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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone! I want to hear your thoughts and experiences. I'm a riding instructor and I have a boy, age 8, with adhd and a very short attention span. His mom hoped that the horse riding would help. But I'm struggling to keep him on the horse. When he arrives he's very excited to ride for about 2 minutes, then he runs of to go and play with the chickens and the sheep. It's a struggle then to get his attention on the horse again and then after about 5 minutes of riding he decides he have had enough and jumps of and go and play with the chickens again. His mother said I must be very strict with him but that doesn't help, he just switch of mentally. I anyway don't think you should force a kid to ride?? I really don't know what to do! His mother is a very difficult client so I must keep her happy too馃檲 I play a lot of games with them on the horses, which he likes, but only for a minute or two... Any advice would be greatly appreciated 馃槉
 

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This sounds like a challenging situation. Do you have background/training in working with students with disabilities? I am not as familiar with Riding for the Disabled/Therapeutic Riding in South Africa, but I wonder if you could either get some guidance from someone affiliated with a riding program that specializes in students with disabilities, or even refer your client there?

I think you're astute to note the student switches off mentally if he is this overstimulated. I have never had any luck forcing a kid to ride, particularly when he's not in the mental space to do so. It sounds like mom is driving his participation, and so if he truly isn't interested, then he may never really engage. But I bet there are some steps in between where you are now and deciding the student can't ride at all.

First, what you're describing - jumping off a horse and running around - is a safety nightmare. For me, addressing that head on would be a non-negotiable with mom and rider. Prior to next lesson, I would have a conversation that includes both rider and mom saying if he leaves the horse without permission, his time at the farm that day will be over. You'll need her on board to enforce that. I would be very strict about this- if he comes off, mom collects him, and they leave. That may be more upsetting to mom than him :wink:

I'd also ask him directly what he likes about coming the farm. I was having a challenge really similar to the one you're describing with a student I taught (I'm a certified therapeutic riding instructor), so one day I just asked him what he liked doing when we came to the barn. Turned out his favorite thing was getting to run around the indoor arena and jump over the crossrails. That gave me a good laugh, but I understood that the sensation of running in the deep sandy footing and jumping like a wild man over the fences was really exciting. We set things up so that the first five minutes of his lesson, before he went to get his horse, he could have "free time" in the arena on his own and run and jump and do whatever he wanted. Then it was horse time and he followed horse rules.

Since the farm is such a stimulating experience for your rider, you'll likely need to do some planning about an arrival procedure for him, which is written down, shared with him and mom, and enforced. If you're not a therapeutic riding program with volunteers who can meet him at the door when he arrives, that could become really challenging. I would be very explicit and details about this. For example:
Step 1/Sam arrives, meets volunteer and walks into the tack room to select his helmet (helmet #S4) and put it on.
Step 2/Volunteer and Sam go to the chicken coop and spend 5 minutes feeding and talking to chickens
Step 3/Volunteer and Sam leave chickens and spend 10 minutes grooming and tacking up horse
Step 4/Volunteer and Sam go to the tack room and get Dobin's grooming bucket and tack, bring to cross-ties where Dobin is waiting
Step 5/Volunteer and Sam lead horse into arena, lead horse in two circles of arena in each direction
Step 6/Sam mounts and rides for 15 minutes before dismounting

It may be the case that the ridden portion of the lesson is very brief, at least at this point. You might need a lesson plan with one skill (e.g., steering with reins over obstacles in both directions 2x) and then one game and then he's off. Again, you need mom on board with the idea that his "lesson" might be an hour long, but only 15-20 minutes of the lesson can be actually mounted given what he can handle now- and will increase over time. Maybe when he dismounts, he is doing some in-hand work leading the horse around or over obstacles, so he's still working with the horse.

Also, if you are trying to teach your rider in a group, that might just not be possible right now so mom may also need to get on board with shorter, private lessons.

Having a predictable, consistent routine that the rider understand is going to be really important for you. Breaking things down into very small, explicit chunks is also going to help. Don't take a step for granted. Keep it very physical/tactile and make sure there are lots of opportunities to move, when mounted or not mounted. Think about the riding part of the lesson as a small part for now, but incorporate all the other aspects of horse care and preparation that may keep his attention. Or maybe grooming and tacking is too boring for him, so you skip that and the horse is groomed, tacked, and ready so you don't waste time trying to make him do something that causes him to lose focus. It was very important to our program that students understood horses aren't just for riding, they're our partners who deserve to be treated well, so all students did some grooming and horse care- for highly distractable riders, sometimes I'd have the grooming boxes in the arena, take the saddle off there, and make sure the rider curried the horse politely on both sides of his body after the ride- not what most riders would do to show their appreciation of their horse, but appropriate for the student who couldn't do more than that. Talk to mom about goals and expectations- she needs to understand why the lesson is structured as it is, and what to expect in terms of actual saddle time.

I'd recommend this website for tons of ideas on structuring lesson plans around riding skills, planning engaging games, and generally supporting students with disabilities. Overall, keep yourself focused on safety for your rider(s), horses, and others at the farm. Good luck!
http://www.lessonsintr.com/index/
 

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Now I can't locate what I read yesterday. Aggravation. It had to do with ADD/ADHD and why. Talked about the disconnect that occurs when doing something that they are not interested in verses doing something that does and can capture their attention for hours and involve intense focus. There was a bit about how it isn't so much over stimulation as it is a lack of interest or interest that is not lasting because it does not provide what the child needs to keep him engaged. They do discuss meds as that can prolong focus and help someone with a mild interest develop that interest.


It may be the child isn't one that needs to be riding and that doesn't help you if the parent is insistent.



"I'd also ask him directly what he likes about coming the farm. I was having a challenge really similar to the one you're describing with a student I taught (I'm a certified therapeutic riding instructor), so one day I just asked him what he liked doing when we came to the barn. Turned out his favorite thing was getting to run around the indoor arena and jump over the crossrails. That gave me a good laugh, but I understood that the sensation of running in the deep sandy footing and jumping like a wild man over the fences was really exciting. We set things up so that the first five minutes of his lesson, before he went to get his horse, he could have "free time" in the arena on his own and run and jump and do whatever he wanted. Then it was horse time and he followed horse rules."



I am quoting this from egrogan - post #2 as it is or can be the key to successful participation in that it provides a "medicated" effect as it channels all the excess energy and calms the brain, readying them for instruction. We have what we call "brain break" times that allow the kids free, active time for short duration (15 minutes) where they are encouraged to be moving and participating in something that keeps that little body in motion for that time frame. Makes for a much easier time focusing on homework or quietly playing so they do not disturb those that have homework. Basically what egrogan said but in a school setting.
 

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If 2 minutes is all you get then that may have to be your time limit for now. Riding might not be the sport for him. With ADHD - at the age of 8 - there are so many options out there for that kid. "forcing" him to complete the entire half hour session may be too much. It sounds like he is either more than just ADHD or he isn't on any medications. I have a kid with ADHD and he only uses the medication Mon-Fri for school. I tried to start him riding when he was younger but he only wanted to canter. He wanted to skip all the other stuff and just canter. Now that he is older he is more focused and has learned to groom, tack, handle, warm-up, and ride properly but when he was younger - too early.

This kid sounds like he is either more than just ADHD or lacks some discipline. Either way - he needs to try a different sport. One that requires less attention and more physical action.
 

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That's tough. I used to be a teacher, and it was always a challenge to get the ADHD kids in my classroom to focus. I had to come up with a ton of tricks to keep them stimulated through what they considered "boring" activities. None of those can really translate to riding lessons though. It sounds like maybe he isn't ready for riding lessons. I would suggest if mom really wants to pursue riding lessons they find a facility and instructor that is well versed in riding lessons and therapeutic riding for ADHD and kids with disabilities. Or you could possibly find one of those instructors and get some tips on helping him focus.

I can share with you that my stepdaughter is also 8 and has ADHD. She is not on any medication because it's not that severe at this point, but we will revisit it later. She has difficulty focusing on most activities for any length of time. But we work on cognitive behavioral therapies that help her. However, the horses allow her to focus for some reason. She will clean stalls without losing interest, ride, clean tack, whatever. She almost gets hyper focused on that and forgets everything else. So maybe he's just not interested in it and it can't hold his attention. She also gets hyper focused on her cavy showmanship for 4-H. We did try numerous other activities with results like the ones you are mentioning. I think it's a matter of the mom finding out what he truly is interested in then focusing him on that.
 

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A lifelong friend has a grandson who is in the autism spectrum (Asbergers, I believe) and also has a short attention span. She has had horses her entire life, her daughter grew up on horses, but this grandson wants no part of them.

I believe he is now 13. They are still struggling to find that particular thing he has a sincere interest in.

Meaning, if your young student is not showing any interest, I hope you can convey to the mom to keep searching for the outlet he does connect with:)
 

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This would be a good thread to list as a "stickie", or whatever so the info is easy to find.

Seems like wonderful info to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you for all the advise! Especially the part of keeping to a routine, I think that will make a big difference.

I don't have much experience with adhd, my ex boyfriend have it but he is an adult and don't have it so bad. With disabilities I have a bit of experience, but we don't give them lessons, they just ride a few laps, get of, rest a bit and then ride a few laps again.

The thing with the jumping of the horse... Every week he have a different thing he wants to do instead of riding. He then keep on like a broken record about that activity he wants to do. Last week it was that he want to play with Lego (it is small building blocks for those who don't know what it is) and the week before that he wanted to go and draw. Then he just plain jumps off and go play with the chickens. I'm trying to figure out if he actually want to be in his room where he feels safe (because both that activities is indoor activities) or is it just a random thing he come up with? It just doesn't make sense as he loves being outdoors and don't mind the weather etc.

I really want him to continue riding as he really likes it when he is engaged and have a lot of fun with his friend who is riding with him. And besides that he is a really good rider.
 

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Folks with ADHD often have trouble with working memory, executive function, and handling sensory input. A person with ADHD can hyperfocus for hours on something, but have significant difficulties with "ordinary" tasks that neurotypical people take for granted. (A lot of this applies to folks on the spectrum as well, and folks with anxiety).

Working memory, aka short term memory, is the ability to hold small amounts of information temporarily - things like remembering the digits of a phone number, or the tasks we need to do before leaving the house. Working memory is related to executive functioning, which allows us to plan and organize tasks. Think about what you do to get ready for a ride: you get your gear on (boots, helmet, etc), you get the horse, you tack him/her up. How do you know how to do that? You have an image in your head of what "ready to ride" means, and you can take that image apart to its component tasks, and put it back together to see if you missed anything.
It's also what lets us remember a series of directions, like "walk your horse around each barrel, keeping the barrel on your left, keep your eyes forward and hands quiet".

People with executive dysfunction and impaired working memory can't do this in the same automatic way that neurotypical folks can. Two very helpful things are structure and breaking down each task into smaller parts. No, smaller than that. Yes, even smaller. Children with ADHD in particular will often avoid "boring" tasks because they seem too difficult and overwhelming - all those STEPS to remember! But grownups expect you to just know how to do that, and it can be very anxiety provoking (what we see as naughtiness can sometimes be masking anxiety over not being able to fulfill adult expectations).

Simple verbal instructions probably will not work well. Visual and kinesthetic activities on top of verbal may help. Talk with his mom about how he does in school - what tactics do his teachers use to help him succeed? What helps him at home?

Break the tasks down and help engage him. Remind him and praise him for following directions - "Hi, [x]! Good job remembering your helmet this week." If the horse isn't already in - "Okay, we need to go and get [horse]. What are two things we need to get him safely?" (a halter and lead rope!) "Great! Can you go and get the red lead rope?" etc etc.

Use pictures - get together with his mom and make a book of *his* riding things. The helmet, the shoes, the horse he uses, the halter and lead rope, the mounting block, hay bales, basically EVERYTHING. And try to keep the things consistent - use the red halter and lead rope every time, use the same horse/pony if possible. Heck, have him go with his mom to a tack shop and pick out his own halter and lead rope to either bring or leave at the barn. If it takes all 30 minutes to tack up the horse, that might just be how life is. The next week it might take 28 minutes, or only 20. It's a process. It's apparent he enjoys the animals. Maybe one lesson is bringing the horse in, grooming him, and feeding him two flakes of hay. Confidence and attention can be improved in lots of ways. Just remember that his brain is literally wired differently than yours, not just in the way a neurotypical child is different developmentally.
 

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^^LOVE the suggestion about the book of riding things. We did that and also would post the same pictures around the barn in areas in which those items were commonly used.
 

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Try to incorporate whatever his 'thing' is into his lesson.


If he keeps jumping off, teach him some basic vaulting stuff/emergency dismounts/relay/PC games style stuff. Maybe he vaults off, runs to the end of the arena and grabs an item of tack that you call out, brings it back and tells you where it goes. It'll build his balance and feel. You won't be getting him to absorb any theoretical teachings traditionally at this point.


Bring the chickens in the area and herd them. Get him learning to turn and steer.


Maybe, instead of Lego, your lessons is building a jump course with the craziest, scariest jumps.


AdditudeMag is a great website.
 

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Hi everyone! I want to hear your thoughts and experiences. I'm a riding instructor and I have a boy, age 8, with adhd and a very short attention span. His mom hoped that the horse riding would help. But I'm struggling to keep him on the horse. When he arrives he's very excited to ride for about 2 minutes, then he runs of to go and play with the chickens and the sheep. It's a struggle then to get his attention on the horse again and then after about 5 minutes of riding he decides he have had enough and jumps of and go and play with the chickens again. His mother said I must be very strict with him but that doesn't help, he just switch of mentally. I anyway don't think you should force a kid to ride?? I really don't know what to do! His mother is a very difficult client so I must keep her happy too馃檲 I play a lot of games with them on the horses, which he likes, but only for a minute or two... Any advice would be greatly appreciated 馃槉

Hello, I have ADHD and I used to be a kid like that. :D haha, sounds like you are describing me. First of all: being strict isn't gonna help. The kid can't help himself and he is acting like that because there are a lot of visual and new stimuli. If he likes animals you can motivate him to ride by expanding the activities you do with the horse. I would offer lots of variation and praise him when he learns a new skill. When he discovers he can bond with the horse he might be more inclined to spend more time. Kids with ADHD are high energy easily bored. Also: it is somewhat compulsive to want to see and touch everything if you have ADHD. It is tiring because you can't seem to stop yourself. Get the kid to attach to you so he feels safe and can relax a bit. If he is a smart kid you should provide enough variation and a challenge. A good challenge got my attention as a kid, even though I used to be all over the place.I liked to learn.
 
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