Well, since you laid it all out here on COTH, I'll give you my unvarnished opinion. :) As the instructor, I think you should have brought up the safety issue with the pony a LONG time ago. A pony that bites and has terrible ground manners does not have a place around small children. I don't think you did this family a good service by agreeing to work with this pony, I think they needed to hear from you much more quickly that the pony was unsuitable and potentially dangerous. If a client insists on a dangerous mount for themselves or their child, that is a very clear reason to decline to be professionally involved.
Regarding a child that isn't participating appropriately in a lesson, I don't think it is reasonable to continue to teach a child that isn't listening or trying or that is behaving badly, aside from accepting a single bad day in the scheme of a long term trainer-client relationship.
Nine year olds are not necessarily great at putting their feelings into words. Kids often put negative feelings into bad behavior of one sort or another. In this case, I'd suspect that this child's behavior stems from frustration and/or fear related to issues with her pony.
ETA: I hope I'm not coming across too harshly, it's always much easier to analyze things after the fact.
Thanks for your reply. I do not think you were harsh and appreciate your honesty. To be clear: the family purchased the pony well before I knew them and they knew about his biting and had a separate trainer to address that issue, before and during my work with the pony under saddle.
What would I have done?
Yanked that kid off of her pony and spanked her; with her mother to follow in short order.
And then I would have fired them both.
It sounds like you really invested yourself into this situation to improve things for this family and their pony. Unfortunately, not all horse(wo)men will share the same outlook on what appropriate training is; or even agree on the need for it... and not everyone that has horses is a horse(wo)man.
And unfortunately, in this situation all you can really do is let go. But at least you can sleep easy at night, knowing that you did everything you possibly could to get through to them.
You showed far more patience than I would have. I don't tolerate brats, whether they're 9 or 99.
Alas, there are two kinds of people: People to listen to and heed Wise Counsel. People who must learn the hard way. For those in the 2nd category, you wish them well and walk away.
I would have required the parent to be present at any and all lessons on the pony, especially after any dangerous behavior by the pony was noticed. That would have eliminated any "confusion" as to whether the kid is not understanding or just not interested, and also protected you in the event of an accident.
About that same time I probably would have weighed the pros and cons of keeping them as a client. No matter what -- if you're in the ring teaching and a child is injured, you are liable. Sorry, but it's the truth. The kid's health insurance company isn't likely to give a rat's ass that you tried to tell the mom it was an unsuitable mount.....you're still teaching and the kid is still on the pony....guess who is going to get sued?
Sounds like you are right to get out of it.....
The mother does not seem to get it that her child can get hurt or frustrated with this pony. This is in the mothers hands as will be the outcome.
The child is probably a fairly normal 9 year old who has limited interlectual capacity to manage this rotten evil pony and is therefore scared and frustrated.
The pony sounds like it is not a child's pony unless it is in constant rehab and that fact makes it not a child's pony.
You have tried your best. You are in an impossible situation where you have no control over any part of the situation. It is lucky you have not been called to go back.
In my opinion if you are called to go back say "no".
This sounds like a child who simply doesnt want to ride..or just wants to kinda "fart around"...which is FINE provided the mother understands this.
I like to have my lesson kid's parents in the general area when I am teaching..just because that way they can -1. help child during practice and
2. see how child is learning and behaving..(thankfully, Ive never has dis respect)
OP-I talk to my kids' parents after each lesson, give them a rundown of what we did..espc if the parent couldnt be there for some reason. I think this keeps communication lines open...something you may want to start doing in the future?
I recently had a facebook status update that said "when you raise your kids to be the center of your universe, that’s how they come to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else’s. This is why we have so many self-centered, needy and generally dysfunctional people in my generation."
Sounds like a spoiled brat that needs a good steel tipped boot in the ass.
Being the mother of a 9 y/o who just last lesson told her trainer not only no but hell no I can sympathize with all in this situation. My previously well mannered child seems to have left the building and I am currently trying to find her. Mind you that hell no was a response for being asked to come down the quarter line and do a serpentine with a spiral back at A. She's done the exercise a hundred times, pony was not being naughty she just didn't want to obey. I'd have a heart to heart with the kid. Ask her why she is being difficult and not interested in learning from you. Being frank and honest with the kids will usually get the answer you want faster than freaking out or babying them. DD is an only child and therefore is spoken to like an adult most of the time.
Pony...I made a living off of ponies like that one and while I could rehab most of them into liking children some just weren't meant to be. I'd see if he took to driving or have a volunteer gaggle of kids to see if it's the kids he doesn't like or if it's just that kid with the hard hands and selfish attitude.
Mom...eh, you can't train stupid and arguing with them just makes you look bad. Her kid, her responsibility. Fact she sees nothing wrong with allowing pony to basically maul her child on a weekly basis is not your fault. Either pony will really hurt child and child will not want to ride again or child will hurt pony.
The kid had trouble before working with the trainer and getting "lessons" from mom. Kid starts with new trainer, who also schools pony, and "Mom is thrilled, and child and I get along well and make consistent progress. Pony seems happy and relaxed."
Then mom moves horses, lessons are irregular and infrequent, pony gets harrassed in turnout and no schooling, and suddenly the the pony is a monster, the kid throws tantrums in lessons and is poorly behaved in lessons, and the trainer is frustrated and surprised at the change.
Somehow I don't think a steel tipped boot in the ass is the solution....at least not for the kid.
I feel sorry for the pony. It sounds like he would be perfectly willing to behave if he were handled well consistently. Ponies can get very defensive if they're turned out with a group of bigger horses that bully them. The mom and kid will very likely take care of themselves. But that's just my opinion.
If any of my kids would have treated their instructor, coach, teacher, etc like that, there would have been consequences, big ones.
I think you handled it fine and I know you are worried about the kid, I would be too. But, you can't control what the parent is going to do.
While I agree with you that it is important to teach children that they are not the center of the universe and that you seem to have done that, I would like to point out that you did NOT accomplish this by booting your kid in the butt with a steel toed boot. Even though you quoted and said that tactic is easy.
It sounds very much like the kid is losing interest, and the pony is not one of those kind souls who tolerates "being farted around on" as one poster put it. If the child no longer wants to be "in a program" or -- just as likely -- mom saw the results of being "in a program" and decided the problem was cured or -- equally likely -- dad found out how much they were spending and threw a fit -- well, in all those cases OP needs to wash her hands of the situation, which she has.
BTW/OT -- Montessori schools are *very* structured, as private schools go, and the kid attending a Montessori school doesn't equate with her being spoiled. I have several friends whose kids have been kicked out of Montessori programs because they could not handle the structure. In two of those cases, going back to the local big chaotic public school worked a lot better for the kids.