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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
You may recall from another posting that I have leased a pony (Haflinger) for my soon-to-be stepdaughter.

Yesterday was the first day since the lease started where she has been able to go with me to the barn for the purposes of riding.

So, essentially, she had her first riding lesson.

Before I go on, let me explain a HUGE constraint between the child/horse.

We only have "C" every Wednesday night and every other weekend. Her Wednesday night card is completely full with her 1st Communion classes. That leaves only Saturday/Sunday for the horse, and ONLY if there are not other family obligations.

So, I can't take her to a professional trainer who specializes in children. There is a woman not so far away, but I can't make the scheduling commitment. Even if this woman would do a "when its convenient" schedule for me, if I take C to a riding lesson, she can't also see the lease pony.

That leaves me to try and impart what I can to her. And, why I am writing this request for recommendations.

So, back to my original point. :D

Up until yesterday, C's experience in the saddle has been reinless. She has sat in the saddle and held onto the saddle horn or has placed her hands on her thighs.

Her riding style would best be described as "passive." Slumped in the saddle as the horse is haltered led along.

Yesterday, I haltered and bridled the pony. While C was sitting on the horse, I positioned her hands on the reins (two-reins tied together), positioned her arms in the right area, showed her the difference between slack and tight reins, poked her in the appropriate spots to engage her torso.

We spent a few minutes discussing the appropriate way to halt and make turns (pony does not neck rein).

I told her to tap the pony with her heels and click and then I stepped forward (hence so did the pony).

I'm walking around the ring and I look back and OMG!!! :shock:

She has the reins back behind the horn, her hands laying limply against the cantle on the saddle, looking at the ceiling.

So I stop. And I explain gently about the arms, hands, posture.

Proceed forward. Look back. She is DOING IT AGAIN!! this time I remind her.

Long story short (omgoodness, too late I know) she is still looking at things outside the ring. Hands and arms are limp noodles. I tried to coax, remind, and coach for another 10 minutes. As soon as I looked at where I was going, if I looked back at her she was tuned out. She was looking behind her at one point.

So I did the comin' to bejeezus talk about safety. I had the pony do some ground turns (away from me) so C could feel the horse moving in a direction other than forward. I tried to explain how to sit "actively" and be engaged in the saddle. I had her answer questions like what would happen if the pony tripped and you were looking elsewhere? what would you do if the pony shook its head and the reins fell out of your hands?

She could answer each of the questions. She can imagine the consequences would be falling off. Getting hurt. But she had the attention span of a gnat. I came clean with my bareback riding accident and the limp in my leg and how bad it hurt, because I didn't pay attention.

And, because I wasn't getting through to her I was stern. :cry: And of course, she cried, because she is 8 and can't stand to have anyone be critical of her.

After a few tears I convinced her to wipe her eyes or get off the horse. She couldn't do both. Her choice but she couldn't ride and cry because when you are crying you upset the horse but also you are not paying attention to what you are doing.

So, she wiped her eyes, sucked it up, and we carried forward. I was actually able to drape the lead over the pony's neck and C guided her. She positioned the pony so I wasn't crowded against the wall or stepped on (yea!) and was able to start and stop.

Then came the next set of issues. To turn the horse she jerked hard on the appropriate rein and to stop pulled back and kept pulling back after the pony had stopped (which caused its own issues). So we discussed these techniques.

After another 10 minutes I had to stop (my ankle was killing me from walking around the arena for 40 minutes) so I called it a day.


Thank you for reading all the way through!

For the record I did praise her for any improvements over the passive inactive riding style. If her arms were out and engaged and hands actually had the reins firmly, I praised her. I didn't critique her heels or back (that will come). I praised her lots.

So, here is the million dollar question.

How do you train "active" riding rather than passive sitting in the saddle? How do you explain the ability to be soft on the horse but firm? Am I moving her too fast?

On Friday and Sunday she also worked with the horse on ground control. Backing by the halter, repositioning the pony around her. Leading.

Can you recommend a book I can read to help me understand how to break it down to an 8 yr old?

I am disappointed; I gave her books written for junior riders (in young reader's tone) and she doesn't have any interest in reading them. I asked her to practice sitting on a chair to mimic a horse's back and she hasn't done that.

Tweens/Teens: What do you remember about learning to ride? what worked, what did not?

is she just too young?


{oops, timer for the cookies has gone off. brb}
 

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You may have been moving too fast. I used to work at a therapeutic riding center for kids and adults. When I worked with the little ones, at the beginning most of the time they were on a lead and they were just feeling the movement. Then we'd start "steering" and the kid would still be on lead but they'd actively participate in turning the horse. Then we'd make an "obstacle course" and they'd steer around it.

Then they'd come off lead but we'd still be right by the horse and they'd steer and the horse would listen but follow us. Then once they could do that, we started to step further away and let them steer. This was walk only.

When it was time to trot, they went back on lead, and they had a "side walker" which would help them keep in the saddle. We'd only do a few steps of trot, and then we'd trot the other direction a few steps. Over time we'd have the side walkers move away as soon as the child felt safe. And then we'd practice steering at the trot. Once they got that down, we'd take the leadrope off and we'd help them trot. Once they could trot, and steer, then we'd start letting them do most of the work themselves, we'd only supervise or be designated course makers or if they needed help (the horse wasn't listening) then we'd step in.

We moved very very slowly, we only did what they were comfortable with and then peaked a little over their comfort zone at times. Sometimes we moved faster if they were capable. When it was time to canter, they could steer and trot on their own so all we had them do was circle us and we helped them pick up the canter.
 

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Are you sure she even has an interest in riding or do you just want her to? Leasing a pony for her may have been a little ahead of schedule.

My sons never showed an interest in horses even though I bought them pony after pony. The were good riders but could care less. I finally gave up on trying to give them the experiences I would have killed for when I was their age. It was their choice and I had to respect it.
 

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I was younger than her when I learned to ride. I learned really fast because I enjoyed what I was doing and wanted to do it. Maybe she needs more time to get used to the pony and really get in to riding.
 

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Two questions:

-Has she had any experience with horses before?

-Is this something SHE has expressed interest in?

If she doesn't have any experience you probably moved too fast for her. If she hasn't expressed interest, then she probably isn't really interested.

If she's interested I would take it down a notch. Continue to work on the groundwork and leadline stuff, but when she's on a lead work on her body position. Give her "games" to do in the saddle. I have my nieces raise their arms up, out to the side, behind, etc. Use imagery to get her to sit up straight, I tell my nieces to imagine someone is pulling a string through their body up through their head.

Once she is more confident and comfortable move to lunging so you can get a better idea of her position. Use the same kind of games to work on her stability in the saddle. Teach her that her hands are NOT for holding on. You can also speed up a little to trot for some fun.

If she does well with that, THEN move to self directed movement. Don't walk around in front of her, it's impossible to see what she's doing and correct her quickly. Set up a cone, tell her to walk to cone, halt, walk around cone, halt, and walk back to you. You need to break it up into manageable pieces and give her real tasks to do.

Last of all. Make it fun! Jump on the horse with her and ride around a little bit, go a little faster and do some fun things with her. Spend 20 minutes putting ribbons in the ponies mane or glitter on her hooves. She's 8 and has a pony, make it a fun thing for her, not all work. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You may have been moving too fast. I used to work at a therapeutic riding center for kids and adults. When I worked with the little ones, at the beginning most of the time they were on a lead and they were just feeling the movement. Then we'd start "steering" and the kid would still be on lead but they'd actively participate in turning the horse. Then we'd make an "obstacle course" and they'd steer around it.

Then they'd come off lead but we'd still be right by the horse and they'd steer and the horse would listen but follow us. Then once they could do that, we started to step further away and let them steer. This was walk only.

When it was time to trot, they went back on lead, and they had a "side walker" which would help them keep in the saddle. We'd only do a few steps of trot, and then we'd trot the other direction a few steps. Over time we'd have the side walkers move away as soon as the child felt safe. And then we'd practice steering at the trot. Once they got that down, we'd take the leadrope off and we'd help them trot. Once they could trot, and steer, then we'd start letting them do most of the work themselves, we'd only supervise or be designated course makers or if they needed help (the horse wasn't listening) then we'd step in.

We moved very very slowly, we only did what they were comfortable with and then peaked a little over their comfort zone at times. Sometimes we moved faster if they were capable. When it was time to canter, they could steer and trot on their own so all we had them do was circle us and we helped them pick up the canter.
Thank you for the well thought out answer.

While the child is in the saddle, no reins, and under halter, how do you keep the child actively participating in the saddle? I added the reins because she is comfortable in saddle at the walk.

Almost too comfortable since her attention is wandering to things other than being in the saddle.

I have no problem moving her back to reinless, but I worry that she will develop such bad habits, such as sitting limply in the saddle and gripping the horn doesn't do anything for balance.

Do you have any additional thoughts to help me?
 

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I'm with iridehorses, are you sure she even wants to ride? From what you described, it sounds like she doesn't. When I thought my 10 yr old son wanted to learn to ride, I got a trainer (I'm NOT a good teacher in any regards!). But alas, he'd rather just go to the shows and hang out with the girls!! So now his trainer works with me!!
 

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This doesn't sound like a kid who has any interest in riding, honestly. I have never seen a kid who didn't have a disability essentially "zone out" around a horse, let alone on one. I think you are trying to push your hobby on her (out of love obviously) but you need to know when to call it quits and find something you both have in common. If you keep pushing it you'll drive yourselves apart. Maybe as she gets older she will come into loving horses but it isn't for everyone. My sister is a perfect example. She likes horses, but doesn't have the passion for them me and my mother do.
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Are you sure she even has an interest in riding or do you just want her to? Leasing a pony for her may have been a little ahead of schedule.

My sons never showed an interest in horses even though I bought them pony after pony. The were good riders but could care less. I finally gave up on trying to give them the experiences I would have killed for when I was their age. It was their choice and I had to respect it.
Good question and who knows? I for one, did not invite this on her. She asked for it. Because I have a horse, and was forced to sometimes bring her to the barn when her dad was working, she met this pony "Peanut." The barn owner at the time was actively trying to find a new owner. When C learned of this, she started asking about horse ownership. The lease was my way of exploring her interest without the burden of pony ownership.

I have another thread in this forum, "Is she a horsey girl" where I worried that she wants the bragging rights of owning a horse but is not willing to put in the hard work.

To her credit, she is grooming the horse and picking up poop in the barn. She finished too fast the other day and there were still particles of hay and dirt. I said to her, "You went too fast, she is not clean" and she went back and did the job again, this time to my satisfaction for an 8 yr old.

To answer your question, I have no idea. She cleans her room, folds her clothes, does all her chores and is waiting on me to go to the barn. But, once we are there she is asking about lunch. She grooms the pony but instead of loving on the pony afterwards she walks away and picks at rocks in the arena or plays with the cat. The barn owner goes to show us a technique and I have to call her over to watch instead of checking out the noise of a truck going down the road.

Having no children of my own, is this normal 8 yr old brain waves? Or is she not truly "into it."

Her household chores is what is keeping me going. She is doing all the work at home we had to argue about in the past without being told. She is going the extra mile at home to get her barn time. Because of that, I will give her the benefit of the doubt for now and keep providing her with the opportunity to be near the horse.
 

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Thank you for the well thought out answer.

While the child is in the saddle, no reins, and under halter, how do you keep the child actively participating in the saddle? I added the reins because she is comfortable in saddle at the walk.

Almost too comfortable since her attention is wandering to things other than being in the saddle.

I have no problem moving her back to reinless, but I worry that she will develop such bad habits, such as sitting limply in the saddle and gripping the horn doesn't do anything for balance.

Do you have any additional thoughts to help me?
Children respond well when you make things silly and fun. We taught the kids "sassy" where they put their hands on their hips and move side to side. We taught them to reach up and touch the horse's ears, reach back and touch the horse's tail, arms out turning side to side, put hands on your head and stretch up tall, be "loose as a noodle" all of these things, kept our kids engaged and over time they were naturally having an engaged seat. Then we'd teach them how you "look" where you want to go, use your inside leg and rein and over time it became more natural and started to ride the horse.

It's all about connecting the dots and making it really fun. Horse riding is hard, but if you make it fun to do hard work, then they'll have a lot more fun and feel a lot happier about it.

Hope I helped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This doesn't sound like a kid who has any interest in riding, honestly. I have never seen a kid who didn't have a disability essentially "zone out" around a horse, let alone on one. I think you are trying to push your hobby on her (out of love obviously) but you need to know when to call it quits and find something you both have in common. If you keep pushing it you'll drive yourselves apart. Maybe as she gets older she will come into loving horses but it isn't for everyone. My sister is a perfect example. She likes horses, but doesn't have the passion for them me and my mother do.
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hahaha - trust me, this is not a push sort of thing. I would rather have the barn to myself. When she is around I have to maintain the parental responsibility instead of self-indulging myself.

My own riding suffers on the weekends she is with me.

I leased the horse because she asked how much it would take to own peanut and offered her $42 to the barn owner to buy the horse (it was cute).

C is not like me and I respect that she is different. When C showed an interest in horse ownership the only way to determine the full extent was to expose her to horses. My horse is way too green for an inexperienced child. The pony solved the problem of getting her near horses.

Thanks for your comments, but I think you misunderstood my posting. This isn't driving us apart. I just need a technique to break down the complexity of horse riding to an 8 yr old who has never engaged with a horse before.
 

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She's 8. Enough said. My niece is 7 and loses her attention span quickly. Basically exactly what you've described. Keep the lessons and the work short, quick, and involved.

As I suggested above if you'd like to keep her interested when she's in the saddle give her things to do with her hands/arms/legs. It'll teach her correct balance and help improve her seat.

Here's an example of what I do with my niece (who is extremely horsie). Get the horses, groom them (I help), and explain everything. Now we do a little mini test on the parts of a horse's leg. Next we get on. I explain where to put her leg and how to sit. Correct her where needed, praise a TON. Lunge line at a walk. Have her sit correctly and move her arms around, then her legs. Tell her she's incredible. Let her trot on the line a little bit. If she feels up to it does the same exercises as she did at a walk. Then I'll let her "direct" the horse while I'm walking next to it's shoulder. The riding time is about 15-20 minutes. Then we untack and she gets to help feed and give treats. She probably spends an hour MAX with me at the barn.

ETA - I want to add that my energy is really high and positive while we're doing this. I'm laughing and teasing her, she's giggling and being silly, but paying attention. I'm making it fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I was younger than her when I learned to ride. I learned really fast because I enjoyed what I was doing and wanted to do it. Maybe she needs more time to get used to the pony and really get in to riding.
Thank you. She seems comfortable, but maybe she is not. That is a good perspective. Plus, I am so afraid of her mom going nuts if she gets hurt I have stressed safety when grooming and make C stand away from the pony (a mare with a huge bubble) when other horses are moving through the barn.
 

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My impression (before I even read everyone else's answers) was that either

a) she is just not interested or

b) she is so used to being led around that she feels totally safe and bored with being led.

I can't imagine any concious soul on the back of a horse letting go of the reins and looking around or sitting on their hands when they don't have someone walking next to them controlling the horse (at least not a total beginner).

So my only idea would be if the pony is trustworthy, stand in the center of a small area like a round pen and then she HAS to hold the reins and control the horse.

I kind of think horse people are born. No one in my family had or liked horses. I was just born that way. And I would cry every time my family drove past a horse because I wanted one so bad. I would have peed my pants for riding lessons. I never did get any, but at age 17 finally got my own horse. It was hard because we lived in the city and did not have horse property so we had to board. But ever since I was about 5 years old it was my life's mission to get a horse. I'm not sure if "C" has that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Two questions:

-Has she had any experience with horses before?

-Is this something SHE has expressed interest in?

If she doesn't have any experience you probably moved too fast for her. If she hasn't expressed interest, then she probably isn't really interested.

If she's interested I would take it down a notch. Continue to work on the groundwork and leadline stuff, but when she's on a lead work on her body position. Give her "games" to do in the saddle. I have my nieces raise their arms up, out to the side, behind, etc. Use imagery to get her to sit up straight, I tell my nieces to imagine someone is pulling a string through their body up through their head.

Once she is more confident and comfortable move to lunging so you can get a better idea of her position. Use the same kind of games to work on her stability in the saddle. Teach her that her hands are NOT for holding on. You can also speed up a little to trot for some fun.

If she does well with that, THEN move to self directed movement. Don't walk around in front of her, it's impossible to see what she's doing and correct her quickly. Set up a cone, tell her to walk to cone, halt, walk around cone, halt, and walk back to you. You need to break it up into manageable pieces and give her real tasks to do.

Last of all. Make it fun! Jump on the horse with her and ride around a little bit, go a little faster and do some fun things with her. Spend 20 minutes putting ribbons in the ponies mane or glitter on her hooves. She's 8 and has a pony, make it a fun thing for her, not all work. Good luck!
I just read your post! Thank you!!!

To specifically address your questions:

1. No. Other than a 5-minute pony ride at a carnival, no experience whatsoever.

2. She asked for this. She tried to negotiate halloween candy and $42 to buy the pony. I had to take her to the barn a few times while dad was working on the weekends or I missed my weekend visit. My idea was to let her help me with my horse. She met this pony and started talking about her own horse. I made it happen but only after she put the idea in my head.

I will take it down a notch this weekend (we have her this weekend also). I will halter only and have her work on arms out balance.

I also love the grooming ideas. It's a mare, so C would enjoy putting some pink ribbons in her mane.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My impression (before I even read everyone else's answers) was that either

a) she is just not interested or

b) she is so used to being led around that she feels totally safe and bored with being led. Bingo. That was my worry. That as long as I had the lead she could tune out. I did notice a change after I let go of the lead, but by then I had made her cry too. Would like to avoid the ittybittyteenytiny feelings meltdown.

I can't imagine any concious soul on the back of a horse letting go of the reins and looking around or sitting on their hands when they don't have someone walking next to them controlling the horse (at least not a total beginner).

So my only idea would be if the pony is trustworthy, stand in the center of a small area like a round pen and then she HAS to hold the reins and control the horse.

I kind of think horse people are born. No one in my family had or liked horses. I was just born that way. And I would cry every time my family drove past a horse because I wanted one so bad. I would have peed my pants for riding lessons. I never did get any, but at age 17 finally got my own horse. It was hard because we lived in the city and did not have horse property so we had to board. But ever since I was about 5 years old it was my life's mission to get a horse. I'm not sure if "C" has that.
Agreed here too. I lost sleep over horse fantasies.
Everybody keeps talking about me pushing horses onto this little girl so we can bond (more or less). But, what do I do if it is opposite?

C is doing horses to be with me?

Also, this is an overnight thing for her. She heard me talking about buying a horse for 2 years. Then, one weekend she comes to our house and it is, "Hey, guess who bought horse?" For her, it was an overnight ordeal. For me, a lifetime.

But, she asked her dad when would I take HER to the horse. I hadn't planned on it. It was my time, but when he said she asked him if I would, I couldn't say no. (Well, I could, but I'm not THAT cruel and selfish).

Next thing I know she is joining me at the barn almost once each weekend they are with us.
 

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OP, some kids just like being around horses, not independently riding them. I've seen a lot of those kiddos and they never wanted to progress past a walk (they had trotted before but if left up to them, just trail rides.)
 

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Advice to avoid hurting tiny human's feelings: Remember she's just a kid. Think of her like a foal or a puppy. Short attention span, easily confused, and clumsy. You don't want to overload them either. Same concept.

Maybe she's a horse person at heart, maybe not, it's really hard to tell this soon into it. If she is, she'll thank you years from now for helping her. If she isn't, she'll thank you years from now for caring enough to let her try. As long as you control your temper and keep it fun.
 

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She may not even want to have anything to do with the pony.(although i've never met a little girl who doesn't love ponies! lol) I've been in love with horses since I was six so I was thrilled to get riding once I was 11. My first lessons I took with my younger sister. I was very eager to learn and spent every second I could with the horses. As for my younger sister she didn't like horses once bit. She was a passive rider and really could care less what she was doing. It was as if she were along for the ride just because of me. So eventually she gave it up and i'm still riding strong! I hope this helped a bit! Just don't force her into riding,maybe sit down with her and ask her how she feels about the pony and riding and such.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
OP, some kids just like being around horses, not independently riding them. I've seen a lot of those kiddos and they never wanted to progress past a walk (they had trotted before but if left up to them, just trail rides.)
Wow. Those kids exists? I guess that is the concept behind owning living lawn ornament though.

Not me, I want to canter down a snowy covered mountain... oops. I'm projecting again.

:lol:

I have learned a LOT from this thread.

1. I have to be more engaging. I am all business. That's what happens when you toss a professional 46 yr old project manager in the room with an 8 yr old. We gantt chart the play date. :p

2. I am going to focus on identifying her confidence level. It took her an entire summer of training wheels before she had any confidence with her bike. And the no-training wheels experience the next summer was pretty tense for the first several rides. I think of her having much more confidence than she probably does because she can be so bossy and competitive (if that makes sense). But, push comes to shove she really is not a confident kid when trying new things.

3. I am going to let her be silly with the mare and maybe we will experiment with braiding that beasties' mane.

I will also not forego my riding on Sam. The last few weeks I have been focusing on helping C and the pony, but maybe if she watches me riding at the trot and doing maneuvers she will gain osmosis confidence.

Thanks everyone!!!!
 
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