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And a rant

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    And a rant

    I realize this may be a sensitive subject and I have no wish to start a riot but I'm kind of frustrated at the moment.

    I teach approx. 25 students a week; mostly once a weekers. I love my job - I love the kids - I love the ponies - I love the family atmosphere.

    However, I have one student that I am having a hard time with and I don't really know if I should say something or just let it be.

    This is my struggle - I have an 11 yr old girl who has been taking lessons at the barn for about 6 months..with me; about 4. She is a sweet kid and I really like her and her family....but she is SUPER unfit! I didn't say overweight specifically b/c although that is also an issue in this case; it is more the unfitness that is concerning to me.

    She only walk/trots with a little bit of canter but I feel like I can't let her progress b/c she is so loose in the saddle and no amount of explaining where she needs to grip ever makes a difference b/c she simply cannot do it. She doesn't have the strength. She does no other physical activity.

    I like to see my kids progress but what can I do? I can't even imagine telling the parents that she needs to be more fit and loose some weight. I don't know if there is any nice way to say that. Do I just let her walk trot around for the next year??
    \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River

    #2
    Originally posted by Czar View Post
    I realize this may be a sensitive subject and I have no wish to start a riot but I'm kind of frustrated at the moment.

    I teach approx. 25 students a week; mostly once a weekers. I love my job - I love the kids - I love the ponies - I love the family atmosphere.

    However, I have one student that I am having a hard time with and I don't really know if I should say something or just let it be.

    This is my struggle - I have an 11 yr old girl who has been taking lessons at the barn for about 6 months..with me; about 4. She is a sweet kid and I really like her and her family....but she is SUPER unfit! I didn't say overweight specifically b/c although that is also an issue in this case; it is more the unfitness that is concerning to me.

    She only walk/trots with a little bit of canter but I feel like I can't let her progress b/c she is so loose in the saddle and no amount of explaining where she needs to grip ever makes a difference b/c she simply cannot do it. She doesn't have the strength. She does no other physical activity.

    I like to see my kids progress but what can I do? I can't even imagine telling the parents that she needs to be more fit and loose some weight. I don't know if there is any nice way to say that. Do I just let her walk trot around for the next year??
    Could "you" be the one that helps her get fit? As an older ammy rider the horses are my main source of exercise. I have watched and of course been a part of some pretty intense lessons that I am sore for three days. Two point, at the trot so many laps per lesson then begin to increase the laps. Get her to where she can drop her irons and work. Trotting ground poles etc.

    There are some trainers that I know would say something but many wouldn't. I don't ever think size is much of an issue it's more endurance and strength. Maybe with the tough physical lessons that will give you the opportunity to give suggestions of some at home exercises she can do to keep up.

    It's nice you are asking - it sounds like you care about her......
    Put your energy on what you want to grow!

    Comment


      #3
      Yep, you just let her walk trot around for the next year.

      If her parents ask you what she can do to improve or advance faster, then you can address a "fitness regime", or have a conversation about riding being more than being "good." Let the child's attitude lead you in that conversation.

      If the girl is having fun, that's enough. Not everyone is competitive, not every one is a great student. If that is an issue for you, you can recommend a trainer who places more emphasis on fun and other elements of horsemanship.

      I know adults who have ridden for their whole lives and are still awful, really, legitimately poor riders. But they enjoy their time with horses. FWIW I have had a number of these adult students; they are often the ones who buy a horse you recommend, and pay for regular training rides.

      This is a child, and currently your student. What's most important right now is that she enjoys a physical activity.


      Of course if she hates it, and I have had those kids who had parents who really wanted them to be riders, then you can have that awkward convo with the parents...
      Let me apologize in advance.

      Comment


        #4
        Let me preface by saying I myself am chunky (and a riding instructor).

        If I have a student who is seriously wanting to improve and is ambitious, we do talk about excercises to improve fitness so that they can ride better and not struggle at multi-day shows. I NEVER say they need to lose weight, even if they should. Generally someone who is overweight knows they need to lose weight.

        While it is beneficial to ride more than once a week and improvements are more rapid, the great majority of my students get stronger just from one lesson a week. I'd focus on using part of the lesson for excercises like double posting, lungeing without stirrups or transitions through two-point to help strengthen her and improve balance.

        At the end of the day, there are students who just don't improve very quickly. I have one like that. He'd rather discuss video games than trot. His parents make sure he does some physical activity and he shows up and pays. I have learnt to not solely interpret my students' improvement into how good/bad of an instructor I am and it makes my life a lot happier.

        Comment


          #5
          Yes. Say something. I believe it is certainly your place as her coach in a sport where it is becoming increasingly acceptable to remain unfit .... which to me is not ok.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by ladyj79 View Post
            I know adults who have ridden for their whole lives and are still awful, really, legitimately poor riders. But they enjoy their time with horses.
            I am a person who fits into this category and as I age I become more awful, not less awful, also more fat and less fit. I have never been coordinated enough to be a good rider.

            So this advice is coming from that type of person.

            Let this student tell you what they want out of riding. If the student asks why they are not advancing as quickly as the others offer up some helpful hints on fitness and other such advice that will get the student moving in that direction. Make sure things offered do not stop with just 'take more lessons' because though that is good advice, it sounds more like you are just looking to make more money off of them.


            Comment


              #7
              Talk about fitness to ALL the kids (I'm assuming these are group lessons?). Our Pony Club instructor regularly talks to the kids about increasing fitness to help with riding, and none of the kids or parents are upset by it. I would stay away from saying anything about weight, but see no harm in talking about what they can do in between lessons to get them fit.

              Comment


                #8
                As a re-rider who struggles with fitness, I think it would be awesome if you added some info in to ALL your lessons about things riders can do between lessons to improve their riding.

                Don't tell an 11-year-old that she's unfit. They interpret that as "fat." She probably loves riding, and not feeling judged probably plays a role in that. Plus, if you're thinking entirely of her welfare, time spent riding is infinitely more healthy for her than time spent curled in a ball worried that everyone hates her. It's true and fine to say, though, that when we only ride once a week, we need to do some things to help our muscles hold on to the work we've been doing in lessons.

                Comment


                  #9
                  If it's a group lesson then at the end of the lesson I'd show all the kids some core exercises, etc that they can do. Just say something along the lines of "We expect our horses to truck us around during our lessons so on the days we don't ride lets help our horses out by doing some strength and balance work outs to make it easier for them."

                  If it's a private lesson you'll have to be a little more blunt. But if you use words like balance she'll be less likely to associate that with body image. You'll know that the exercises are really for strength, but things like planks and standing on one leg may do wonders for her riding.

                  Otherwise you need to keep her at a walk-trot. I had to pull a horse from a lease one time for this very reason. I was living across the country and had my second horse sitting at my parents doing nothing. A trusted coach (or so I though) asked to take him on lease for a 14yo kid to do the 2' hunters. I said sure, the horse can babysit my 55yo mother around a 2'6" course no problem. Coach neglected to tell me the 14yo was 5'8", 160lbs, with zero strength. He's a patient horse but two months in I couldn't take it anymore. Every video had her bouncing on his back, catching him in the mouth, almost falling off if he turned to sharply, etc. That child should have been walk-trotting still, but her and her pushy parents had given the coach an ultimatum that they were going to leave if she couldn't show with the other kids. Needless to say I clearly explained why it wasn't fair to the horse anymore, they went to another barn where she walk-trotted for a month and then she quit.
                  There's a point where it's about the animals welfare and less about worrying about poor susie's feelings.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    My schoolmaster takes a lot of riding. He demands precise aids, and a stable position, otherwise he just flat out ignores you. He is very leggy and quite long, and has big strides with plenty of movement.
                    I was a decently fit rider. I have always been very slim. After my normal office work hours (in which I did a fair whack of walking), I worked with OTTB babies, 3-4 times a week, 2-3 horses a time. I did some running once a week, or at least went for a good walk twice a week.
                    When I started with my current instructor, she hammered me on fitness. I now run 2-3 times a week, do weight training 2-3 times a week, all in addition to my riding and at least once a month she asks me how my fitness routine is going and ups it if she thinks I'm not up to scratch. It's *NOT* about weight lose - it's about being strong enough and fit enough to not negatively influence your horse.

                    Obviously with a child, it's harder to convey this. Try doing a theory lesson on how the rider influences the horse by their position and detail how core strength and fitness hugely benefit both the rider and the horse. Use examples from your own life. Explain to her why she needs to decide to take this up herself without actually telling her she needs to. Or like the above poster suggested, work this into your lessons.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by EllenMCM View Post
                      As a re-rider who struggles with fitness, I think it would be awesome if you added some info in to ALL your lessons about things riders can do between lessons to improve their riding.
                      Totally agree with this!! Give ALL of your students fitness homework or the fitness lecture together, or send a newsletter or something to your students with suggestions about fitness and why it is important. You don't want this student to feel singled out or she *will* feel like it is code for talking about her weight.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I would also urge you to make sure your goals aren't hidden. Say things like "We're spending all this time on the sitting trot (or whatever) because it builds the muscles you need to have good balance at the canter/when you jump." Kids are often conditioned to cooperate with their coaches and teachers even when they don't understand the goal, but if the student understands why you're doing all that, then she's looking forward to the next thing and may be more motivated to think about those goals and work towards them on her own. And then at the end of a lesson you can acknowledge - "Hey, you worked hard today, and you might be sore tomorrow. If you take a couple good walks this week, that will help those muscles stretch and keep growing so this is easier next week." And then you can build on that idea over time.

                        ETA: Let's remember we're talking about a kid who has only been riding for six months here. Is it really that far out of the ordinary for a 6 months rider to be kind of a noodle who shouldn't be cantering much or jumping at all? Maybe I was terrible rider as a kid (I certainly had more guts than brains), but I definitely was not allowed to canter or jump at that point.
                        Last edited by EllenMCM; Mar. 23, 2017, 11:17 AM.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I had a girl that I was working with, 12 years old and incredibly unfit/overweight. She literally didn't even have the muscle to mount on her own. I told her that unless she was spending time at home working out, doing squats, wall sits, planking, etc. She would not be allowed to ride. We would spend her lesson doing groundwork if she hadn't been working out. I know this seems mean, but it wasn't fair to the horse that she was riding to have 200 lbs yarding on her back when she was attempting to mount.

                          I didn't tell her she was fat or anything like that. I told her that she was lacking the leg/body strength that was going to allow her to progress as a rider.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by mjeanb99 View Post
                            I had a girl that I was working with, 12 years old and incredibly unfit/overweight. She literally didn't even have the muscle to mount on her own. I told her that unless she was spending time at home working out, doing squats, wall sits, planking, etc. She would not be allowed to ride. We would spend her lesson doing groundwork if she hadn't been working out. I know this seems mean, but it wasn't fair to the horse that she was riding to have 200 lbs yarding on her back when she was attempting to mount.

                            I didn't tell her she was fat or anything like that. I told her that she was lacking the leg/body strength that was going to allow her to progress as a rider.
                            How did that work out in the long run? Did her fitness improve? Did she meet her riding goals?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              We had a kid in our barn that was very unfit. Not terribly overweight, but no strength or stamina. No activities besides video games outside of the barn. He also had a little trouble focusing enough on the task at hand to do it well. After struggling to get the kid to remember to follow an instruction for more than 3 minutes, the trainer finally instituted a pushup rule. Kid got one reminder for each task (i.e. don't rest hands in your lap, heels down, eyes up to look where you are going ) per lesson. After the free reminder, the coach kept a tally of how many times he had to remind each of those things and the kid owed him 5 pushups or 2 jogging laps for each infraction at the end of the lesson. Kid started paying closer attention and realized that being stronger helped him do each task. Parents said he started jogging around the house and doing a few pushups each day at home so it would be easier to ride.

                              Trainer never had to have an awkward conversation about body image with kid and the kid quickly realized how strength and conditioning could help the riding that he enjoyed so much. I think anything a kid takes initiative to do themselves will work better than a trainer or parent-instituted workout plan. (Kid was 10).

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I wasn't a kid who had weight or fitness issues, but I had friends (who also rode) that did. I know that it's going more and more by the wayside, but does your barn have a Saturday or Sunday club/group of kids who come and hang out, do chores, and get a free/discounted lesson? Because there is NOTHING that builds some basic stamina and fitness better than a day of barn chores. Sweeping, mucking, carrying water buckets, pushing wheelbarrows. . . etc, etc. Even as an adult I have never set foot in a gym because I have 23 horses I take care of every day.

                                This has two benefits: it engages the kid in physical activity that builds strength, flexibility, and muscle; and it could get the kid some extra saddle time (if your barn does that kind of thing). I think it's such a pity that barns don't do this anymore. . . I was an ultimate barn rat, I was at the barn from 8-4 Saturdays and Sundays and as much as I could in the summer. I learned a lot, stayed fit, got to ride more, and spent time with other horsey kids like me!

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Our pony club is doing the Daniel Stewart rider fitness series this summer.
                                  Originally posted by PeanutButterPony
                                  you can shackle your pony to a lawn chair at the show...so long as its in a conservative color.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I want to echo what someone above said about directing the lesson to rider fitness in the saddle. God knows 45 minute lessons in two-pointing, no stirrups work, etc made all the fitness difference for me as a kid. Two point was always my favorite to start to be able to stretch down into my stirrups and actually feel where my legs needed to be. It sure made my legs stronger, too, by holding my shaking wiggling body up over my horse's back for half the lesson. I would look up some mounted fitness exercises you can possibly help her with. Even things like around the world at a stand still help with mobility and being aware of your body in the saddle.
                                    Working horses is a little like being married. Sometimes you need to adjust and change your plan.

                                    Comment

                                      Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      All great advice...thanks everyone. I have ZERO desire to add body image issues to a young girl and I have loved all the suggestions.
                                      \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        You could always discuss general activities to all the kids that help with riding- we discuss this frequently with the instructors.
                                        My daughter was also told she had to be able to sit the trot for x amount of time/distance, x amount of laps of trot, etc before she could canter. This was pretty good incentive for her. Riding more often definately helped and I tried to get her to do some squats and other exercises to help but the best thing was her other activities such as swimming to build more muscle.

                                        I would say give the girl goals and see if she really wants to achieve and acknowledge it can be hard. Im sure her parents realize whats going on to some extent. But 6 months isn't that long. A lot of kids aren't cantering by that point.

                                        Comment

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