View Full Version : Help With Young Rider
02-23-2009, 09:50 AM
I give a couple lessons a weeks to some of my friends kids. I always thought I was a pretty good teacher, but I have one girl now that just frustrates me to no end. She does have some mild neurological problems and is small for her age. To watch her walk around you'd never know--she's just not going to be the most athletic kid. However she is very smart and can almost recite verbatum things I've told her weeks earlier. She is 10 now and had been riding on her own pony for the past few years. She does have good balance because it's remarkable that she stays on so well given her extremely poor position. I just CANNOT get her to sit up straight and keep her legs underneath her. I'm not trying for Louisville quality equitation (what I teach is basic horsemanship with a little hunt seat saddle), I just don't want a turtle back with legs literally in front of the saddle. We work on 2-point alot for the legs, but as soon as we do a posting trot, the heels come up, shoulders hunch over, legs swing forward and the girl starts posting with her hands because there's no other way to get out of the saddle. Here are some of the things I've tried explaining: Your poor pony's mouth is doing all the work (if I have her drop her reins, she just holds the front of her saddle). You don't walk around all hunched over-so why ride that way? Imagine stretching your heels to pony's back feet, imagine putting 45 pounds of your weight in each heel, feel that spot on your calf where it is touching the edge of the saddle and hold it there (after the first posting step, the leg is gone). Use the shin muscles to hold up your toes, walk without stirrups with legs in position, try 2-point without stirrups while standing. I've had her watch other riders, I've had her "judge" me when I ride like her, I've explained why we want this position and how it's all about safety and comfort. Again, I'm not looking for perfection, but this child is about a far from correct as a rider can be. She seems enthusiastic, but I just cannot figure out why there has been so litte progress in nearly 4 months of lessons....Any sugggestions please?
02-23-2009, 10:20 AM
Remember every student learns at their own pace and some are faster than others. Yes, I had student who took longer than 4 months to get it, but she finally did. So, hang in there.
Does the pony lounge or do you have a horse/pony that you can use for a lounge lesson at least at walk and trot? The kids here call it the NO Hands lesson They think it is cool to be able to ride without hands. At the beginning of the lesson, I go stopping or stopping for emergency. I, tie the reins in a knot so that they do not flop all over. We begin with a walk, then do a trot. We do a series of exercises at both a walk and trot. We do each exercise at the walk first. Exercises - the first around we usually do hands on the hips; Airplane - putting hands straight out to the side; Twist - hands on hips or hands straight out - rider slowly twists to the inside of circle, then normal position, to outside of circle, and repeat; Head, Shoulders, hips, and Knees -I say a part of the body (head, shoulders, hip, or knees), I say, "head," they put hands on head, I say, "knees," they put their hands on knees, etc...; Crosses -the student crosses their arms across their chest or the back; and Windmill -I say, "sky," then the student puts either one or both arms (I specify) straight up in the air, then head the students puts arms straight ahead, I say, "down," then the student put their hands downward, then, I say, "tail, then the students puts their arms pointed backwards, and repeat; and you can also go from airplane to arms cirles. Any I have found these exercises help to build confidence, independence from hands, and start building seat and leg/foot strength. Adjust the exercises to the rider and pony.
02-23-2009, 06:39 PM
Have you read Sally Swift's Centered Riding book? A must read for all instructors, and Sally Swift's methods come from her own physical challenges (she has bad scoliosis that she developed as a child).
I too would put this rider on the lunge line until they are able to ride without hanging on. I would give the rider a "bow tie" (a polo wrap tied around the horse's neck) to hold on to until they are confident. This has two purposes, one to save the horse/pony's mouth and two so that you can adjust its length so that the rider is able to sit up while hanging on (they have to lean forward to reach the front of the saddle). The length should be so that it is tight enough that the rider can feel secure in holding it, but loose enough to allow the rider to sit up straight. the bow tie can also be used off the lunge line if the horse/pony does not lunge, let the rider hold it with one hand (the outside hand) so that they can guide around the turns with the inside rein (or vice versa if the horse/pony needs to be hld up on the rail). This will at least save the animal's mouth until the rider gets stronger.
02-23-2009, 07:45 PM
Thanks for the suggestons. I have read Sally Swift, and have used the bow tie. I take it off sometimes so this girl can't use it as a crutch. She has no fear issues and doesn't lack confidence. It seems to be mostly the bad habits from her previous 3 or 4 years of riding completely incorrectly in which she managed to stay on, so sees no reason to change. She will sit up straight at a stand still when I correct her posture, but within seconds will slump right back down so I think maybe it's ADHD and she just can't stay focused. (Though her mother, who used to show, hasn't let on to this possibility.) I will definitely try more lunge exercises, but am still open for more suggestions.
I ought to stay out of this because the advice has been so good and you already have forgotten more than I'll ever know. The riding with no hands on the bridle is a great idea, but I just have this suspicion that the child is doing what she has to do, given some physical issues she has. I'd consider it a miracle and blessing that she rides, likes it, and apparently is pretty good at it for a little kid with not much instruction. Like I say with my three-year-old horses: "They just need to be four!" Two years from now, she'll be twelve and, oh my, what a difference a little more size and strength might make.
My concern is that if you make an issue out of this, she might decide that she doesn't like riding, especially if her body or mind is protecting her in some way by the way she rides.
I don't ride with my legs out front, but I'm one of the best at the slumped shoulders and have won some world titles that way -- not advocating it, but it does let you relax in the saddle, stay light on the reins, and absorb the beat of the gait. I also seem to remember one of the greatest horse persons of all time winning The Big Stake three times on three different horses with her feet pretty far forward. So, IMO, there ain't nuthin' inherently wrong about riding a horse without classic posture and legs.
02-24-2009, 01:00 PM
So, IMO, there ain't nuthin' inherently wrong about riding a horse without classic posture and legs.
Thank you Sit! I can't talk for this little girl, but I sure do feel better after reading that. ;)
02-24-2009, 01:51 PM
What about giving her visuals and making it more of a game the whole time? Put leather straps or chains on her feet so if she points her toes down they fall off, or put a whip in her waist band (if the horse doesn't mind if it falls) in front of her nose and don't let her touch it because of slumping or something to that effect. Make posting like the quiet game to see how quiet she can sit on the horse. Then if she doesn't drop the chains or touch the whip with her nose (or whatever you come up with) she gets a lollipop at the end of the ride. Sometimes kids just need easy visuals or helpers and a reward for trying that they can touch, see, smell instead of oh I learned more today.
02-24-2009, 04:17 PM
riding takes a certain type of strength and muscle development and body awareness.... it also takes flexibility... I would suggest having this child do pilates, or ballet besides riding....I would say she needs muscle devloping exercises in addition to riding once a week....... ballet/pilates will also develop coordination.... also give her heels down exercises at home (stand on a step and stretch down and up, to loosen the tendons and to learn what heels down feels like)... also do the stand straight against the wall and press the small of your back into it
02-24-2009, 08:52 PM
I love the suggestion of putting chains on her toes !! And I was thinking myself as I typed the very first request for ideas about that certain rider who has won so many WC's----but at least she has her heels down!
02-24-2009, 09:11 PM
Yea the chains trick I learned from Christy Parker so she gets the credit!
02-27-2009, 07:18 AM
How about trying a different saddle. Her body and the saddle/ horse you are using may not be agood fit, SOmetimes moving the stirrup back or using a different saddle or even a little western saddle is a good idea for awhile. while you wait for her core muscles to strengthen. I think weak abs weak core is probably at the root of why she is slumping. I have also had adolescent girls hide their development by slumping as the age is awkward and they were embarrassed about their changing bodies. I have also had the tall rider too tall for the horse she was on slump. You can still teach them english but perhaps get a much better result if you let her ride in a little western saddle for awhile. This has worked for me. If the pony is broke enough you can put a leg wrap (snug but not tight around their arms a few inches above the elbow to remind them shoulders back. Another good one is say zip up your abs like you are zipping up a vest. I tell mine dont ball up , if you become a ball you will bounce and roll off. I tell them toes down and slouching forward is diving board position and do you want to dive over the ponys head into the ground.?? I have had a case where the small horse I was using did not fit with the tall long torso child I was teaching. She was just the posture you describe. For me it was thinking through the horse child saddle dynamics and rearranging everything so that it became eaier for the child to stay lined up and in good posture. My only disagreement with Sit is I think these children need to try to develop good habits and good posture is right up there . Yes, adults ride all sorts of ways and develop a style all their own in some cases winning world titles. I do not think we as teachers should make excuses for poor posture and poor habits though. In teaching children we would be doing a dis service to say its okay to not adhere to good riding principles because someday it wont matter. In most cases poor seat leads to poor hands and poor poor ponys mouth so it cannot be excused as good lesson ponies and horses are not indispensable. Mrs. Crabtrre used to say something along the lines of If they are riding that successfully in the wrong position just think how great they could be if they taught themselves to ride in the right position. I agree with that statement. I also do not think it is good for your inner organs to be compressed while riding or walking and I also do not think it is at all good for your back. same with sitting at this computer. I am slouchy right now and my lumbar area is showing much discomfort. LOL Anyway, you line up your body parts so you can have good balance and we must find away to keep children in good balance . It sometimes requires thinking out of the box.
02-27-2009, 08:05 AM
ANother thought. I demonstrate the effectof slumping. I stand un mounted and slump over in poor posture then I have someone "attack" me run at me and push me.just a little ---dont play this game with people who are mad at you LOL I completely lose my balance and suffer the consequencess of being out of balance and how it is when you dont use your core muscles .Fall or almost fall Then I demonstrate in good posture being"attacked" and I barely move out of place. This is the same on a horse.Try this your self. It is a great visual. You can catch your balance and stay put or you can be thrown foreward. And I tell the children if they want to have an easier lesson next time practice good posture during the week. At dinner time while doing homework the old walking with books on you head.
02-28-2009, 09:54 AM
Let me first start by saying HANG IN THERE!
I had not one, but TWO students with physical limitations (one also had a learning difference) and I was teaching them up down lessons at the same time. One rode on Mondays and Wednesdays and the other rode on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yes, you guessed it... I hated mondays-thursdays! Not because I hated the riders, I loved them! It was just so challenging to keep positive when it seemed like they would never "get it". Well, one day, months and months later, the one rider finally GOT IT! I cannot tell you how rewarding it was - it was worth all the wait. The other rider got it too (albeit about 9 months later) and all because I stayed with it. I quit worring about "when" and just waited "for" it to hapen.
I am going to assume that you probably rode equitation at some point in your life and that is partially why you want your rider to look like they know what they are doing up there. And I understand and agree that a hunched up rider looks unsafe and uncomfortable. But, in time they will straighten up to a position that feels right for them. I feel that so long as they are not flopping around or riding in a dangerous manner, they are probably okay.
I agree with all the rest: Put them on on a line. You can fashion a grab strap from the velcro saddle pad straps. Just take the straps that are used to hold the pad to the girth and attach them together in front of the saddle. Try lots of two point at the trot and eventually the canter. Also try trotting on the line with his/her hands reaching for the sky, reaching for the ears, hands behind the back and hands on top of head. Ths helps encourage a balanced seat. Which is the goal!
Good luck and don't worry!
03-01-2009, 11:52 PM
I don't want to steal your thunder, along the same lines there is a girl where I work that takes lessons and she basicaly gets on and the horse starts going wherever. To the wall, stand in the middle. She is just kind sitting there. (I am not her instructor) They are at a loss with what to do with her. She has been taking for almost a year and it looks like a month. Well, the instructor asked me if I would be willing to help her out. YES! I said.
Please help me come up with the right things to say and do. She has been trying to trot her lesson horse forever. It just walks like whatever. I want her to be more confident!
Thank you so much
03-02-2009, 06:56 AM
instead of going around on the rail, set up cones and make her go thru them(set up all different patterns)..... she has to concentrate....... I wouldn't even go to the trot until she can master intricate handling at the walk.... in fact I may even go as far as starting to teach her to side pass at the walk too.... get her using her entire body..... I would also have her stand still and get her horse to flex from side to side....
also she needs her confidence built up and taught to be more aggressive.... anyone who lets a horse wander around is uber passive...... she is not in command of the horse...
does she really want to ride is another question.....
03-02-2009, 09:44 AM
Thanks Aimhigher and jrchloe. I am aiming higher, and what I'm teaching is hunt seat where it's essential to have the heels under the seat in order to eventually be able to jump--even if it's only a cross rail. For supreme69, think about breaking the lesson down into very small parts. I learned this from a dressage teacher--don't expect a perfect 50 meter circle with a new horse, try for just a quarter of the circle, then the next quarter, etc. I now do this whenever I teach beginners anything new so it doesn't seem overwhelming. I say, we're not going to try to go around the whole ring-let's just go 5 steps, then 10 steps. Maybe your rider needs to try for just walking across the end of the ring with control. Or use the suggested cones and make a short pattern to follow.
03-07-2009, 06:33 AM
Thank you for the good ideas! PLEASE keep them coming. If you even want to PM me that would be great too. I used the cone idea and that was great! She really concentrated. (she is 12 or 13, but just kinda spacey) I worked on having her stand up in the stirrups, standing up on her toes then flexing her heel down and then doing the two point. I let her use my saddle to help with her legs and that helped a lot. But the main thing right now.......is getting her more assertive and steering the horse. I did figure 8's with the cones. The lesson horses there are very stubbron and unless you are a good intermeadiate rider, they walk a few steps and stand there, even when the rider is using her voice and legs. Frustrating. So, I think I may teach this student again, so lots of ideas! I have been taking lessons all of my life(and for the past 4 years from a very well known Equitation instructor) but have never had to share my knowledge outloud AND to basically a beginner. So......................
03-27-2009, 11:49 PM
OK, I must have picked up the chains about a zillion times. But one leg had definite improvement. The whip idea was the real trick! I hardly had to mention sitting up at all. But here's something I'm proud about: I felt bad about always harping to this kid about her position. So after complimenting her on the improvement with the one leg and posture, I told her about Helen Crabtree saying riding was 99% brain and 1% work. I told her that I thought she was a very smart girl so if she just works on remembering more then she can become a pretty good rider. This really perked her up and we finished on a fairly happy note. Thanks again for the aids.
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