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Help with child who is scared of horses

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  • Help with child who is scared of horses

    My daughter, ever since I can remember has been nuts about horses. Eventually, when she turned 6 I signed her up for classes. She has been riding for a year and half now. She has enjoyed it very much. She goes to a group class, there are about 2-3 kids along with her. Her coach recommended that she can level up to the next class. She started to do cantering in one class and my daughter freaked out. It has been pretty down hill. She has been extremely nervous, scared and lost her confidence to ride. I feel bad for her as I have no clue what to do. I am not a horse person myself. I have never been on a horse but have been fascinated thanks to the exposure I got thru my daughters involvement. I felt the riding lessons helped my child very much. I do not see that excitement in her anymore. Whenever we used to pass the stables she would say hi and name all the horses that she knows. I would appreciate some help. I can stop the classes (I'd save a lot of money but I do not want her to lose confidence when she hits a hurdle or gets scared...Thanks and bare with my English...it's not my first language

  • #2
    Six years old is awfully young to be doing structured lessons. There are those special children who've been mentored by parents or folks who have horses in their own yard and can spend oodles of time with a child -- and that child excels. But by my estimation, children are just not physiologically capable of the structure, motor control and attention span needed to excel in lessons until they are at least seven years old.

    It sounds like the instructor pushed her beyond her comfort zone and is continuing to push --given your daughter's complete disconnect, even when driving by farms.

    I suggest taking a break from lessons. Yes, have her continue to ride, but they must be glorified pony rides. i.e.: child is mounted, instructor or trail guide walks along side, leading pony. Nothing beyond a walk at this point. As they walk through local trails or perhaps a neighboring field, child can be taught conformation, parts of the saddle/ bridle, colors of the horses, names of grooming tools, different feed categories, basic hoof structure -- again, keeping it light in terms of physical demands and just keep talking about the horses in a mounted classroom fashion.

    A few weeks of this and daughter will either be begging to trot, or begging to stop entirely -- because she'll be bored to tears. If she wants to stop riding, do so. She may come back to it, she may switch disciplines, or she may take up volley ball. If she's only 7 and is having this much anxiety, it's just not good. And especially not good to push.

    You may have fallen victim to an unscrupulous instructor. What does instructor say about this sudden fear and reluctance? Is she in group or private lessons?

    Comment


    • #3
      Talk to the instructor about your daughter’s anxiety and ask to drop her back down to where she was feeling confident and having fun. At this age, having fun is so very important. You could also ask about doing a few privates with your daughter on the lead line to help her get her groove back and maybe next time your daughter feels ready to canter, she should do it on the lunge line where she doesn’t need to control everything.

      Each child is so different and some are completely fearless and others have a natural amount of fear built in. She’s saying she’s just not ready for that level and mom and instructor need to listen. There’s plenty of work she can do without cantering. Has she done no stirrup work? When I was teaching, my kids had to be able to comfortably trot without stirrups before cantering. This was because it helped ensure they had a stronger seat and helped be sure they wouldn’t freak out when they would inevitably lose one or both stirrups when first learning to ask for the canter.
      Member of the Paint Hunter clique

      http://community.webshots.com/user/nickofthyme

      Comment


      • #4
        I was allowed to start group riding lessons at age 8. I took a grand total of THREE before the horse I was on kicked out and scared me half to death. I did not want to continue, so did not.

        Two years later at age 10 I wanted to start back up, and thankfully did so - and went on to ride seriously for 45 years. I just think some kids are too young to process everything in a group class, especially when something doesn't go according to plan. I would suggest not forcing it, and leaving the door open for future lessoning.

        I really like the suggestions to just do "pony ride" types of things, but if she's not interested at all right now, maybe a break is the best thing. Good luck!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jhanna View Post
          My daughter, ever since I can remember has been nuts about horses. Eventually, when she turned 6 I signed her up for classes. She has been riding for a year and half now. She has enjoyed it very much. She goes to a group class, there are about 2-3 kids along with her. Her coach recommended that she can level up to the next class. She started to do cantering in one class and my daughter freaked out. It has been pretty down hill. She has been extremely nervous, scared and lost her confidence to ride. I feel bad for her as I have no clue what to do. I am not a horse person myself. I have never been on a horse but have been fascinated thanks to the exposure I got thru my daughters involvement. I felt the riding lessons helped my child very much. I do not see that excitement in her anymore. Whenever we used to pass the stables she would say hi and name all the horses that she knows. I would appreciate some help. I can stop the classes (I'd save a lot of money but I do not want her to lose confidence when she hits a hurdle or gets scared...Thanks and bare with my English...it's not my first language
          The first canter should be done with the horse on the lunge, and kids should stay on the lunge for the canter until they feel confident and have some sort of control.

          You will need to have a discussion with your daughter and find out exactly what she is afraid of.
          *Speed?
          *Feeling uncontrolled?
          *Not knowing how to stop?
          *Her lack of balance
          *Anything else?

          Did something happened during that particular lesson?

          Did she told her trainer about her fear at the next lesson?

          You will the need to relay all these information to her trainer.

          If this was my daughter/student, she wouldn’t be allowed to canter for while, until she begs for it.

          And when this happen, it would be on a really really steady Eddy on the lunge line. A few steps at times.

          ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

          Originally posted by LauraKY
          I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
          HORSING mobile training app

          Comment


          • #6
            Even adults can get scared and lose confidence if they try to move up too fast, have an accident, or something frightening happens. When I have a loss of confidence, my trainer will have me move back to doing something easier, where I am comfortable, and gradually work toward doing the scary thing again. Depending on the situation, this can be something that happens in the course of a lesson or over a period of weeks or months.

            I would ask for your daughter to be moved back into the lower level group or possibly even a group that is still just walking. She needs more time and more of a foundation in those skills to rebuild her confidence. If she is still scared or doesn't show interest in riding, then I would let her take a break until she decides on her own that she wants to try again.
            Flickr

            Comment


            • #7
              Your daughter reminds me of me.

              I was 10 when I was terrified by a trainer who screamed at me when I did not want to canter in a group class after only a few lessons.

              I came back to riding, at a different barn, with a different trainer; then switched back to the first barn but with a different trainer.

              Hugs to you and your daughter.
              Rack on!

              Comment


              • #8
                Back when I taught little kids, I had some kids signed up in lessons that were actually terrified of riding. I don't know why, but instead of riding, they loved just hanging out with the ponies and leading them over obstacles and the like.

                The problem can be: that as a coach, you feel there is an expectation of riding and progress, but that isn't always the best things for horse crazy kids. For some it can really knock them off their love when they first realize the pony doesn't love them the way they love the pony and that ponies can be scary.

                (I started lessons when I was 10, if she really loves it, she will let you know when she wants to start again!)
                Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Nick of Thyme View Post

                  Each child is so different and some are completely fearless and others have a natural amount of fear built in.
                  this is what we experienced also

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sounds like instructor pushed her too far, most likely unintentionally...speak to instructor one on one and calmly explain and graciously ask to do private lessons for a bit so daughter feels more in control of what they do or at least go back to group walk trot only lessons. Cantering is usually taught on the lunge line not in a group. Yes being pushed out of her comfort zone will benefit daughter, but only if done gently. Hopefully this instructor is accommodating, if not try another. Best of luck!! OH OH AND THE PRICE FOR ADVICE ON 6YR OLDS IS CUTE PICTURES

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I remember at that age, I could develop fears and anxiety that wasn't rational and that I was ashamed to admit to. Child could be anxious about how the other students see her as much as about the canter.

                      I also remember that all sports lessons aimed at children were hideous and involved screeching and humiliation as a motivating factor. I didn't take actual riding lessons.

                      I was in fact nervous about horses but loved them so much I worked through that fear at my own speed.

                      I would agree finding a different context for being around horses or ponies would help the kid.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A lot of barns don't take kids until they are 8 because they aren't always able to be in control of their horse or their bodies. So it sounds like she may be very normal - realizing that she may fall or not be in control. Smart girl!

                        I would speak to the instructor and see what he/she thinks. If the canter was intentional, it seems she is not ready. If it was accidental, maybe she can do a few walk only lessons where something like that is unlikely to occur again.

                        But there is nothing at all wrong with taking a break and/or considering a different barn. If it's not fun, it's not worth it - especially at that age.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Its hard to have group lessons with that many young kids- they need a lot of individual attention IMO. I would talk to the instructor and see if your daughter could do some private lessons with less stress. I think this is not an unusual experience and moving up levels can be very difficult.

                          I think your daughter will come back around. Have you signed her up for any horse summer camps? If she stops riding in lessons for now try to get her into some camps. They tend to be less serious and lots of fun with her peers and will probably bring her love for horses back.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just sounds like a case of too much, too soon. Chances are she's gotten to this point because she's been sending signals that she was fearful and wants to go slower, trying to assert some control over this situation, but those signals were missed by her instructor and you. So shutting down is the last resort.

                            I recognize your concern that you don't want to teach her that it's ok to back down from every obstacle. But let's also be clear here that this particular obstacle is a 1,000lb creature that can easily hurt her and that she can't realistically control. It's a dangerous sport, and I urge you to respect her fear. At just six years old, save the "don't back down" lecture for something like when she's struggling with a puzzle, or trying to help you in the garden but the rake is too big for her.

                            I'd give her some control here and ask her if she wants to continue weekly lessons, or would it be more fun to just do some easy pony rides every now and then?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have three daughters, two who ride, and they both went through a fearful stage right around that same age. Oldest is now 15, and foxhunting first flight and galloping around cross country on my OTTB, so she clearly got past it Youngest is still in the middle of it. Nothing happened to either one that sparked a fear, it's just their personalities.

                              We have the luxury of having the horses in the backyard, so we are able to be casual and go as slow as we want, and we have a couple of lovely older ponies that have earned homes for life with us, so there's no pressure. Our strategy has just been to have the kids participate at whatever level is fun. For my youngest, if that means just riding now and then with her friends right now, that's fine. If/when she wants to ramp it back up, great! If not, mom will be disappointed, but I'll get over it.

                              Your daughter is a good age to get involved in Pony Club, which emphasizes the horse management aspect just as much as the riding. This might be a good way for her to get excited again while still taking a break from the riding part until she feels ready. Not sure where you are located, but here is how to find a local club in the US:
                              https://www.ponyclub.org/FindPonyClub/Map.aspx
                              where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I don't know where you're located but you also might find a local vaulting club. We have some adult members on the board here who have used vaulting to regain confidence as well. The horse is always under the control of someone else (and beginner horses are oh-so-kind) and they have handles. The handles are key because anytime the vaulter needs to hang on they are not grabbing the horse's face which is an all around win.

                                Vaulting is super social for the kids as almost everything is a shared experience, plus the actual on-horse part has the kid moving all around, backwards, standing, really feeling the horse movement through the pad and is SUPER safe.

                                At the same time the kids have a blast because they are having success doing this crazy stuff. With time and practice, vaulter kids have seats like GLUE.

                                Fast forward to whenever they start riding again (voluntarily, not parental-ly pushed) and it's like ... wait, I'm sitting forwards? No biggie ...

                                Vaulting just changes the perspective and ability going into riding while giving the kids horse access. If you are interested, please feel free to PM me.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  jhanna- good for you that you recognize your daughter's shift in comfort. I agree with those who have shared that six is a good bit young to start the canter. And, good for your daughter that she's letting you know she's scared. Helping her learn to explain why she's scared would be a good goal as you approach what to do. Do talk to the trainer about some one-on-one lessons. But, only if your daughter would like to try that. As suggested in previous posts - I also do not understand why the instructor is taking young children into the canter in a group setting. However you decide to go forward - you don't want your daughter to come away from the experience thinking there is something wrong with her. Learning that it's ok to take two steps back and then go forward again is more important than learning to switch leads.

                                  And, your English is better than many in these threads.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    My son never went backwards like that, but at age 7 was fearful of learning to canter. I'd have him on a longe line, ask for canter and he'd go about one stride and immediately come back to the trot, and say "see, I did it". Since your daughter is scared now, I'd move her back to the walk/trot group until she's enjoying it again. With my son, I got him past it by tricking him a little bit. On the longe, I'd tell him he'd have to sing the ABC song or some other short song and canter the entire length of the song. This would keep his mind off his fear, and get him cantering around long enough to actually feel what it was supposed to feel like. I also worked on it on trail rides, especially on narrow, uphill trails, where his pony couldn't pass mine. I'd just say "lean forward and grab the mane" and up the hill we'd go. These little bursts of controlled speed were fun, and eventually it transferred into the ring.

                                    He also joined Pony Club at age 7. It really helped motivate him to do more since it was the first time he got to ride with other kids and he wanted to do what they were all doing. One of his first thoughts on Pony Club was "Pony Club makes riding more fun"

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My daughter is coming up on 8, she’s been riding for a good while. She’s been jumping for over a year and just recently she’s decided that anything over a tiny cross rail is scary as all get out. So now she’s just jumping the tiny Chris’s rails (confidently and happily). We’re doing lots of flat work and some in line kids dressage competitions. She’s happy. She loves her pony and that’s what’s important.
                                      i Agee, go back to lower lessons, walks in the woods etc and let her remember that horses are fun.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Oh and my daughter rides in private lessons unless it’s a special case because she just can’t focus in a group setting. Maybe private is the way to go for a while?

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