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Need advice on finding opportunities to help my young son become a better rider

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  • Need advice on finding opportunities to help my young son become a better rider

    Hello! This is my very first thread on the forum, and I am nervous!

    I have an 11 year old son who loves to ride. He wants to ride someday for the US. Unfortunately for him, we live in a small area that is more geared to football! We don't live near the top notch trainers or large show barns (and quite frankly, although we are not destitute in the real world, we wouldn't have the money to board and show at one full time!).

    He has a wonderful trainer who is very focused on teaching her students the correct way to ride effectively and he has been complimented by several judges for his great position. He has won several Champions, Reserves, and year end Reserves in the beginner levels/crossrails and his small, devilish, fairly green (in show world only, this pony is dead broke!)pony that had basically been standing in the pasture of the boarding barn forever before we bought him won Most Improved Pony. He has now passed his small down to his sister and moved on to a fabulous large who was a Dressage pony and is now becoming a Hunter. He rode on our barn's first IEA team and won 2 seconds, 1 5th and a 6th. He missed qualifying for Regions by 1 point. He is sweet and respectful and easy to teach. He does best when instructions are given in a positive manner (ie, "hinge your elbows" instead of "don't lock your elbow") because he seems to focus on what comes AFTER the "don't" and then does it even worse! He also would not respond well to being yelled at constantly because he would just shut down and be afraid to ask questions. He has no problem being corrected, he just responds better when it is delivered in a more positive way.

    Anyway, I say all this to give you an idea of what he has done so that you will have some background. Here is my question. If you had a motivated child what "extras" would you do for him?

    We are traveling to Lexington, Ky the first week of April and I thought we might try to get him some lessons or something like a "mini-clinic" with a great trainer there while on vacation. I am looking at contacting either River Mountain Farm or Punchestown (based on a forum search) to see if they would have an opening in their schedule. Is there anyone else who would be good, or would one of these be better than the other based on the above description? Would it even be worthwhile to only do 1-2 lessons? You can PM me, or reply here.

    I have also been looking at some camps, but many of the overnight camps are for girls only. We would be able to travel and stay in a hotel for a day camp, I just have no idea which ones would be worthwhile. We live in Northwest GA. Does anyone know of a great day camp that is geared to more serious riders who are learning to jump 2'-2'3 courses? He will be showing crossrails and 18" vertical courses this year as far as I know.

    Is there anything else that you would do or suggest? We watch videos on Youtube and go to shows and he lessons twice a week and rides on his own in addition to that. We may go to 1-2 larger shows at some point during the season. I would love to find a clinic to take him to, but we don't own a trailer so I would also have to work out trailering. Anyway, I appreciate any help that you can give us! I know that he is at a disadvantage just from where he is located and the fact that my money printing machine is on the fritz, but I have to believe that if we give him as many opportunities as we can then at the very least he will become a fantastic horseman, and who knows, maybe he will make it to highest levels someday!
    My daughter's blog about all things eventing, fashion, and pony!

  • #2
    Sending you a private message!
    Can you stress-fracture your brain?


    • #3
      This might be out there but...if he wants to ride at an elite level? Have you given some thought to switching disciplines? I am thinking Reining (which fields a team USA on FEI levels and WC) or QH (great Youth program)here. Probably more available in your area or alot closer then the nearest big name H/J trainer, that is probably Nashville.

      Horses are horses and more is the same then is different, working with what is actually available near you would get him what he needs most-saddle time on good horses. Those are both somewhat more affordable than H/J as well...and most boys like the clothes better.

      Just a thought but IMO a serious one.

      I have done both depending on where I was living and the availability of both quality horses and good trainers within a sensible driving distance.

      When he gets older, goes to college, he can explore other options.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


      • #4
        As you will read on this board, the quality of pony clubs vary according to who is running them. But, it can be a wonderful resource for introducing a child to different clinicians and disciplines. Traditionally pony club has been geared to eventing (which may appeal more to a boy) however, it has introduced a new hunt seat equitation track that starts out at the D level.

        Here is the link to the pony clubs in the South region:


        Maybe one is near you. It can't hurt to try it out. Pony Club isn't meant to replace riding with your regular instructor, just provide that extra set of eyes we all need sometimes.


        • #5
          Well first let me say congratulations! your son sounds like a joy to have in the barn! it is always refreshing to find a young, motivated rider who takes joy in learning and doing things on his own rather than the spoiled ones who simply pass their pony to the groom and whine when they don't win.

          I think hunters is a great way for him to start-learning equitation and effective aids, a slower pace to catch on to these things, etc. but if he is serious about his goal (and yes, he is still young), a look into the jumpers/eventing is necessary. there are no olympics for us hunters plus, him being a boy, my guess is those faster paced and 'exciting' disciplines might keep him motivated and interested through his teens. of course this is all speculation, you know your son!

          Is there a pony club in your area? i did this as a kid for several years and truly enjoyed it. There are team competitions (rallys) for all different sorts of things-show jumping, combined training, games etc. even 'knowdown' which is a knowledge quiz-based competition. There are local teams, regional qualifiers, nationals, and even a USA team that competes internationally. I would take a look at USPC and see what they may have to offer him. they also have pony club camps that are not exclusively for girls, and often local clubs will put on clinics and seminars with local trainers. Sometimes you even get team coaches at rallys who are famous-we had Beale Morris as our coach one year for a rally and i just thought i was going to die! The other great thing about pony club is the rating system. You take tests both riding, written and verbal knowledge based to earn ratings. they have several levels, the highest being an A. getting to that is quite an accomplishment. The great part of pony club is that they focus on the entire horseman-improving your riding, improving your basic veterinary knowledge, ground work, barn management, tack, etc. they really cover everything!

          I think that if you can find clinics he can go to in multiple disciplines is a great way to start. Perhaps in lieu of summer camps you find a local trainer where he can be a working student-i started this around his age with my trainer and others, i rode many different horses/ponies and helped around the barn. learned a lot! it always made for a great summer. and he may even get some catch rides for little pony hunters in the future which is great exposure.

          I hope he continues with his riding and enjoys every moment of it!


          • #6
            As an aside - being a boy in pony club is a good thing in most places. The girls will be thrilled to have him. Should keep him interested in his teens.


            • #7
              I def agree w/ looking into area pony clubs to see which one might fit - there also might be another boy(s) in some of the clubs. At least where I live there if there are boys riding they're in the pony club vs a H/J barn. Also agree w/ Findeight - maybe he could do and be interested in some cross disciplines.

              Glad to hear we might have an equestrian star in the making.


              • #8
                I may be in the minority, but I vote "no" on pony club. While much that is taught through that organization is useful, too much is being handled/directed by suburban parents who have little horsemanship skills themselves (at least in my area). So the focus shifts towards things these "teachers" readily understand and can measure such as "dirt" in the stitching of the tack. Kids end up failing their ratings because they didn't spend enough time with a toothpick poking each stitch hole in their bridle. Not to diminish the importance of clean tack but we don't have toothpicks in our tack cleaning kits. (I'll put my girls' tack up against that of anyone else with whom they compete....)

                Wanna improve your child's chances of becoming an upper level rider? Saddle time, saddle time, saddle time.... Wanna improve those chances further? Have that saddle time spent on as many different ponies as possible.
                "I always remember you as quite the desk chair contrarian." - APirateLooksAtForty


                • #9
                  We hire people like Sally Cousins and other LBNTs to teach our kids. We don't have the same person every week although there are a few favorites who come multiple times in a year. Not a parent in the bunch. They are expected to have their own trainer and supplement with PC. We hire peopel from hunters, jumpers, eventing and dressage because it is important for the kids to be exposed to different disciplines. Not all members attend each lesson but there are plenty who enjoy attending with everyone. You never know what insight a new trainer may give.

                  I know it depends on the pony club but in our area our way of doing things seems to be the norm. Besides, pony club is what you make of it since it is run by volunteers. If you aren't happy with the way something is - get involved and change it.

                  ETA - yes, the emphasis on just how sparkly clean everything needs to be can be tiring. BUT those standards come down from National and you can't accuse them of being suburban parents.


                  • #10
                    Camps are a good idea. Pony club is a great idea DEPENDING on who runs it. 4-H taught me more than Pony Club so Im a bit on the biased side there but again, 4-H depends on who runs it as well.

                    Maybe try to get some sort of summer time deal at the barn he is riding at. At age 11, I was able to be dropped off at the barn one or two days a week and I did whatever I was told to do and earned extra riding time at no cost to my parents. I also groomed at horse shows for my instructor (as much as an 11 yr old could do) to earn extra saddle time. As he gets older, there will be more opportunities for this type of exchange.

                    I agree with Bent Hickory as well-saddle time on as many different horses as possible! I cried many tears over never having a horse of my own growing up but having to ride many different horses over those years gave me way more experience and an advantage over some of my friends who had the same one or two horses growing up.


                    • #11
                      Try to get access to as many horses/ponies as possible. I rode and showed exclusively on horses I did not own for years (not exaggerating--over a decade) before owning my own. Even then, I still ride others' horses and ponies a ton. It made me a much stronger, more versatile rider.

                      As far as switching disciplines, that would definitely be an option worth looking at for ya'll, IMO. I reined for a while (rode western for around half of my years catch riding) and it was a blast! I really do miss a lot of the western world. If he has his heart set on hunters (although I'm assuming he wants to do jumpers later, as you said he wants to compete internationally?) then I'd definitely try camps and clinics. Good luck! Having a big goal is nice, but the journey to get there is way more fun
                      Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                      • #12
                        Pony Club

                        South region pony club is great! I am a graduate from the region and still very involved (taught at the regional camp last year). There were several boys of different ages at the camp and all had a great time. They are all VERY involved with their clubs, typically it seems the boys all do one traditional sport (eventing, jumpers etc.) and then one "fun" sport (tetrathalon, polocross, games), sometimes on the same pony and sometimes on a different or borrowed one. Yes, there is occasionally some nit picking or stupid stuff at rallys and ratings but overall I think the South Region does a great job of looking at the big picture of teaching safe and competitive riding along with horsemanship, friendship and fun.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lcw579 View Post
                          I know it depends on the pony club but in our area our way of doing things seems to be the norm. Besides, pony club is what you make of it since it is run by volunteers. If you aren't happy with the way something is - get involved and change it.
                          Nope. No personal need or desire to "change it." Why should I? I found a path that suits me and my girls far better than any pony club. Besides, I have many other opportunities to spend my volunteer time where I can actually make a positive and meaningful difference.

                          Originally posted by lcw579 View Post
                          ETA - yes, the emphasis on just how sparkly clean everything needs to be can be tiring. BUT those standards come down from National and you can't accuse them of being suburban parents.
                          There's a big difference between "sparkly clean" and "neurotically clean" ....
                          "I always remember you as quite the desk chair contrarian." - APirateLooksAtForty


                          • Original Poster

                            Wow! Thanks for all the great responses!!!

                            I hadn't really thought about Pony Club, but I may try to check it out and see what is close and if they are offering a high level of instruction! It sounds like, as with anything, some are great and some not so much!

                            My son is very lucky because his trainer gives him opportunities to ride lots of different horses and so I will definitely pursue having him do even more in the summer. I think he would enjoy that, especially if he felt like he was doing a "job." I did "hire" him to ride his old small once a week to keep him schooled up for his sister (and is there anything more pointless than schooling a small? This pony KNOWS who is riding him and what they are capable of doing!) but I think he would love to feel like he was helping out others.

                            I am not opposed to having him try, or even change to, different disciplines. It's his sport, so he needs to be happy! Right now our boarding barn is a hunter barn, and as our ponies are happy as can be and we love the BO/trainer, we don't want to move so the most he could do would be to try to take some lessons on lesson ponies, but it is definitely worth a thought. For the record, I specifically looked for a hunter barn when he showed interest because I wanted him to learn to ride correctly, without having to worry about speed. I FULLY expected him to change to some sort of Western discipline but he LOVES jumping so I imagine he will eventually pursue jumpers and/or eventing if he continues with his goal to ride for the US. Right now he wants to try eventing, but he thinks Dressage would be boring (read: too slow and not enough stuff in his way to jump over!) so he hasn't seriously pursued it. That is one reason we were happy his pony had some Dressage training because it gives him options. Oddly enough, he LOVES the clothes because the breeches feel like PJ's and we got him tall boots (I know, I know, he should wait until he's 13!) which he thinks look like Darth Vader. He's also a really neat kid in that he is very popular, but absolutely has no desire to follow the crowd and could care less what they think about a boy being a rider. He knows what it takes to ride and so if anybody tried to tell him riding isn't hard or is for girls he would laugh!

                            I really appreciate everyone offering advice and being so helpful! I was scared I would get lots of people telling me there was no way for him to get better without moving to a big name and us winning the powerball or something! It sounds like we need to have him in the saddle as much as possible on as many different mounts as possible and check on pony club. I will also look for clinics and other opportunites in all sorts of disciplines as they arise. I think I have felt limited because we don't have a trailer, but I am sure if we get involved I can either pay our trainer or someone else going to the event to haul a sweet pony! If anyone thinks of anything else, please let me know!
                            My daughter's blog about all things eventing, fashion, and pony!


                            • #15
                              Errr....Pony Club does not really offer a "high level of instruction" on a daily basis even in the best clubs. It's not really a trainer/student kind of a relationship like the one between your regular trainer and you and your son. And he needs to bring his own Pony to wherever they meet.

                              Where in NW Ga are you located? Some of it is pretty rural and that way for 100 miles in any direction. Some is closer to civilization.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                              • #16
                                nobody here vouching for pony club said that it should be the exclusive learning environment. obviously it is an additional aspect to the sport/hobby that supplements training and lessons and adds a fun competitive aspect. not sure why there have been so many people knocking on pony club-must have had som awful experiences. yes, the quality of rallies, instruction, ratings, lessons, etc will vary from club to club. but the overall intent is there and for the most part i think that your kid will enjoy himself. as long as he continues lessons with his trainer there should not be an issue. i must have been very lucky to have had such a great pony club. Casanova Warrenton in northern Va-we are fortunate to be surrounded by so many BNTs and Olympians here, and several of them put on clinics, coached us at rallies, and were eager to help the local pony clubs with their events.

                                bottom line, look into what PC options your area has to offer. it wont hurt to try for a spell and see what the quality is. I know in N. Ga there is a large equestrian community, especially hunters and eventers so my guess is you will find a suitable PC.


                                • #17
                                  It sounds to me like you are doing all the right things. Saddle time and riding a variety of horses is important. It also helps to be in a regular program with a good instructor. Then, you need to keep your eye out for other training/learning opportunities--clinics, pony club, etc. I am also in support of doing pony club. Overall, pony club can provide a great supplement to a regular training program with lessons in horsemanship and occasional visiting instructors. In some areas, top quality instructors volunteer their time or teach clinics at a reduced rate.


                                  • #18
                                    Also sent you a PM
                                    CLIPclop Bodyclipping by Morgan
                                    Serving North GA with high quality clips.
                                    --> Just Press Start // '99 Oldenburg
                                    --> Always The Optimist (reg. Simply Stylin) // '02 Thoroughbred


                                    • #19
                                      I did 4-H and loved it but don't really think it would be a way for him to get into the higher levels. Great for meeting other kids and doing other activities but it doesn't add much in terms of advancing ridi g education. Get him to ride as much as possible and as he gets older have him look into into the EAP program and other scholarships offered by USEF. That may get him the chance to ride with professionals at higher levels that you cannot afford to train with regularly. And finding clinics in the area would be a good way to get noticed.


                                      • #20
                                        My son rides reiners, has a great seat and a soft hand. His first show, I was amazed,,a reining schooling pen is like the cross bx exp on a Friday,,,,and he negotiated and rated his speed, but was soft with his mare. All the trainers were watching him. As he went in for his first run, a well know trainer bellowed out "ride that mare like you stole her",,,and that he did....another trainer came up to him and shook his hand,,,that gentleman,,,said "you did great kid, keep it up"
                                        I was beaming.
                                        A good camp would be great, but I would try a well rounded camp for him ,,,some will let you bring your pony, most have an international staff,,,I lease horses to French Woods in NY,,,pm me with any questions