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Teen student abusing her horse - WTD?

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  • #41
    Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
    She needs to be seperated from the horse until she learns how to behave. It doesn't really matter how you chose to achieve that. (if it were me, she'd be eating dirt already.) You probably need to talk to the parents and come up with a joint plan.
    No. That will NOT help the girl, more likely it will only make matters worse. This is not something that she necessarily needs to be "punished" for either. You all hate it when a horse is punished for doing something it doesn't know is wrong. Obviously this teen has a sense of right/wrong, and she knows what she does is wrong, however in the heat of the moment she is just giving in to her anger and resorting to her coping strategy, violence. This does not justify abusing an animal, I am just saying it isn't as simple as that.

    My guess is that the horse helps her stay sane more than you know. However maybe a break from riding/competing may be a good idea until she can overcome this. But NOT separation from the horse.

    This type of temper is a lot more common than one might think, and not nearly as black and white as people assume. Therapy would definitely be the #1 choice. I'll bet she and her parents will be open to it, assuming they all aknowledge the problem and it is kept between you and the family (publicizing it would probably be detrimental).
    The girl needs to develop a new coping strategy for her anger, and the parents should be there to help (gently).

    As someone else suggested, maybe even an abusive home life or boyfriend. One of the most common factors in youngsters who throw tantrums like this is an abusive home life. Just because the parents appear nice doesn't always mean it's the same at home. I know it isn't your job to raise this child, but simply having someone that she can open up to may fix a lot of problems.

    Good luck OP.

    "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester


    • #42
      Learning how to deal with frustration and anger without lashing out in a rage or turning it inward can be difficult to do. Still, taking that anger out by actually physically beating an animal does raise a red flag to me that this teen may have endured abuse herself. IME children and teens who lash out in this way do so because someone else has done that to them.

      It's true that you aren't a psychologist or a counselor, but you are teaching this girl how to ride and train and learning to control negativity, anger and frustration while developing patience and persistence is something ever rider needs to learn. Plus, just being a nice, normal adult role model to this child might really make a difference in her life.

      If I were you, I'd have a quiet chat with this girl. I'd let her know that I was worried about her and concerned about whatever was stressing her out so much that she lost her temper to such a degree (clearly it's not the horse). I'd let her know very clearly, though, that that behavior simply can't happen in your barn and explain why. Then I'd come up with a simple system for handling that negativity. All riders deal with frustration to some extent, so I don't think you have to feel like a counselor to say, "before you hit the horse, you need to count to 10." I also think you are obligated to mention something to her parents.

      If the behavior continues or is a safety issue, you may need to ask her to leave and I don't see anything wrong with that.


      • #43
        Let's look it at this way. If she was repeatedly aggressive with a child, and was seen beating the child in the face with a belt in a small room where it had no escape, would we wonder what to do ?

        Honestly I'm amazed at the hesitantcy to speak to the parents.

        Please, step up and do the right thing. Call them asap.


        • #44
          Oh, they don't have to have been physically abused to snap and take it out on an animal. Believe me. Just being constantly put in unwinnable emotional situations can push a person to snap.

          The red flags for me are the fear of failure, and the previous history with the girls at the other barn where it sounds like the trainer there was the ringleader. She was branded a loser, she needs to prove she isn't, she almost certainly couldn't lash out at the people who hurt her...all that pressure has to come out somewhere and unfortunately the horse is right there and part of the 'failure' issues, and unlike the old trainer, the horse isn't an authority she had to respect, like it or not, and unlike the other girls, the horse isn't going to fight back or tattle. A spoiled ingrate isn't going to feel remorse about it, so unless she's a full-blown sociopath who can fake being sorry that well, she is probably not just naturally evil.

          I also wonder, if she's such a perfectionist she gets emotionally wound up about it, are her parents the sort who put a lot of pressure on her. She sounds like she's very stressed and it eventually blows up at the horse as an 'safe' target. I would want to talk to her and them about it, WITHOUT making it a dressing-down or accusatory kind of situation.
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          • #45
            Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
            She needs to be seperated from the horse until she learns how to behave. It doesn't really matter how you chose to achieve that. (if it were me, she'd be eating dirt already.) You probably need to talk to the parents and come up with a joint plan.
            This is so true. She would not be touching this horse again until there was a conference call with the parents. There are many triggers for frustration with young people these days, it does not always have to do with physical abuse to themselves. If she is seeing this horse as an object to take out her anger so much so that it was sweating, trembling and buried it's head on your chest, it is your responsiblity to see that this is directly addressed. Do not pussy foot around with this, the message this sends to her is that it is okay if she does this since not a soul spoke up about what an abnormal thing this is to do to any living creature. Do not just speak with her, it is beyond her capacity to address this herself or she would have come to you to apologize. Something is really wrong here if you are concerned that this is outside of your area of expertise or pay scale. Do you not see yourself as responsible for your students and their animals?
            "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK


            • #46
              I remember lashing out at my horse. I remember why it started, the first time, and Dancer's post comes very close. Girls can be extremely cruel and being "smart" just makes you the green monkey if you haven't got the teen social skills. I do think that I would have been better off with a different horse, something quiet minded and steady rather than brilliant and sensitive and requiring patience and skill I didn't have.

              I know it's outside the realm of riding instruction, by a lot, but modeling appropriate ways to channel the frustration that are positive are among the best things you can do. Stop, regroup, change focus, put the horse up for the day if need be.

              And Baroque Pony, I had my child late in life, after 15 years of marriage, therapy and a great deal of introspection and some discussion with my DH about my fears of being an unfit mother. I really feel your comment was a bit flip.
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
              Incredible Invisible


              • #47
                I was debating posting in this thread or not because this is a really touchy subject for me.
                I'm just like this girl.
                However I AM getting it sorted with professionals.
                I love my horse more than anything, and I would do anything for her.

                Long story short the cause of the problem is known and it's being treated.
                To me, she sounds like there's something very wrong and she needs to see a psychologist. Please talk to the parents about what has been happening with the horse. When it happened to me I felt like the worst person in the world and it made the problem I have WORSE because I didn't understand why I couldn't control it.

                Please get the parents involved to try and help her so the horse doesn't suffer and whatever has happened to/is happening with her is sorted. It won't be a quick fix though, these things take a long time to fix. And it will make it worse to try and force her to talk about things she isn't comfortable with.


                • #48
                  I haven't read all the replies, but I'm going to say to definitely approach the parents first thing. I was recently called by a few different people who had concerns about the girl who has one of my horses on lease. I immediately contacted her mother and she talked to the girl.

                  My situation was a bit more on the youth/not knowing basic horsemanship side, but it was taken care of immediately by the parents once brought to their attention. The rider was incredibly upset that she had been inadvertently possibly causing harm to my horse and with new rules in place, I have been able to leave my horse with her.

                  In your situation though, I do think her issues are deeper and that she has been exposed to someone else who can't handle their emotions, which can come in many forms. Hopefully her parents will understand she may very well need help to discover how to deal with her emotions. She probably won't be able to work this out on her own. She needs to have someone help her get control of her anger, which can take a long time.


                  • #49
                    I like the way Buck Brannaman described in his book "Faraway Horses" how he dealt with a similar (albeit much more serious offense where the horse died at the hands of the abuser) matter. From memory, a man tried to hitch a semi-feral horse to a wagon for some illegal chariot race. When the horse resisted, he flew into a temper and beat the horse so viciously with a 2x4 that the horse died.

                    The man was convicted of animal cruelty, and the Judge (on advice from a vet who knew about Brannaman) sentenced the man to attend one of Brannaman's clinics to learn how to start a horse properly. Brannaman was a bit unsure how he would deal having such a person in his clinic.

                    He wanted to hate the man, but thought the man would expect this treatment and would harden himself to it, so when the man showed up, Brannaman treated him no differently to any other student. He was the only person to treat man as such; others were openly judgmental and hostile. The man took a few days but started to open up and ask questions. Brannaman states that the man finished the clinic with his colt doing pretty well.

                    Afterwards, everybody else left but the offender. He went over the Brannaman, told him that the weekend had changed his life, and started to cry. Brannaman said "I hope what you've learned helps carry you through times when it's hard to control your emotions. I hope you find the wisdom you need to fix some of the things that aren't ok in your life." The man thanked Brannaman for giving him a start, and left.

                    Brannaman then says that he wanted to be mean and vengeful towards the man, for his treatment of the horse; but if he approached him as an enemy, he would not have accomplished anything. There would be no chance for him to learn a better way. "Horses, like people, should be treated how you want them to be, not how they are."

                    I found this little story most meaningful for me. I've had moments that I sure as heck ain't proud of. I work with people who have similar stories to tell, and I remind myself of this story every time I feel like I want to "take my temper out" on someone.

                    I'm not saying sponsor the student to a Buck clinic - but maybe expose her through books (The Faraway Horses would be a great book as it isn't a textbook, and it isn't Black Beauty either), videos, auditing clinics, suggesting clinics to attend etc to a way of being around horses that she ought to strive for. She is only young, and I would definitely intervene if I caught her "in the fact"; but instead of punishing her in a way that would harden her against your words, perhaps give her consequences.

                    If you do X, then you must clean ALL the back paddock/s. (A good example I once heard was "Next time you forget to water the horse, you fill the water trough with a drinking glass... glass by glass.") No punishment, but consequences. Just like you train horses.


                    • #50
                      Good grief. All this talk of therapy is fine but in the meantime what about the horse.

                      It doesn't matter why she is doing it, it has to stop and should have been stopped, especially after it has escalated to this:

                      had hoped through correction and setting a good example that she would improve, but it has been 8 months and she has become no better, and I have now caught her outright beating the horse (she whipped it into a terrified frenzy). When I rescued the mare from her the poor sweat mare buried her head in my arms (trembling and sweating) and I balled my eyes out.

                      Beating the horse in the face with reins (repeatedly for an extended time) while in its stall after a disappointing ride.
                      If that had happened in my barn there would have been immediate consequences. She would be separated from the horse THAT day and the parents told THAT day . She would not be permitted to handle her horse or ride unless supervised. Period.

                      Then they would need to come up with a plan to address the behavior- whether through therapy or whatever, That's not my job. Parents and teen need to address it together and the horse should be kept safe in the meantime.

                      Of course there is a risk they leave, but by having NO real consequences, you can be damn sure it will happen again. I can't believe people are suggesting you video the outbursts. That just says they will be permitted to continue.


                      • #51
                        I have in the past told a few teenagers that they would have to find another barn if they did not stop taking their own frustrations out on their horse. Either they left or they stopped the bs.
                        Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger


                        • #52
                          Exactly. And the trainer/coach hauls an abusive rider off a horse immediately when the rough stuff happens aka

                          -sorry that's not OK- lesson over now.

                          But beating a horse in the stall after a bad ride?-
                          There is no grey area there. This has to be stopped immediately.

                          Lots of possible excuses made here for the poor troubled beater but beater's problems can be dealt with away from the horse.

                          There's an old thread here somewhere about someone who was prosecuted and her horse removed because she beat him about the head.

                          The horse should not be allowed to be the rider's punching bag while people consider various options, therapy and meetings for months on end no matter how allegedly difficult her past or how allegedly cruel society has been to her- and I say allegedly because we just don't know.

                          What exactly have the consequences been for this person's behavior over the last 8 months where she has been abusive to her lovely horse?


                          • #53
                            Originally posted by Mardi View Post
                            This has been going on for 8 months and the OP has yet to talk to the parents ??

                            After the second or third incident, there should have been a Come to Jesus meeting.
                            I agree, OP needs to talk to the parents ASAP. And tell the kid that s/he won't allow that kind of behavior as long as she boards at OP's barn.
                            Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                            Originally posted by DottieHQ
                            You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.


                            • #54
                              fwiw, i am no therapist, etc..... but having been where this girl is way back when - it is a control issue.

                              she feels out of control and helpless to change her circumstances/horse/what have you.

                              so she needs to learn that there are some things that you cant change - no matter how much you want to.... and there are things you *can* change, but to do so you have to do it in steps a, b, c.

                              so i would think teaching her how to get what she wants from her mare would be step one. if what she wants her mare can't provide, she needs to understand that and have her use her energy in a manner that will help her reach whatever she is wanting....

                              i think it might be worth your time to talk with a real teen psychologist to get some ideas.

                              good luck.
                              Last edited by mbm; Nov. 10, 2012, 02:16 PM.


                              • #55
                                Originally posted by Crockpot View Post
                                Good grief. All this talk of therapy is fine but in the meantime what about the horse.

                                It doesn't matter why she is doing it, it has to stop and should have been stopped, especially after it has escalated to this:
                                i would be VERY VERY careful that you don't touch the kid and that you don't use force (even verbal force) - the kid is a minor and you are an adult - that opens you up to huge potential litigation and criminal prosecution.


                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by BaroquePony View Post
                                  Oh, and beating a horse in the face with the reins could put the horse's eye out if the buckle accidently hits the eyeball.

                                  I bet she'll make a charming mother.

                                  i sooooo hope that you never deal with a teen that is troubled.... this kind of comment said to a teen, could have lasting and negative damage.


                                  • #57
                                    While I never got to the point of outright beating my horses, I WAS the angry kid lashing out at anything and everything. My parents were divorcing (an ugly divorce that involved accusations of adultery and screaming matches had been leading up to the divorce for YEARS). I was the smart kid in school with no social skills, and you get mercilessly picked on in that area. Horses were the one thing in my life I felt like I had any control over. When something didn't go right, it reduced me to a mindless panic and left me feeling helpless. I'd ride harder out of a desperate need to get that control back, because not being in control of at least one area of my life was terrifying to me. Probably didn't help that I had a trainer very similar to this girl's last trainer (compounded by the fact that my trainer was my mom). Getting ripped apart in the warm-up ring was pretty standard practice, and I don't think I had one show from 11 to 17 (when I stopped showing) that went without a complete and utter meltdown at some point during the show.

                                    I had a younger horse I was warming up for a trail class at a show, and we were having MASSIVE issues at the gate. I was getting frustrated, angry, panicky... The horse was reacting, and it was getting ugly. I will be forever grateful to the trainer who quietly stepped in without judging me and asked if I'd like some help with the gate. She walked me through how the element was properly ridden, and how to properly handle my horse through the obstacle. When we completed the obstacle successfully several times, she worked with me through every other obstacle on the warm-up course, showing me how to handle them, and how to subtly and effectively correct my horse without losing my temper. She also gave us a 30 minute lesson on riding off of leg, and had me doing schooling figures without reins. That ride, more than anything else, changed my entire life. I learned more about myself in that hour and a half, how to handle anger appropriately, how to ride... I will be forever grateful to that trainer. In the class, I forgot the pattern (something I had never done to that point) but it was the best pattern I'd ever ridden. That class meant everything to me at that show, and the fact that the trainer had even come by to watch me go... It will always be one of my favorite show memories.

                                    I would approach the girl without the parents, because IF something is happening at home, she's NOT going to talk about it with them there. I know I didn't. Without my parents present, it was a lot easier to talk about the things that were really upsetting me. How can you tell someone that your mom cussing your dad out in the warmup ring is why you're so upset when your mom is right there? I don't think I would have even been brave enough at first to talk to my mom about it even with help.
                                    Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


                                    • #58
                                      Originally posted by Calamber View Post
                                      This is so true. She would not be touching this horse again until there was a conference call with the parents. There are many triggers for frustration with young people these days, it does not always have to do with physical abuse to themselves. If she is seeing this horse as an object to take out her anger so much so that it was sweating, trembling and buried it's head on your chest, it is your responsiblity to see that this is directly addressed. Do not pussy foot around with this, the message this sends to her is that it is okay if she does this since not a soul spoke up about what an abnormal thing this is to do to any living creature. Do not just speak with her, it is beyond her capacity to address this herself or she would have come to you to apologize. Something is really wrong here if you are concerned that this is outside of your area of expertise or pay scale. Do you not see yourself as responsible for your students and their animals?
                                      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                                      • #59
                                        Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                                        1. Meet with the parents without the kid. Relate what you saw the child do, on what occasions. Tell them you are concerned for kid, but will not allow kid to harm horse. Suggest parents talk to school psychologist or counselor. Tell them exactly what you will do if kid does it again - I will immediately take horse away from her and send her to sit outside. I will call you to come get her, and she may not come back to the barn until she writes me a letter apologizing and explaining why her behavior is unacceptable. If I can't stop her, I will not hesitate to act in the best interests of the defenseless horse.

                                        2. Follow through- including not allowing her back in the barn the same day, or on subsequent days, until she acknowledges why her behavior was unacceptable.
                                        I second this! Rescue the horse and send her home immediately!
                                        "The Prince" aka Front Row
                                        Cavalier Manor


                                        • #60
                                          I do think that if the kid has self-esteem issues-- big ones-- that changes how you deal with the situation a bit.

                                          IME, someone who has poor self-esteem will go to the ends of the Earth to defend themselves when that seems to become the issue. Yes, the kid needs to know that she needs to cease and desist with mistreating the horse. But that can't come with any shaming. Teaching her *how* to do otherwise, or helping her step back and figure out just what she wants from her relationship with her horse is the next task.

                                          Good luck, OP. I hope all the talk of everything from psychiatrists to sheriffs hasn't overwhelmed you. You don't need to fix everything about this kid's life, just the part about how she relates to the horse. Actually, you'd be surprised how many of us were helpfully "raised" by horse trainers. It takes a village.
                                          The armchair saddler
                                          Politically Pro-Cat