbed the line and pulled harder. Simon pulled his head back again, and again I heard "keep the pressure." He reared again and took off backward yanking me along, about 30 yards before the owner of the property yelled "LET HIM GO!" The owner, Mrs. C, started yelling at me about how I cannot pull hard when he has a bit in his mouth. Terrified she thought I was trying to hurt her horse, I raised my hands and explained that I was told never to let go LAST time that happened. This started a conversation between Mrs C and Miss L, which spiraled into an argument. I heard teeth mentioned, but I'm not sure if they were implying he just needed his teeth floated. Miss L had me lead Simon back to switch out his bit for a Tom Thumb bit. Meanwhile, she corrected me and told me to run with the horse, not fight him when he takes off backward. Simon was still chomping on the tom thumb and pushing it relentlessly, so they continued arguing about what to do for lessons. Miss L said, "he's your horse, you tell me what to do.," to which Mrs C responded, "I want that bit out of his mouth!" I threw my hands up again and told them to just cancel my lesson, as I was still trying to calm down anyway. I just didn't feel comfortable not knowing why Simon reacted that way, when by all accounts, he's as broke as they come.

I left without much feedback or explanation from anyone, and haven't heard from them in 2 days now. Part of me is worried I deeply offended someone, or maybe I came off too incompetent and they're not interested in training me anymore. I felt like an idiot when the next rider, a 6 year old, was leading her horse with no issues as I was leaving. It was suggested to me that his teeth needed to be floated, too, though. I just don't know if I should continue with these trainers or move on. Thank you for reading!
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post #2 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 11:41 AM
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This sounds like a ring-sour horse who has figured out how not to go into the ring for lessons, especially with someone he knows is a newbie. Visit with your instructor about your concerns. If the horse is uncomfortable, the barn should be taking steps to have him checked. If it's a training issue, then that needs to be taken care of, too. As a new rider paying for lessons, you are entitled to a safe horse on the ground AND in the saddle.
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post #3 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 11:46 AM
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For starters, absolutely none of this is your fault, so don't blame yourself! When you're learning, it is the responsibility of the professionals to guide and instruct you. The issue came in here when the two professionals disagreed on the course of action - which is THEIR issue, not yours. I'm sure they haven't contacted you about lessons again quite yet because they need to figure out what's going on with the horse's mouth, which he most likely does need his teeth floated or at least checked. Hopefully they'll float his teeth and he'll be comfortable with the bit again, and all can return to normal. If this is the cause of the horse's behavior, he reacted like this because of his teeth, not because of you!

If this is the first time something like this has happened, I wouldn't be so quick to dodge out of there: all professionals in all fields have disagreements, especially in the horse world where so much is controversial. However, if this is a regular occurrence, or if you feel uncomfortable returning, or if you feel like the horses are not being treated or cared for fairly, there is absolutely no shame in looking for a new stable to lesson at. Good luck, and I hope this resolves uneventfully!
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post #4 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 11:53 AM
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First off, it's nothing you did. At all.

Second of all, she told you to hold the pressure while he pulls his head back (which is wrong). That would make the horse even more upset! It sounds like they in fact don't really know what they're doing. You're not supposed to pull the horse's mouth when they're pulling back. Swatting him isn't going to help either, he's just going to get more upset.

Miss L's friend was wrong, too. You don't yank the horse with the bit in his mouth to make him go forward. Keep the pressure while he pulls back???? No wonder why the horse doesn't know any better than to rear, they aren't handling it properly. A lesson horse shouldn't even be rearing IMO...that's just not safe.

I'm glad you ended up cancelling the lesson. I'm sure the horse was riled up too, that just wouldn't have been good. Hopefully things cool off between them, I don't think it's anything you did. You were the one trying to figure out what to do in this situation, & they were being super confusing.

Maybe his teeth do need to be floated, too & the bit they're using just isn't comfortable.

They need to really focus on working with that horse (or they need to get some help to work with him, if they can't do it themselves).

Take it as a bad day...unless they are maybe waiting for you to reach back out? Maybe try riding a different horse. If you aren't comfortable going back, just don't go back. Nothing wrong with trying out other places. You're new, & they should make sure the horse you're on is safe & if they can't do that, they don't need your business. Period. :)

Ride more, worry less.
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post #5 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for the encouragement! I really appreciate the thoughtful responses. I'm relieved that it's probably not my fault, and I'm curious: if I'm not supposed to pull on the line/ apply pressure when he refuses to walk forward, what do I do?

Ring sour definitely makes sense, being that both times he took off right before entering the ring... but the bit also really seemed to bother him. Either way, I'm probably going to consider other trainers. I'm new to the skill of riding, but I've been around horses my whole life, and I've never been intimidated or scared. Walking out of that stable, I felt terrified and definitely got the unprofessional vibe. If they don't know what they're doing, I'm not going to get more comfortable. Thank you guys again!
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post #6 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Chelsearae087 View Post
I'm relieved that it's probably not my fault, and I'm curious: if I'm not supposed to pull on the line/ apply pressure when he refuses to walk forward, what do I do?
This is one of those times that people on the internet really can't answer for you, because so much depends on the specific situation. In some cases you would want to apply pressure forward but in others you would want to try something else (like directing the horse a step or two sideways to get them unstuck).

If taking lessons at another stable is an option for you, that would be my suggestion. While any horse can have an off day, IMO that instructor should have been right beside you the second time knowing what had happened the previous time. A beginner should NOT be dealing with a rearing horse, period.
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post #7 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 01:14 PM
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One other thing to consider and worth watching at any barn-- see how the staff lead the horses. For instance, in the western world, it's pretty common to lead the horse with a big drape in the leadrope or rein, and to lead with one rein (the left) when leading a bridled horse with the horse slightly behind and off to the side. Pressure on the rope/rein is rare-- the horse moves when you do and stops when you do. In contrast, I often see English riders leading the horse right up beside them, holding the rope/reins a few inches below the halter/bridle, and near-constant contact on the leadrope or both bridle reins. A horse used to one or the other may be completely confused. I see new/novice riders often take a death grip on the reins up by the bit when leading, and that can cause a horse to back up or raise his head or rear trying to escape the pressure if it's not what he's used to. My horses would be rather confused if someone grabbed the reins right below a curb bit and pulled. They'd likely assume they were supposed to back up and keep right on backing....

Now, none of this is your fault if, indeed, this is part of the issue. Your instructors should be making sure that you are handling the horses as they are used to being handled, and that the horses respond appropriately to the handling.
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post #8 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 01:20 PM
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I am also a beginning rider (started at 30 too ;) ) If you have no previous experience with horses (Like me) I can only give you one tip (I found out myself): be really patient and calm around the horses. Don't be frustrated but try to understand the behaviour and the why of it as good as you can. When I started riding I never corrected a horse that backed up/yanked on the ropes and stuff like that because I simply wasn't able to make the distinction between bad behaviour on purpose and trying to tell me: 'I don't understand you/you hurt me/you confuse me.) Now I do know and when a certain horse is gonna test me I get the message across that it ain't gonna work and that he'd better work with me or it's gonna be uncomfortable. I also noticed horses hold no grudge when you correct them fairly. Your instructors should know the horse and help you out to decide the course of action.

I know more difficult horses do back up and rear on purpose if they know it's a new rider. But a horse can also rear when the pressure in the mouth of the on the nose gets too much... So I think it is great that you contemplate about the behaviour and care enough about the horses to want to know. As one of my experienced equestrian friends always says: "What do you want? A mindless slave that is afraid of you and forced into submission or a cooperative but opinionated horse that communicates with you?" :)
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post #9 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 01:21 PM
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Their handling of the situation was not very good. And they put you in a bad situation by expecting you to lead this horse into the arena. I suspect this is an ongoing problem with the horse as he had become ring sour and no wonder will all the yanking and pulling on the bit. They need to correct this horse's problem so he is safer for you to handle.

If you decide to continue here and not look for another place just make it clear that the trainer should lead the horse into the arena for you as she should know how to handle this problem and if she can't then I wonder about her ability as a trainer in the first place.
A good trainer would not put a new just starting student at risk like that.

I hope you won't let this bad experience sour you on taking lessons as riding can be a great and rewarding experience if handled properly by those who are teaching you.
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post #10 of 21 Old 11-26-2019, 01:21 PM
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Good idea, if you got that vibe, it's probably true. I agree that it was pretty unprofessional. You definitely don't need to deal with that nonsense, & you also need to be safe, so I am totally in agreement with your decision to try lessons elsewhere.
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