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Hi all,

First off, I am new here. I was on this forum years ago, but since, took time away from it due to work, riding, and coaching.

I am a certified, insured coach, in Canada.

I have a good client base of about 25-30 riders. We do English, hunter/jumper, with a strong horsemanship program (natural horsemanship lessons as well as stable management) riders groom, tack, ride, and take care of their horse after. Our horses do not work hard and we are not a "school string". (Example: 1 pony will do 2 walk trot lessons and 1 lunge line lesson, or 1 horse will do a walk trot lesson, then a small cross rail/2'0 lesson later)

I am looking for some support... I am having some issue with parents with high expectations of a rider. They are comparing that rider to others. When at the barn, the parents are narcissistic towards me because their child has gone backwards in progression, it is unclear to me as to why this has happened.

Looking for some recommendations and advice to put out to my entire barn on "expectations at the barn" so I am not singling out anyone in particular, plus, I just want this for everyone if I come across this again. I am also having some issues of parents asking why other kids are riding more advanced horses... we choose who is on which horse or pony based on height, age, motor skills, ect. I am always having to explain why "so and so" is "doing this and that"..

I am feeling frustrated and like a bag a cr*p to put it politely, lol! Even any other stories of this would help me a lot in how you dealt with it. I am lucky this is the first time in being a coach this has happened ! Looking forward to hear your experiences as a rider or a coach/instructor!
 

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Sorry you have to deal with this.

I don't have have any riding-specific ideas on what to put out, but just wanted to say that both as a parent of someone who takes lessons and as a lesson taker, I think it is great idea and perfectly acceptable to post out a general notice of expectations for everyone. Beware that those that are really pushy will probably ignore it though. So I would have it in that anyone that repeatedly does not follow the expectations will be asked to leave the lesson.

My daughter does ballet and at her studio the teacher includes a notice of studio expectations around things like car park use, talking when waiting outside class (kids and parents), keeping things tidy, phone use, parent behavior when watching a class, how to ask for feedback and what to expect etc. These are posted on the Facebook page, at the studio, and we get them via email and/or paper notice every time we get sent a notice for things like fees, exam entries/dates, extra classes, and so forth. So multiple times and in multiple places. Even with that, there are parents that completely ignore them (or do not bother to read them).

I would include a note to parents to remember that children's learning is not linear. It will not be constant progression. As they go through body and brain changes, all of a sudden they have extra limb length to deal with, extra weight and their center of gravity has moved, or different brain connections to form and they cannot do skills they knew well previously. It is perfectly normal to go backwards before progressing again. I see this all the time with my daughter's ballet. They are all graceful and then they grow and become gangly and don't know where they fit in space for a while.
 

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At a large lesson barn where my daughter used to ride, all riders would switch horses regularly. Obviously, you can't put an inexperienced child on a horse that is difficult to handle, but within reason, every rider would ride a variety of horses week to week. You could be an advanced rider, and have to ride the slow poke horse. Your challenge was to make that horse more forward by riding with more energy. If you had a jiggy horse, your challenge was to sit back, slow down your posting, etc. We (I took lessons there too) were taught that when you ride a horse, you have to assess its energy and adjust your riding to make your horse better. But this approach had the consequence of not making us feel like we were better or worse riders than anyone because even the best rider there, who owned an OTTB and could jump a meter, had to ride the big sluggish Canadian sometimes (she hated it, lol). She even managed to get him over some low jumps. The coach's attitude was that being a good rider didn't just mean riding fast, athletic horses, but also being able to ride the less athletic ones well, and making them look their best.

We stopped riding there for various reasons - mostly a change of discipline from H/J to dressage for my daughter, but it always had a very fair atmosphere, where every rider was told what they did right and what they did wrong on every ride. No one was ever told they were perfect or awful. No one was compared to anyone else - we were encouraged to think about what we could do better. Riders were also asked to critique other riders in the ring, and tell them what they were doing right, and what they could improve. This did not create a competitive spirit, but rather, a very supportive environment where riders showed excellent sportsmanship. I remember once, at a schooling show there, a rider fell off her horse because it was acting up that day, so another rider offered her personal horse to this rider. This horse was a great jumper, and was very reliable. It was just the thing the fallen rider needed to rebuild her confidence that day. The owner of the horse rode a different horse in the same class and lost to her own horse and the rider who had fallen! Instead of being mad though, she was really happy for the rider and proud of her horse for doing so well.

That coach didn't do everything right, but one thing she did well was create a really supportive environment for riders and treat everyone the same regardless of their skill level. If you went there with a fat head, you'd be taken down a few notches. If you were very insecure, she would find something good to say about your riding.

If parents feel their children aren't progressing fast enough, they need to remember this is supposed to be fun. And perhaps they should consider doing more lessons - when my daughter decided she wanted to jump, we started doing 2 lessons a week rather than just one (and she was riding at home as well). Parents should also understand that as their kids progress, riding will get harder.
 

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Perhaps @MeditativeRider could share bits from what is posted from the ballet school - minus any identifying info to give you an idea.

I couldn't find the one my SIL posts for their baseball league but I am thinking it is one that gets passed around and changed as this link is very similar.
 

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I have to say, I sort of aged out (heh!) of riding school at around 40 because I hate riding slow horses and I am too old and inexperienced to ride the unruly ones. Basically, I enjoyed every fifth or sixth lesson because I had to wait for the horse I liked riding. I have no experience with teaching riding but I would steer the ones complaining about which horse the kid is riding to buy themselves what they think is a suitable horse for their child. You could explain what each horse is teaching their riders but once those complaints start I don’t think there’s much you can do. Once a person rides well enough to develop their own taste in horses there’s no turning back really (talking about amateur riders obviously)
 

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I would explain to the parents that everyone learns at a different rate and the rate also depends on the interest and dedication of the rider. Natural talent also enters into the equation. My three daughters never had lessons but, learned from me and others. All three were very good riders but, ironically the one with the most talent lost interest at about 20 yo. Life had other other drawings for her. The middle loves riding and horses to this day and she is near 50 yo. The youngest never had a deep drive but, did it because the rest of the family rode. Everyone learns and develops by their interest, natural talent and drive all at different rates.
 

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There will always be parents who take a too-keen interest in the kids' activities. I think some of it comes with the territory of paying money - for some people it feels like the activity needs to be "worth" what they're shelling out, so kiddo has to make [x] amount of progress over [y] amount of time. Some of it is plain old sports parents living vicariously through their child. Either way, I think it's a good idea to have a basic code of conduct/set of expectations for everyone. It sounds as if some of the adults here are forgetting that lessons are for the kids, everyone progresses at their own rate, and mistakes are part of learning.

I like the attitude @Acadianartist describes - a kind of "caught you being good" for the stables, and cooperating to help each other succeed. When I was coaching hockey, I found something similar was successful. Parents are always hard. It might help to direct the expectations to everyone, frame it as you're including the kids, too. Send out an email blast, put up a poster in the office/tack room/gathering space, and use it yourself. Leverage the kids into influencing their parents. ("Hey, mom/dad, remember, lessons are for making mistakes and trying again." or however you want to phrase it).
 

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Perhaps @MeditativeRider could share bits from what is posted from the ballet school - minus any identifying info to give you an idea.
A lot of the stuff at my daughter's ballet is very specific to her teacher's requirements, so not sure how much it would help you but it has stuff like: contact via email or text not phone as the teacher will have it off when in class and is usually teaching; don't approach the teacher for feedback or a discussion before/after class as they have a/another class to teach, email or text to arrange something; parents don't talk while watching class, its a privilege to watch not a right and you will be asked to leave if you keep talking; if you/your child feel extra classes are needed for progress or competition work, email or text to arrange; don't have phones out and put them on quiet during class (parents and children); don't talk loudly in the waiting area (it is disruptive to classes that are in progress).

The teacher also constantly puts up little motivational quotes related to good learning and class practices on the dance Facebook page. These are some examples: "how incredible life would be if we danced our own dance, and didn't care too much if anyone was watching. Then if we saw someone's dance, instead of judging, we simply cheered them on"; "when ballet gets hard, you get strong"; "we are like a snowflake, all different in our own beautiful way".

She also posts links to articles about good learning practices (specific to dance).

It is a like gentle but constant shaping of the culture that she would like in the studio so that the number of problems that she has to deal with are minimized.
 

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That sounds a lot like the way the barn is here. Basically good manners that parents(and kids) need to be reminded of sometimes. Love the quotes. We do that in the classroom. Hard sometimes to do at the barn.
 

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Some great suggestions so far. I especially like trainers who work with kids (and if needed, parents) on remembering that everyone progresses at their own pace, and comparing oneself to others isn't helpful. Teach the kids to set their own goals and go at their own pace, regardless of what others are doing.

One additional suggestion from a parent perspective: I would make a hard and fast rule that you don't discuss other people's children with parents. If they ask why Chris is getting to do more than their little Robin, for example, I'd tell them that you're happy to discuss Robin's progress, but you won't discuss Chris with them.
 

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I am also having some issues of parents asking why other kids are riding more advanced horses...
If the parents of Susie are asking about Jill, then I would flat out tell them that they are not Jill's parents and it is none of their business.
Would they ask their Susie's teacher in school why Jill is getting A+ and Susie only a B+? No!!! (Not your kid; not your business.)
You are managing Susie to her current abilities and learning and appropriately matching her with a pony/horse for her current skill level.
Everyone progresses at their own pace.
 

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Actually they do. They also get highly offended when work is on display and the SpEd student received a higher grade because they put in hours more work and effort and actually paid attention to the rubric. They'll take that to the school administrators.
 
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