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horsemanship essentials for lesson people

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  • horsemanship essentials for lesson people

    At our barn, once the lesson people can show that they can tack on their own they are allowed to come before the start of the lesson to groom and tack to be on their horse and ready at the start of the lesson hour. Over the past few weeks it has become apparent that our lesson people (predominately kids) are sorely lacking some basic skills. On Saturday, I spent 2 1/2 hours in a grooming stall clipping while multiple lessoners came and went so I had a great vantage point to observe and listen. This hammered home the point that we need to do something. I am thinking about running a mandatory horsemanship class for all lessoners who want to groom and tack on their own with the thought that if they don't want to attend, then supervised grooming and tacking becomes part of their lesson hour.

    So, 1) what do you think of this idea? 2) what would you teach? The areas that I saw that are lacking include things such as not picking feet well enough, not noticing if a shoe is not quite right, not grooming girth lines or legs well enough, inability to put a bit on a bridle, inability to bridle a horse that doesn't open it's mouth for you and practically eat the bit, etc.

  • #2
    I think horsemanship skills can never be overvalued, and it's a great idea. Maybe go over the reasons 'why' you want to do things certain ways and not just the 'how'. Go over the actual functions of tack and equipment as well so they understand the mechanisms of how a bridle or bit works the way it does, etc. Basic safety techniques can always be refreshed, too.
    The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it.

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    • #3
      I think the best way to approach this is to have someone around to supervise and keep an eye on things as lesson students tack up. Instructor, groom, more experienced lesson student, etc.; they don't need to be doing things for the students, just there to help or to dispense advice as needed. A lot of this falls on the instructor--if the horse comes out with an ill-fitting saddle or backwards polos or something like that, that's the time to have a quick minilesson on how and why to address that particular issue.

      As a lesson student, it's a steep learning curve. I help the kids in lessons after mine get ready, and there's always something new that can come up... the first time someone has to take off/put on a sheet, what to do if a horse pulls his foot away while you're cleaning it, getting rid of girth marks, figure-8-ing a bridle, whatever. It's an ongoing process, not something that can easily be covered in a horsemanship lesson per se. Today I rode a new horse in my lesson who has a weird-looking hackamore, and I had to ask someone to double-check that I had the curb chain correct. So I think it's important to recognize that there's always opportunities for "teachable moments," rather than trying to solve everything at once.
      "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

      Graphite/Pastel Portraits

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      • #4
        It sounds like a good idea. People, like horses, need repetition to learn. So, if they don't get it the first time....don't be surprised.

        If you catch a student doing something the correct way- stop and praise them and specifically say what you are praising them for: "I like the way that you cleaned that hoof by scraping all the junk out of it and then applying the hoof dressing."

        This is stuff I do in my classroom that increases on task behavior.....it works and has the effect of getting others to start doing the correct behavior without directly telling them to do so.

        I also want to say that some people at barns have no interest whatsoever in horsemanship. I know a lady who hunts and has for years- the horses are "bicycles" for her...she never feeds them a carrot or anything like that. She is a member of the hunt for the social aspect...period. Some people are at a barn, not to learn to ride better, but to have something to do.

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        • #5
          I wholeheartedly support you in this! I think that good horsemanship is extremely important and without someone teaching them, the kids will never learn. I'd say start with the basics - grooming, tacking/tack care and uses, feet care, and why it's all important to know, and then move onto more advanced topics such as clipping, feeding, first aid, dental care and the many many other things that are important for horse care.

          Comment


          • #6
            http://horse.on.ca/wp-content/upload...terQuality.pdf

            This is the program I use with my lesson kids. You can download the levels and tick off items as the kids learn them. There are also manuals you can buy that go with the program. They are well written and a great, relatively inexpensive, resource. I really like the program as a way of covering a lot of basics.

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            • #7
              Well, there's a difference between lacking skills and lacking effort. Either way, you are correct and it has to be fixed.
              The resolution of the problem has to start at the source - the person teaching these kids how to groom. If they haven't been taught correctly, its not their fault and you need to confront the individuals teaching them...not take away from their riding time.
              If the students have been taught correctly and fail to comply, that's unfortunate, and it needs to change. That still needs to come from the person who taught them, or whomever said they were "good enough to tack up on their own".

              On a side note: Thank you for caring and doing something about it! The lack of horsemanship skills these days kills me!

              Comment


              • #8
                I think it's a good IDEA, but I'm not sure about the logistics of it. Question: who are you in relation to the barn? If you're "just" a boarder, your first step should be to bring it up to the people who should be teaching these students (instructors, assistants, barn manager) as well as any of the horse owners if they're not the barn's horses.

                Offering it sounds like a great idea, but the mandatory aspect might pose a challenge. Not all parents are willing to drive their kids to the barn an extra day, or what if kids are "too busy" (often times according to their parents) to attend. On the other side of things, I'm a 23 year old lesson student. I'd be less than thrilled to give up a morning to be lectured on grooming. That being said, if you're going to teach something new, I'd be the first to sign up! But for what you listed, I'm not sure you can group all lesson students into one category.

                Honestly, I don't think there's any substitute for constant and consistent oversight for students. The best barns I've lessened at had someone knowledgable always nearby when students were grooming and tacking. Either full time grooms or working students, boarders who were given the power to help lesson students, or (the best IMO) is having the grooming area ringside where the trainer can keep an eye on everything.

                There should also be an accountability aspect, especially for students who are just lazy and know better. Shavings on the belly? Go back and re-groom and re-tack. That took half the lesson? Oh darn. Maybe the instructor can start each lesson with an inspection process including checking all 4 hooves. Make sure to reward the students with well groomed horses and you might be surprised how much more effort gets put into their grooming.

                Again, I think you have the right idea because it sounds like there are issues to be addressed, but I think you'll run into some problems with it.
                Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                Comment


                • #9
                  I agree with some of the other posters. Yes, it's a great idea and yes, horsemanship SHOULD BE an essential part of the riding experience. From my own personal experience, I can tell you this: A great number of your lesson students aren't going to be interested in paying for a non-riding class. They are there to ride. If their assigned horse is sick, lame or missing a shoe, they expect a replacement horse. It's sad but true.

                  I used to have a policy that rain-out lessons would be become non-mounted in-barn instruction. Folks would just cancel so that they could skip that part. The great majority of the once a weekers just really don't care that much about the extra stuff. They just look at you with a blank look when you start spouting horsemanship.

                  For that reason, I think you just have to keep at it on a week to week basis. I believe that you have to reinforce your standards over and over and over. If a student that is experienced enough to get themselves to the ring presents themselves for a lesson poorly groomed- they need to be sent back to the barn. That happens all the time. Shavings in the tail, other sloppy grooming, tack fitted improperly. All the time. I think each lesson needs to start with an inspection and class time needs to be devoted to proper turnout before the riding begins.

                  You can make some headway during camps. The students still get their riding time but extra time can be spent on grooming and turnout and healthcare. But during the hourly regular lessons- just keep at it.

                  The other thing that I've had to really put the kabosh on is the "cooling off" after the lesson. In the past, my instructor has allowed the competent students to walk the horses out around our 60 acre property. Bad idea. I've found that the lesson students just don't exercise good judgement. One little girl was walking along our rolling lanes with her feet out of the stirrups on a long rein when the pasture horses started running. Luckily, one of the owner kids was close and coached her through a potential disaster. They just don't know any better. My assistants have now been firmly instructed that they are to directly supervise ALL students whenever they are mounted. Period.
                  http://patchworkfarmga.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Who ever is instructing the lesson should be checking the tack/grooming job, etc. before the students get on. As already mentioned, it takes a ton of repetition to learn how to do something. I am used to telling my students to move their saddles up/tighten girths/switch boots to other legs. As much as I do think holding a horsemanship clinic would help, it is not going to solve all your problems unless you do it repeatedly and the same students come each time.

                    This past summer I ran an advanced week of summer camp for my volunteers. I did a whole day about saddle fit, choosing the correct pad, modeling, guided practice, independent practice (can you tell I am a teacher?). Anyway, as SarahandSam can tell you, we spent a lot of time on it and do you think we had the saddles coming out perfect for the last 3 weeks of camp? nope! Still had to check, still had to change pads, etc. It is going to take time!

                    As far as girth/bridle marks are concerned that is pure laziness. I am a sweat mark nazi and my lesson students know it. If I find a horse in its stall with a sweat mark the kid will get called out on it and they aren't allowed to put their horse away without me checking it for the next few weeks. They also get a long lecture about all the horses do for us and they can't take a few minutes to put them away right blah blah blah. I try to lay it on real thick and send them on a major guilt trip. haha. It is all about explaining your expectations and then holding the kids to it.
                    I WAS a proud member of the *I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday* clique..but now I am 30!!!!!!!!!!!
                    My new blog about my Finger Lakes Finest:
                    She Ain't No Small Potato!

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                    • #11
                      When I taught lessons I or an older student I had helping me was present when kids were tacking up. If someone came into a lesson and was not prepared they were sent back to the barn until the horse was properly prepared for a lesson. I am a bit of a stickler about turn out and horsemanship and I think more instructors of the lower levels need to be. A lot of lesson mill type barns don't push these ideas on their students at a young age, in my opinion.

                      We did the kind of "horsemanship" lesson you are talking about on rainy days. If we couldn't ride we would work on things like identifying different bits, learning how to wrap, going over nutrition etc depending on the rider skill level. It worked pretty well where I taught for a short time.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Wonderful thoughts you guys, keep them coming!! I am the (newly appointed but have been here forever) barn manager so I can basically do what I want . You've given me a lot to think about. Unfortunately, our barn guy is a feeder/stall doer, not a groom so he's not in a position to supervise and we don't have working students. Our boarders will jump in with advice if they notice a lesson person having a really tough time but they are not there to supervise either. At least 50% of the lessons take place outside of my normal working hours so I don't see a good number of the kids. I am not opposed to making time to see all of them once in a while but I can't do it on a regular basis as I do have 14 yo daughter that I need to parent. That is partly the reason I thought a class might work the best but I hear what you are saying.

                        My daughter and her friend, also 14, are probably the best suited students to help supervise as they have both been in the barn since they were 4 and do spend a lot of time at the barn. They ride competitively and are very knowledgeable. However, I don't see that a 17 yo lesson person is going to take criticism from a 14 yo all that well!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I wish that the barn I started at as a kid had had a better horsemanship program. My first two wonderful ponies were VERY low key dudes. Never hurt, never sick, never any hoof problems. So when I was in my young teens, it was time for me to move up to a horse. And all of a sudden, I realized I knew NOTHING! I dealt with thrush for the first time. I was always afraid to pick my horse's hooves because I didn't want to hurt him. There were some working students at my barn who were amazing, but I was little and shy and afraid to ask.
                          I ended up buying one of those "A Horse Owner's Guide" book things, and I still have it today to reference things horsey.
                          So yes! Do the program! Some kids may not care/want to do it. Those will not be the kids that will stick with this for years. And if they do want to stick with riding, say "Well guess what, these horses do a lot of stuff for us so if you want to do this you better do it right." And the kids who LOVE riding and LOVE being around horses will be thrilled to spend more time with horses and learn how to do it. I think reinforcing and reiterating the program week after week will show you who is dedicated, who is willing, and will help the kids out.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Here's one suggestion for you that worked well for me in the past. The winter months are always a challenge whether or not you have a nice indoor arena. I have in the past scheduled a Saturday or Sunday horsemanship "makeup" lesson. The class was counted as a lesson. My policy, as now, was that you had to schedule any makeups within 30 days of the missed lesson. Because of the bad weather, it made an unmounted clinic pretty attractive when the alternative was to ride in the cold/wet or lose the lesson. We made a little party out of it hot chocolate.
                            http://patchworkfarmga.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What about having an experienced older teen that helps all of the lesson kids tack up before lessons and teaches them basic horsemanship along the way?

                              Horsemanship is one of those things that you pick up over years and after having experienced a lot of different situations. That said, I do think a class on the basics of tacking up, pieces of equipment, etc. would be a good idea. I did something like this when I was a kid, and it was useful. I believe we had to work in teams of two to tack up a horse. We also had to take a bridle apart and put it back together, identify all of the parts of a bridle and saddle, identify parts of a horse - that kind of thing. It was useful as a "base," I think. At least it must have been, since I still remember it and I am 32 now!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by skyy View Post
                                My daughter and her friend, also 14, are probably the best suited students to help supervise as they have both been in the barn since they were 4 and do spend a lot of time at the barn. They ride competitively and are very knowledgeable. However, I don't see that a 17 yo lesson person is going to take criticism from a 14 yo all that well!
                                For what it's worth, I started riding at my last barn when I was 19. There's a young (then 12 year old) rider who has been there forever. She was at the barn everyday after school helping with the horses, riding, whatever. We all (college students) always listened to what she said, and so did the other riders (even adult boarders).

                                I think it's in how you present it. The instructor empowered her to help us, and we felt that. When riders were new or inexperienced, she (the young rider) was the one who would bring out the horse for you, help you groom and tack, get you ready for your lesson, etc. Even after being there for years, if I asked the trainer what bridle a horse went in, she would (assuming the girl was around) immediately turn to her and say "can you help so and so find Pookie's bridle?" Which said to us "she's qualified to help you with that you need."

                                If you're really looking to improve horsemanship at the barn and not just grooming, I think Saturday workshops can be a great tool for that. Maybe first Saturday of the month to start with? I wish I would have gotten more horse care knowledge as a lesson student and I would (still) be all over a Saturday clinic. However, I think that's different from basic grooming and tacking before lessons.
                                Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Hmmm, posters got me thinking...

                                  What about a mandatory intro for all newbies? And for everyone, an optional refresher course?

                                  And giving everyone a little notebook with a list of requirements? As they learn how to do something properly, you can check it off the list. It will give them a sense of accomplishment and help keep it fresh. They could also use it to jot notes after lessons!!
                                  Born under a rock and owned by beasts!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Jsalem View Post
                                    I used to have a policy that rain-out lessons would be become non-mounted in-barn instruction. Folks would just cancel so that they could skip that part. The great majority of the once a weekers just really don't care that much about the extra stuff. They just look at you with a blank look when you start spouting horsemanship.
                                    I grew up riding at a barn with this type of policy, we had no indoor and had "ground lessons" during inclement weather. However, the school ran on a semester basis, each semester was paid for in advance, which encouraged everyone to show up, since you had already paid for it. This was during the 60s though, I don't know if people would have a willingness to pay in advance these days.

                                    Before I landed at this barn I rode at an assortment of lesson barns where you arrived at the appointed time, a horse that had already been groomed and tacked was led out, you mounted, rode in your lesson and handed the reins over when you dismounted. These were not fancy full service barns, they were old fashioned riding schools, but I'm sure it was just easier and faster for them to operate this way. It was only when I started at the first barn I mentioned, that the opportunity to groom and tack was presented.

                                    And let's face it, there are probably a good number of kids riding who have no interest in the before and after care of the horse, its just another activity for them, like music lessons or soccer practice.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Funny how people are wondering what happened to the things we did in the 1960s and 1970s. Every idea here was what was done at our barn. Of course that was back in the day when it was still cavalry based education. We had lesson only on grooming, horse care etc.; we had graded and judged notebooks, teenage students were required to help younger students.

                                      I for one support such approaches as they were significant in my development as a HORSEMAN.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        We say that we teach horsemanship as well as riding and that is what we want to do. We want to grow up "horsepeople" not just "riders". I think in the past our lesson people fell basically into 3 groups - little kids or beginners who needed supervision, people who came having horse care experience and those that hung around the barn and gained the needed horsemanship experience. We still have the beginners/little kids but these beginners are not hanging around after their lessons, and now we have people who have ridden elsewhere but really have no horsemanship experience. They can put a saddle and a bridle on a horse more or less correctly, but that's it.

                                        It would be a lot easier to hand a person a groomed and tacked horse, but that's not what we want to do. I need to figure out a way that works for both our students and our staff and volunteers (who don't exist yet) to bring everyone up to a basic level of horsemanship and you guys are going to help me!

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