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Teaching beginners

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  • Teaching beginners

    What are some ways to keep a 12 year old girl focused and interested while teaching the super basics of horsemanship? I've taught beginners before, but not this young. She's doing well but I'd love some ideas to keep her from getting bored as she figures out how to keep her heels down and her hands quiet.

  • #2
    Fun facts about horses. Little trivia tidbits, especially if they are related to what she's doing at the moment, or something about that horse's conformation or past or abilities. Stories about your own adventures (short ones with a clear learning point,) especially related to what she is doing in the moment ("I remember the first time I did what you are doing ... " ) Short stories about learning adventures of famous riders she likes (if she knows of any.)

    There is nothing too small when someone is so new to something they are enraptured of. Sentences beginning "See where his ___ is ___ ?" with an explanation, are likely to be fully absorbed, if she is really keen.

    She might not say a word when you share stuff, but if she is really horse-crazy, you might be shocked at how much detail she will repeat later to others her own age ... as if she is the one with all the expert knowledge.

    It is a noble and sacred task to pass on horsemanship to another generation, the younger, the better. Especially as fewer are getting into horses all the time in many locations. Those who learn will be needed many years from now for the horses around then. Kudos for what you are doing.


    • #3
      If you have the ability and the second horse, take her hacking! Seriously, this was *the* thing that made me stick with riding as a tween and teen even though I didn't have money for a horse of my own. My instructor made about 1/4 of the lessons hacks and I also trail rode with her nearly every weekend. Learned to gallop a horse, jump logs, open and close gates, etc.

      If she's competent enough to steer without pulling on the horse's mouth too much, set up an obstacle course using cones and ground poles, get some upright barrels and have her trot a barrels pattern and take things from one barrel to another, etc.

      I also am not sure that private lessons are really great for a 12 year old beginner. Having another kid in the lesson allows them to learn from someone else's mistakes, take little breaks, etc.
      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

      1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


      • #4
        I teach lots of beginners. I do exercises on the lungeline, then we work on doing things that tech them how to guide the horse with reins, around cones, over poles, etc. I make up all kinds of "patterns" and work on those. It;s mostly about getting balanced and able to actually guide the hrose at that point, don't get into a lot with "bending" per se, but teach the rider that to turn right (for example) you use a right leading rein, and use the outside leg to help "push" the horse thru the turn. They need lots of VERY BASIC terms and processes.


        • #5
          I second (third, fourth?) those who have suggested hacking, obstacle courses, etc. Keeping things different really helps.

          I also agree that when your student has developed enough balance and control you could introduce a second rider when you deem it safe to do so -

          If you want specific games, pm me! Is she a mature 12 year old, or would she enjoy some of the typical kids games? (Red light, green light - simon says, etc.)


          • #6
            I teach loads of beginners ages 8-15 and have a bunch of kids who are now solid intermediates I started as beginners. And I focus on a dressage base - focus on developing an independent seat and try to teach them to apply rein aid last. Kids tend to grab the mouth first for everything. So LOTS of work on the lunge and we do a lot of fun stretching and such exercises on the lunge. Then we do off-lunge work IN THE ROUND PEN - my horses treat the work like lunge work but the rider gets a sensation of not being on the lunge.

            I set out poles all the time and give them patterns to navigate. And then they can trot these once they are good enough - they think they are jumping - and I tell them they are not ready for jumping but learning to navigate, use the arena and go over the middle of each pole nice and straight is the beginning to jumping! I might throw in barrels to go around or the like.

            We also do things on and off the lunge such as 2 point - which I use this mostly to teach them about softening their ankles, knees and hips - to keep their lower leg under them and still - heels down. And it helps them keep their legs still in the trot. We do seven strides of 2-point, 7 strides of post - 7 of sitting trot (I am lucky - I have several good beginner horses that have a jog so they can do this). They also do work without stirrups and bareback - beginners only walk.

            At the end of the ride, sometimes I will hand walk them - they sit without stirrups and sometimes without reins and they will airplane or sit into their hind-hiney and sit up (so they know how to sit fully on a horse) and close their eyes. We go for 4-5 minutes of a walk where no one talks. They listen for the birds and they focus on breathing. I have a lot of kids who LOVE to talk and will interupt a lesson all the time to tell me some personal silly story. SO I often NEED quiet and they often LOVE this activity too!

            Also, I will walk with them and show the geometry of an arena - explainthe letters - walk a serpentine and talk about the shape. I will talk about my modified rider-version of the training scale. Step one with the kids is to establish control over the aids to a degree and then be able to 'go-where-they are supposed to go" ie. be able to keep the horse on the first most simple geometry - the rail. Then change rein down the diagonal. Then a circle - then the serpentine.... explain the center and quarter lines. How can they go where I ask if they dont know these directions? So I will walk with them at the end and we will use the arena fully.

            And a hack through the woods is great even if I have to pony them or walk beside them.

            Letting them HOSE the horse by themselves after the lesson is a big treat too and helps me out as well.

            They also get challenged to tack and groom themselves and pick the horses' feet. Those are things they love to do but they have to arrive early or else that is their lesson.


            • #7
              OH - and I took 4 beginners to a horse show last spring - they only did IN HAND classes but it was great confidence and learning how to make a horse be respectful in hand - made a lot of ground to how they handled the horse from on his back.


              • #8
                Kinda depends on whether she's a visual or verbal learner - then you can tailor the exercises.

                She may like feeling the horses legs and being able to match up what she feel with an anatomy book, and learning how to take temp, basic horse first aid.

                If she's verbal you can combine feel of the horses' foot movements with telling you which leg is moving while she's riding.
                'What's in your trunk?'
                Free tools for Trainers and Riders