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  1. #1
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    Sep. 15, 2005
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    Question Instructors, have you ever had to remove a student from a lesson? ETA Student is 7.

    I had to in one of my lessons last night. I feel a little bit bad about it but it needed to happen.

    Some background, I travel to a different barn to teach lessons a few times a week and my first lesson of the evening is the younger, very beginner kids.

    The one littlest girl is the one I had to excuse from the lesson. She's very young mentally (only 5 yrs old) and has a pony with a bit of an attitude. Pony is easy to get going but not as easy to get stopped (not impossible and not totally ignorant about it but you have to be firm). We put a different bit in which helped. When they first came to lessons her parents had said she had been doing walk/trot. Third lesson in, pony spooks (justifiably - not at nothing) and she comes off. Fourth lesson pony decides it is NOT going away from the other horses, turns around starts trotting back to the other horses, girl gets scared, starts balling, drops the reins and ends up coming off. Not good.

    So I decided that we needed to do 1 on 1 & lunge lessons. We did that for over a month and she seemed more confident and her pony was doing well, listening, turning, stopping when she asked. Her mom said she's motoring around at home no problem.

    Last night we all figured she was ready to try riding with the other girls again (theoretically, it's not so fun to ride by yourself when you're little). She was doing well for the first 10 minutes and then she started to get upset. Her pony wanted to follow another horse (just at the walk) and walked a little faster which she didn't like, so she asks it to slow down and he gives her a little head flick, not really much at all, all the while I'm only about 15' away talking her through it, she's doing just fine but started replying with "I can't! I can't!" and a meltdown ensued. We're talking full on bawling. I went over and held onto the pony and asked her to dismount and told her "Today is just not a good day to ride".

    She's obviously terrified of a) riding with other people and b) her pony. The pony is adorable but honestly too much for her to handle just yet (not what I'd pick for a timid beginner at all). Her confidence is very shaken and she's just not strong enough or mentally ready to deal with such a challenge. I think she might just be a bit too young for group lessons. One of the other mom's offered to bring one of their ponies next week for her to ride and I really hope this little girl's parents take her up on her offer.

    My question is, speaking of yesterday's lesson meltdown specifically, would you have done anything differently?

    Are there certain scenarios/situations that you will remove a student from a lesson? If so, could you share.

    The action plan from here on out. Lunge lessons and private lessons for as long as it takes, all summer if need be. And hopefully they'll take my suggestion to find something more suitable seriously. There isn't much I can do about which horses the kids ride. (I could say "Please don't bring that horse" but for most, this is what they have and what we have to work with)

    (As an aside... She came back in later and apologized and gave me a hug, so we're still on good terms lol).
    Last edited by Brigit; Jun. 17, 2011 at 05:10 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I'm not currently an instructor, but I have taught little kids at summer camps (though not as young as 5). I think you did exactly the right thing. There is nothing to be gained by a terrified (justifiably or not) 5 y/o kid riding a not entirely appropriate pony while having a meltdown. Maybe you have an older more competent child who would be small enough to school the pony? I hope the parents let their kid try the other girls pony too. It sounds like she could do with a confidence boost!
    "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
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  3. #3
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    She sure could. I really hate seeing kids that scared/upset/frustrated or whatever it is that's causing them to not enjoy themself & their horse.

    I do have an older girl who's a pretty good little rider that I was thinking of getting to ride the pony next week. Heck, I'm about ready to get on it myself! LOL
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  4. #4
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    Nov. 4, 2003
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    You absolutely did the right thing. That situation was not going to improve but only continue its downward spiral.

    I love your plan for her/the pony's future and applaud you for showing wisdom!

    While I haven't removed a student yet, especially since I work with adults primarily, if I saw any sign that their behavior or the horse's behavior was entering the Danger Zone, I would not hesitate to stop it.
    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.



  5. #5
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    May. 16, 2005
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    I had the luxury of some neighbor girls who came as
    working students when I was teaching a class or college
    kid riders. One woman was so terrified to be on her
    (saintly) lesson mare, that we put a leadline on the mare
    and one of the neighbor girls walked and trotted with
    her through the entire five weeks of lessons.

    Could you get the parents of this child (or an older
    sibling) to come and keep a leadline on the pony so
    the little girl will feel safe during the lessons?
    Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
    Elmwood, Wisconsin



  6. #6
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    I also think you did the right thing. When a kid has a meltdown like that, there's really nothing else to do. I'm glad the parents are understanding. I've had to kick a kid out of a lesson once, and lost the client over it. Of course I pulled her out because she wasn't listening to me, getting frustrated, and taking it out on her pony, and it wasn't the first time we'd had problems like that, so I wasn't too sad to lose those clients.

    IMO though 5 is a little young for group lessons, especially on a difficult pony. Are the other kids so small as well, or is she the youngest? If there's an age difference (even just a couple of years) I think that could make it worse, as she might not be able to do what the bigger girls are doing it. I also think many 5 year olds are too young to be left "on their own" in a typical group lesson, if that makes sense. Especially on a somewhat challenging pony. I've found too that while group lessons are more fun, as long as the kid gets to play with her pony with the other kids and doesn't feel left out, private lessons are fine too. Better, in fact, if she's getting scared in groups.



  7. #7
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    I think you did the right thing. The other kids wouldn't get anything out of the lesson if you had to spend the whole time right near that pony and consoling the little girl. And, SHE wasn't getting anything out of it either.

    My son is older, recently 9, but he has some emotional issues and gets frustrated and melts down easily. I've had him in group lessons in other sports and they did not work out well, some lessons were OK, but some were horrible, he took up too much of the instructor's time and that's not fair to anyone. When he started riding last year, I signed him up for private lessons and that's still what he's doing. I'm watching carefully for when I think he might be ready for a group, but he's not there yet.



  8. #8
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    Sep. 15, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robin@DHH View Post
    Could you get the parents of this child (or an older
    sibling) to come and keep a leadline on the pony so
    the little girl will feel safe during the lessons?
    This is a good idea & definitely a possibility in the future. Her mom was going to keep her on the lead line last night but the girl told her mom she didn't want that. I think if/when she comes back to the group scenario I'll have her mom do that until we're absolutely sure she's ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by CosMonster View Post
    IMO though 5 is a little young for group lessons, especially on a difficult pony. Are the other kids so small as well, or is she the youngest? If there's an age difference (even just a couple of years) I think that could make it worse, as she might not be able to do what the bigger girls are doing it. I also think many 5 year olds are too young to be left "on their own" in a typical group lesson, if that makes sense. Especially on a somewhat challenging pony. I've found too that while group lessons are more fun, as long as the kid gets to play with her pony with the other kids and doesn't feel left out, private lessons are fine too. Better, in fact, if she's getting scared in groups.
    Personally I agree! 5 is very young to be riding. I have one 5 year old at my barn and she's a very different personality, nothing phases her. Still very young but she doesn't have that fear that this one does. There is another 6 year old in the group lesson and while she's small, she's learning to be more assertive and is doing very well, she's also been on horses all her life. Different people & personalities cope in different ways and learn at different rates. The really young kids are most definitely more challenging, I'm glad I can do a private lesson with this little one. We'll get this figured!
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  9. #9
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    And thank you all! I'm glad the way I handled it was the way you would have too. It's definitely all a learning experience as you go.
    As you said, she wasn't getting anything out of it and I really would have spent most of the time with her which isn't fair to the other kids.
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  10. #10
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    Apr. 5, 2011
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    Brigit, I definitely think you made the right decision.
    A similar situation happened with one of my younger students (6yrs old) and I retreated to the same solution....
    One time I also excused one of my students (13yr old teenager) from my lesson because I simply would not put up with her bad attitude: she had a "bad day" and let it out on her horse (rough-handed etc.). As she was un-tacking her horse she thought about what just happened and later also apologized to me.
    As Instructors we should always strive to lead with a good example and help lead the younger generation in the right direction.
    I learn something from my clients every time I give them a lesson to help me (in turn) become a better teacher
    Your plan concerning private lessons is the right path for your student; but I would also be very honest talking to the parents concerning the right mount for their daughter. After all, YOU are the professional and they pay you for your knowledge, right?
    Classical Horsemanship



  11. #11
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    May. 17, 2003
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    5 is really young to be in a group lesson with even slightly older kids, or to maintain any level of riding focus for very long.

    I'd talk to her parents about taking a different approach. 2 or 3 of the same age in a lesson would be OK, I would think. But I'd also keep it pretty short.



  12. #12
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    The only different thing I would have done is only 1 other little girl in with her who is about at the same level as her. Otherwise, if she's happier being alone, keep on teaching her alone. At 5 years of age, it's whatever makes the child COMFORTABLE. Confidence is a big issue for this little peanut and she feels more at ease with you alone at this point.

    5-year-olds do not have a whole lot of lifeskills, let alone riding skills. So they easily get overwhelmed and once they're overwhelmed, they redline to a meltdown. She's as green as they come and learning on a slightly willful pony to boot. They get scared easily and once scared in a situation, tend to repeat being scared much quicker the next time because they're anticipating something bad is about to happen (whether it really does happen or not is irrelevant in their little mind).

    You need an assistant and both little girls need to be attached to you via a longe line. One gets to practice with the assistant and the other gets some one-on-one time with you and then you switch off, every 10 minutes or so. That's about as much attention span as most 5 year olds have anyway.

    Child still gets talked through the lesson on what to do, but you holding the longe line offers her a security blanket, if for her psyche only, but also a bit of added control from you should pony get naughty as you can rope in the pony and give it a darn good scolding. Child has already learned pony can be naughty and takes control of the situation and it's rather scary for her to lose control... and it rightly should scare her, because even a pony can cause her some physical damage should she come off.

    This child is not ready for a bigger group lesson until she is able, ready and willing to think through a situation being presented by pony, and react to it with some measure of tougness and persistence until she accomplishs what she wants from the pony and the pony is consistently giving in to the child. 5-year-olds don't really have a lot of strength and even a small pony can ignore a child tugging on the reins as it doesn't mean much, and pony can pull the reins through her fingers lengthening the reins making them useless to the child anyway.

    That being said, this pony could teach her a LOT, especially about developing some perseverence and mental toughness which every child does need to develop, and this does come along but each child develops it at different times in their young life - some seem naturally born with it, others learn it around 6 or 7 or 9 years of age. I would continue teaching her with the pony, but keep the pony under your personal control. I would also ask the parent not to let the child ride the pony at home unless the parent is attached to pony with a longe line too - and if necessary, teach the parent how to control a pony via the longe line. An accident at home while she's "practicing her lessons" at this stage will put enough fear into the little girl to put her off riding forever.

    Otherwise, encourage, encourage, encourage, encourage. And test her knowledge like a teacher at school - they ask out loud what is 2 + 2... the child answers, "4".. Right! You ask - "when you want to stop pony, what do you do?" "child - "pull on reins", "Right! Well done. How long do you keep pulling on the reins?" child - "until pony stops". "YES! WELL DONE. Then what do you do?" Child - "stop pulling on reins." "YES, Very good!" So the point of the question was to teach her to persist until she gets what she wants from the pony. That's the real goal at this stage of game. As child learns she can get what she wants from the pony, aka STOP or GO WALK, then her confidence builds, ......... because she has CONTROL. And control to a young child is a big deal at this age. This is the age they start wanting to control what clothes they wear to school, etc...



  13. #13
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    Apr. 6, 2010
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    I've actually had DD removed from a lesson by her trainer. I also 100% backed the trainer on the reason why DD was removed.
    You handled it correctly and hopefully kiddo's parents will come up with a better mount. One of DD's goals this year is to gain confidence in the saddle at all gaits because she was out horsed and had a run of bad luck. Building back her confidence has been a PITA and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. No child should be scared of their pony. Even if Pony is a four letter word for a reason!
    Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
    Originally Posted by alicen:
    What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.



  14. #14

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    I have had to excuse students before for multiple reasons. The one time that really stands out in my mind was a young girl, about 12 years old. She kept telling me "I CANT" to everything I asked her to do. We arent talking major Dressage here. We are talking W/J Western Pleasure. After the third "I Cant" I told her to stop her horse and dismount and said "If you are going to fight with me about what you can and can't do, you obviously dont need lessons. You are excused." She was floored I actually dismissed her.

    You did the right thing. Sometimes they need special attention and sometimes they need to be told that thier behavior is completely inappropriate and will not be tolerated.
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  15. #15
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    Sep. 15, 2005
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    I thoroughly agree that when it all boils down to it there is one important factor "Control". Nobody likes being out of control and it's scary, no matter what age you are. Heck, there are days when I'm attempting to ride the dirt bike my boyfriend bought me and the thing "takes off" on me and it scares the heck out of me! LOL

    This little girl is just that, very little and scared. I felt that she needed to not ride that day because I knew I wasn't going to be able to improve the situation in a group setting and she was past the point of no return for that day. Like I said before, we're going back to private lunge lessons for this little one. The last thing I want is a little someone to quit riding or be terrified, I'll do whatever I can to help her out.
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  16. #16
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    I think you have a wonderful attitude and are handling this situation well.
    It sounds like the parents are supportive and willing to follow your lead. I'll bet by the end of the summer she will be riding with much more confidence. Good job.



  17. #17
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    Thanks again! I don't do this for the $$ (although it is nice & does help support my expensive sidesaddle fancy! lol), I do it because I really enjoy it and enjoy seeing the kids progress.
    I had two major success stories lately. One was a little girl (who was an excellent rider) that was terrified to canter and now she's cantering like a fiend! The other was a little girl that was terrified to jump (again, a terrific, solid little rider) and now she's doing it no problem! The other night she even did a little vertical! Feels so good to have success & help them improve their riding & confidence!
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  18. #18
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    Rare is the 5yo with the concentration and patience and physical strength to handle a group lesson on a slightly unsuitable pony. I suspect that like many little girls, she LOVES her pony, but she's a bit scared to ride him.

    Five seems very young for a child to be handling even a very good pony for a group lesson an it sounds like she has a naughty pony. (Is that a redundancy?)

    I agree that there are times when evicting a rider from a lesson just makes sense. I had a trainer for many years who would do it fairly regularly. If you were not going to do what he asked, he'd ask you to ride in, dismount and properly put the horse and tack away because there is no point in wasting the time of the trainer, rider or horse.
    I actually have withdrwn from lessons underway because of circumstances. When I was in the middle of a divorce, I had a lesson that was going badly and since the horse was one that "had his moments" I didn't want to push my luck. I asked to jump a small, simple line and then end on that.
    More recently on my lease horse who was coming back off 2 weeks off because of a minor foot problem, the horse was nuts (only one short flat ride the day before.) He was not listening to anything and charging around to the point where I felt he wasn't really safely under control. I asked if I could come back the next day for a full flat lesson instead and then added an extra jump lesson later in the week after horsey had a bit more work in him. The night I withdrew a couple of other horses in the lesson were also very jazzed up (early winter) and Monroe was just adding to the situation. I just stayed on and hacked a bit to get him working and listening.
    F O.B
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  19. #19
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    I really like how you didn't blame either the girl or her pony, but just said it wasn't a good day to ride.

    That way the girl doesn't hear from her trainer that her pony is bad, or that she can't ride correctly. She can keep her self-esteem, won't get even more afraid of her pony, and will hopefully regain her confidence quickly.

    Well done!



  20. #20
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    If I were the girl's mom, I would think you were handling it just fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robin@DHH View Post
    I had the luxury of some neighbor girls who came as
    working students when I was teaching a class or college
    kid riders. One woman was so terrified to be on her
    (saintly) lesson mare, that we put a leadline on the mare
    and one of the neighbor girls walked and trotted with
    her through the entire five weeks of lessons.

    Could you get the parents of this child (or an older
    sibling) to come and keep a leadline on the pony so
    the little girl will feel safe during the lessons?
    I second this ^
    My daughter had many "lead-line" lessons at the age of 4, and I personally worked with a therapeutic riding center and was the lead-line person for many (MANY) lessons. The person holding the lead-line can offer as much or as little direction as needed. They will also get in tremendous shape if trotting is involved!



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