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Riding Student falls- procedure and etiquette

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  • Riding Student falls- procedure and etiquette

    Hi! I am new to the horse world but my daughter is IN LOVE. She has just started to get more serious: IEA Team and starting as a working student at her barn.

    As a parent the biggest fear for me is the dangerous aspect of the sport...falls! I am curious what are common procedures/ etiquette at schooling barns when falls occur?

    The attitude I have seen is they look over the student and if seeming okay then it's just "falls will happen". Well my daughter had a more serious fall recently. Her 3rd fall in one lesson off the same pony. (He was doing what the trainer called a "dirty stop". EDITED to explain these stops were NOT while jumping. They were doing walk/trot/canter and the pony would just stop and duck his head/neck to get her off it seemed. He was not wanting to walk or trot...took a lot to get him going.
    In my opinion he did not want to be ridden and was trying to dump her on purpose. (They did get a trainer on him right away to "school" him... He tried to dump the trainer too (stop and lean his head far down) but she was more experienced and stronger and could stay on fine. ) My daughter has a fractured wrist and is now out of lessons for 2 weeks and most likely will be in a cast. We had concerns she might have a concussion so barn staff who is an EMT was called over to look her over. I was advised to take her in for x-ray on her wrist.

    It just has me wondering what are typical procedures when this occurs? I know it happens and I'm trying to be ok with that.

    I have been doing some reading and someone mentioned an "accident book"? I come from a Girl Scout leader background so it just surprises me that there is not a debrief, documentation, etc. Seems like there is no procedure to what happens if a student falls off.

    Even at summer camp at same barn, my daughter had her first fall. My daughter is the one to tell me about it. No staff. I then pulled the barn owner aside to ask procedure. She stated they checked her over and she seemed fine and wants to ride again. She stated there is always an EMT on site if needed. I agreed with her assessment at the time (my daughter barely even had a bruise) but wish an adult had communicated with me not just left it to my daughter.

    She is 11 and growing up ...maybe it's due to her age that they don't "baby" her? And expect more?

    Please help me understand the "horse world" and if this is "normal" for schooling barns.

    Edited to add these videos. Some comments make me think you envision a little girl just bouncing around on a pony...maybe these will give you a better idea of how she rides.

    first the day she did her first poles and cross poles (is that what they're called?). 5 months ago
    https://youtu.be/UAcR-Ij3k40

    Then this is last day of summer camp this year. Cantering etc. July so roughly 4-6 weeks ago.
    ​​​​https://youtu.be/xBhdL_EOcQ0
    Last edited by darcilyna; Sep. 8, 2019, 08:39 AM.

  • #2
    This is something I feel pretty strongly about with what we know about concussions now. First, I tell my daughter she does NOT have to get back on ANY horse no matter what ANY instructor says. There are too many old school instructors that just say get back on the horse. I feel they should do some sort of concussion test to make sure the rider is okay. Too many times Ive seen a fall and then the person falls again in the same lesson- if they are unsteady or nervous it can easily happen and if they already had a concussion from the first fall the second fall can be devastating.

    Our barn is pretty low key and if the rider doesnt want to get back on they dont have to- they may be encouraged to but no one is making them do it. When it comes to my kids brain, I will make the decisions on whether they should get back on over any instructor or trainer.

    Any fall needs to be reported to the parents period. I'd be upset if no one told me. The only time my kid had a fall when i wasnt around I was told by the adult in charge and it was pretty minor. At the very least the parent needs to know to get a new helmet.

    Comment


    • #3
      The instructor should ALWAYS tell a parent immediately what happened. I would be concerned about continuing to have my child in lessons at this barn.
      Shoulders back, hands down, leg ON!

      https://clshrs3.wixsite.com/website

      Comment


      • #4
        Honestly, I'd be pretty pissed at the trainer for putting my daughter up on a horse known to pull that trick. 3 times in 1 lesson is 3 times too many for a green rider. If the horse is doing that, the horse shouldn't be a lesson horse. A 'dirty stop' is something I've only heard of in relation to jumping. Is your daughter jumping? Does she have the skill level to be jumping? Because if she's falling off that often, I'd have to question that.

        I can count on one hand the number of times I've come off a horse (and I grew up wild on the back of a pony with no instruction and no helmet!), so the fact that your daughter is having so many falls at this one barn is really troubling to me. That tells me that a.) they haven't given her a solid foundation and balance, and/or b.) they're using horses that are not suitable for lessons.

        In the US, I don't think there's any one procedure for this. The fact that the barn has an EMT is good, but in my experience, not common. It's up to each barn what they want to do, as long as they comply with whatever laws they have to comply with. But as a former working student, I would be aghast if the instructor DIDN'T call me to tell me my daughter had fallen off the horse. There are too many horror stories of concussions, long-term issues, and even death resulting from head trauma for this.

        And on that note - your daughter IS wearing a helmet, right? Because if not, pull her from that program right now and don't ever look back.

        Comment


        • #5
          Obligatory "I'm not a parent, but...."

          I don't think there are standards and etiquette. Falls happen. I know as kids we were free range and came off all the time when riding on our own. In most cases if a fall happened in a lesson, it would be exactly as you've described - "Are you okay? Can you get back on? Rub some dirt on it and go."

          I think I enjoy the horse world because it doesn't coddle you. Obviously if you're seriously injured then stop. We had a girl thrown into a pipe fence when I was little and they drove her to the ER and walked her inside. Turns out she fractured her hip. Whoops.

          My bigger concern would be what kind of barn you're riding at where their school horse keeps dirty stopping with a young kid. Your daughter will fall off, she will get stepped on, she might be kicked or bit. These should be RARE, if they ever happen, but we are working with horses and it's part of the package deal. I've been riding 20 years - I've broken bones coming off, I've been stepped on pretty good once or twice, bit once (last year), and kicked once a long time ago by a rank pony. But, no one I know keeps records on these things. Frankly, I'd find it odd.
          Veni vidi vici. With a paint pony, nonetheless.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Yes my daughter ALWAYS wears a helmet. It is required! She is not a "green" rider but also not a super long term experienced rider either. She has been riding off and on for 2 years. She just started cantering this summer and has done small jumps like poles and cross ties (I think they are called). She has amped up to 2 lessons per week since starting IEA and improving fast. In 2 years at this barn she had NEVER ridden this horse. I think he is technically a pony which I have been told ponies are more fickle.

            My daughter fell ONCE in summer camp. And then 3 times last night. That is it in 2.5 years or so of riding.

            I feel horribly a I was watching the lesson but defaulted to the trainer letting her get back up. I should have pulled her aside and given both her and the horse a break and that 3rd fall might not have happened.

            I will say this barn seems to be growing very fast very quickly and I'm not super happy with the parent communication aspect. I need to speak up for myself and ask for better ... Which is hard for me but important for my daughter!

            I just spoke with a friend whose daughter rides elsewhere... And says they get an INCIDENT REPORT for every little thing that happens. Even got a call when the horse her daughter was riding got bit by a bee. The horses not her daughter. That is a bit above and beyond but more what the type of communication I would like.

            Not sure if this barn could change its policies with enough push from parents or not ...

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by darcilyna View Post
              Yes my daughter ALWAYS wears a helmet. It is required! She is not a "green" rider but also not a super long term experienced rider either. She has been riding off and on for 2 years. She just started cantering this summer and has done small jumps like poles and cross ties (I think they are called). She has amped up to 2 lessons per week since starting IEA and improving fast. In 2 years at this barn she had NEVER ridden this horse. I think he is technically a pony which I have been told ponies are more fickle.

              My daughter fell ONCE in summer camp. And then 3 times last night. That is it in 2.5 years or so of riding.
              I'm sorry, but she is still a green rider. And she may need you to be an advocate for her with the barn in terms of her safety, AND to put the brakes on if you feel things are getting dangerous. You did not say how long she had been riding, but IMO, coming off a horse 4 times in a few months is not good, even if three of those falls occurred on one horse in one lesson (again, a more experienced rider probably could have ridden the horse through those stops, or had the trainer work with them on how to do it - which is what the trainer is there to do, theoretically).

              We've all seen bad barns, bad instructors, and bad falls that with or without a helmet, result in serious injury. That's why we worry when we see posts like this. We have to question the quality of the instruction and the reasons for using an unsuitable horse in a lesson. Horses are inherently dangerous enough without adding human error to the mix.

              Comment


              • #8
                This is an interesting topic. DH is a high school track official, former track coach. All coaches and officials have to submit accident reports for potentially injurious incidents. They also have to take a concussion protocol test every year to keep their certification, and must follow the concussion protocol for injuries.

                Makes riding look a bit like the Wild Wild West (which I guess is what some people like).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by darcilyna View Post
                  Yes my daughter ALWAYS wears a helmet. It is required! She is not a "green" rider but also not a super long term experienced rider either. She has been riding off and on for 2 years. She just started cantering this summer and has done small jumps like poles and cross ties (I think they are called). She has amped up to 2 lessons per week since starting IEA and improving fast. In 2 years at this barn she had NEVER ridden this horse. I think he is technically a pony which I have been told ponies are more fickle.

                  Snaps for always wearing a helmet. They are nothing to be ashamed of

                  Obligatory disclosure, not a parent and never ridden a pony (too tall). Sounds light your daughter is doing well with 2 years under her belt


                  My daughter fell ONCE in summer camp. And then 3 times last night. That is it in 2.5 years or so of riding.

                  Your daughter will, at some point fall off in the future. It's the nature of the beast as it were. 3 times in one lesson may be too much, IMO.

                  I feel horribly a I was watching the lesson but defaulted to the trainer letting her get back up. I should have pulled her aside and given both her and the horse a break and that 3rd fall might not have happened.

                  I can imagine how hard it was to watch your daughter fall off. There is, IMO, some wisdom in getting back on when one falls off. Each fall is different and getting back on may or may not be the right strategy. I had a mare that I should not have bought. Third time I came off her (as an adult re-rider), in the course of about 2 months, I decided as I lay on the ground with my breath knocked out of me that I was not going to get back on. Trainer never even asked me to... there is a time and place to get back on or not.

                  I will say this barn seems to be growing very fast very quickly and I'm not super happy with the parent communication aspect. I need to speak up for myself and ask for better ... Which is hard for me but important for my daughter!

                  You are the parent of a young girl of 11. She is, IMO, not old enough yet to always make the best decisions for herself. You, as a parent need to rely on the advice, support and *expertise* of your daughter's trainer and barn. If you feel communication is not sufficient, first you need to let the trainer *and* barn know your thoughts and feelings. Trust your gut... if it's saying this isn't the place for your daughter, then it is; no shame in moving or at least taking your daughter to a different barn to watch a less with a possible new trainer and see how you and your daughter feel about the different place and trainer.

                  I just spoke with a friend whose daughter rides elsewhere... And says they get an INCIDENT REPORT for every little thing that happens. Even got a call when the horse her daughter was riding got bit by a bee. The horses not her daughter. That is a bit above and beyond but more what the type of communication I would like.

                  As a parent, I'd like that idea of an incident report. If that is the type of communication you would like, then, as I said above, audit a lesson with the possible new trainer, bring your daughter and see how you both feel after watching a few lessons. Sounds to me like your daughter is old enough to watch a trainer and see how she feels about how the trainer trains

                  Not sure if this barn could change its policies with enough push from parents or not ...

                  It's worth asking your current barn about better communication including details every time thee is an 'interaction' between your daughter and a horse if the 'interaction' isn't just getting on the horse and riding; horse getting away from her while being led, horse stepping on her foot, falling off, horse biting her. These are all things that will happen (at least to most of us but as an 11 year old, you should be aware.

                  Remember, anytime your daughter's head hits the ground, check for concussion and replace the helmet

                  ​​​​​​​You're being a good mom

                  When you start to observe, you become more effective... your movements soften, you see more, you are more available to becoming a team member. Be an Observer first, a Handler second.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't know.

                    I board at a pony barn--and have for decades--and I've seen a lot of kids go through the lesson program. Some of them never come off. Some come off here and there and some come off all the darn time. Three times in one lesson due to dirty stops is not the best day ever, but I have seen it happen. (And had it happen to me when I was a kid.)(But that was in the 70s and the world was a different place.)

                    I once watched a pony buck a trainer off quite a few times in a row. Now? Same pony is teaching tiny children how to ride and is an absolute saint. Horses have bad days too.

                    I am not a parent and perhaps that voids my advice, but I suggest that if your daughter is ok, everyone should take a breath and re-evaluate. Pay attention, for sure, but this does not throw up giant red flags for me. Orange, perhaps...but I would absolutely let my kid get back on at that barn and, though it's hard to say without having seen the accidents, probably even that horse in controlled situations.

                    Our trainers do not fill out incident reports for parents when kids fall or are otherwise hurt at the barn, but they DO tell them. Many parents, like you, it seems, tend to actually stay and watch the lessons--so they know first hand when something goes wrong. What the non-horsey among them don't know, really, is how "bad" any given fall is. I'm sure it's very scary to watch your kid hit the dirt, let alone a few times in a row, but it's often not as awful as it seems from the observation lounge window.

                    A broken bone is nothing to shake a stick at, but plenty of riders at all levels have had the misfortune to do so over the years (myself included). It is not necessarily an indication of anything but the fact that the rider had the misfortune to land the wrong way and does not necessarily translate to a dangerous horse or a bad trainer.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm not sure there is a "common procedure" or "etiquette."

                      As a parent, I would expect to be told about any fall my child has. That's not unreasonable and I would make sure that staff and I are all on the same page with that.

                      Something to remember is that most lesson facilities are small, independent, owner-operator businesses. It's probably unrealistic to expect them to have the same kind of established policies (e.g. your "debrief, documentation, etc") as will a big entity with an administrative structure like Girl Scouts, school districts, and youth sports organizations like Little League or Pop Warner.

                      What is reasonable to expect, in my opinion, is that a student will receive competent instruction and will always be mounted on suitable horses. As a former instructor, I have always believed that, in almost every case, if a beginning student falls off, it's my fault. I have made some error in judgment. However, and this is the hard reality that all parents of horse-crazy kids have to accept, if your kid sticks with riding and begins to advance up the ranks to more complex skills and more complicated horses, there are going to be falls.

                      Riding is a sport unlike all others in that it depends on the participation of a large, non-verbal, prey animal with it's own personality, emotions, and ideas. Yes, horses can be trained, but they aren't inanimate objects. You cannot control their actions in every situation and under all conditions. And the inevitable result of this is that your kid is going to fall off and, yes, sometimes, they're going to get hurt. Now, having multiple frequent falls is a red flag because that shouldn't be happening in a lesson program. But the occasional fall once your kid starts developing more advanced skills is perfectly normal.

                      I'm not trying to freak you out, but this is something you need to work out in your head if your daughter is going to continue to ride. When I was a kid, if my Grandma T. had been the decision maker in the family, I never would have been allowed to ride. In her mind, the risks were just too great. I would have been given dancing lessons and swimming lessons, but never riding lessons. Fortunately, my parents didn't see it the same way.

                      As a final thought, most adult horse people are notorious for getting injured and just carrying on. For example, one evening, I had a fall and broke 5 ribs. I fed and watered the horses, fed the dog, took a shower, fell asleep, got up the next morning, got dressed, and drove myself to the emergency room. This is NOT unusual behavior among horse people. So, yes, we do, as a whole, have a "brush yourself off and carry on" attitude toward falls. I'm not saying it's a good attitude, but it is a pervasive part of the culture.
                      "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                      that's even remotely true."

                      Homer Simpson

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by darcilyna View Post
                        Yes my daughter ALWAYS wears a helmet. It is required! She is not a "green" rider but also not a super long term experienced rider either. She has been riding off and on for 2 years. She just started cantering this summer and has done small jumps like poles and cross ties (I think they are called). She has amped up to 2 lessons per week since starting IEA and improving fast. In 2 years at this barn she had NEVER ridden this horse. I think he is technically a pony which I have been told ponies are more fickle.

                        My daughter fell ONCE in summer camp. And then 3 times last night. That is it in 2.5 years or so of riding.

                        I feel horribly a I was watching the lesson but defaulted to the trainer letting her get back up. I should have pulled her aside and given both her and the horse a break and that 3rd fall might not have happened.

                        I will say this barn seems to be growing very fast very quickly and I'm not super happy with the parent communication aspect. I need to speak up for myself and ask for better ... Which is hard for me but important for my daughter!

                        I just spoke with a friend whose daughter rides elsewhere... And says they get an INCIDENT REPORT for every little thing that happens. Even got a call when the horse her daughter was riding got bit by a bee. The horses not her daughter. That is a bit above and beyond but more what the type of communication I would like.

                        Not sure if this barn could change its policies with enough push from parents or not ...
                        I can’t say, in over 25 years of riding and probably dozens of facilities, have I ever been at a place that has incident reports. I mean workplaces yes, but not equine facilities of any kind. I would not expect this to be normal behavior.

                        It sounds like for the second incident you were there, so what did you expect? An incident report for something you saw happen?
                        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


                        • #13
                          Yes, "back in the old days" there was little more than "you ok? ok, back on". Jokes have been made about you either go to the hospital or get back on. However, with time and an increasing body of knowledge about the dangers of head injuries - even minor injuries, procedures are changing. It would be great if your daughter's barn catches up with current trends, but I don't know that I would start characterizing this barn/program/instructor as a terrible place based on this one instance. Maybe they just need a gentle reminder along with some data regarding brain injuries during falls.

                          I'm not sure how old your daughter is, but my experience is that kids take on a lot more autonomy and responsibility at barns than kids of the same ages in other activities - and this is by and large a good thing, particularly now when so many kids are micromanaged and sheltered. Of course, along with the increased self-confidence and maturity there is an increased risk for something to go wrong. Instructors and parents need to work together to minimize risks inherent with big, sometimes dangerous, animals.

                          As your daughter has just started cantering and jumping small poles and cross rails, she is still considered pretty green. She should ideally be riding horses that will give her confidence and allow her to build her skills and strength. I hope this experience doesn't sour her on riding and horses and she heals quickly and can get back to riding on a horse that is more suitable for her level.
                          "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just an aside: if she has "just started cantering this summer" she IS 'green' as a rider.

                            And a pony with a dirty stop in it is not a school horse for less experienced riders.
                            No matter where you go, there you are

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              She is 11 years old and in 6th grade. I love the barn and horse experience for her it really is a perfect fit.

                              She has no interest in stopping riding in facts wants to go to her team (IEA-) practice tonight and all lessons while healing to "watch and learn".

                              She does however never want to ride that particular horse again...which is understandable.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thanks everyone for your varied input. Very helpful!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  None of the lesson barns I have encountered have had anything like an incident report.

                                  Since you are worried that the trainer did not tell you about the fall at summer camp just talk to the trainer about it. I would guess it was just a case of the trainer forgetting to tell you because it was a long day and nothing was really wrong after the fall. But it is still OK to tell the trainer that you think they should tell you about any fall that happens while you are not there.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Another thought I had.

                                    I don't know much about the IEA programs, but I did 4-H as a kid and we had non-mounted horsemanship lessons every month - subjects like feeding and first aid, etc. Maybe there is a way to incorporate helmet safety and head injuries into a teaching part of the program.

                                    International Helmet Awareness Day is coming up and there are lots of interesting and important information about helmets and head injuries on the Riders4Helmets sites

                                    https://www.riders4helmets.com/about/
                                    https://www.facebook.com/riders4helmets/

                                    And yes, please replace her helmet before she gets back on.
                                    "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Back in the 90's when I was doing hunters, the barn had a lesson pony that put many a kid on the ground. He would jump anything so long as you did not lean at him. Every kid that spent time on him knew the situation upfront and most came out way better riders for it. The others just didn't ride him anymore. But those kids were further along that OP's daughter.

                                      Mom - stay involved and keep your eyes open. The only place I ever knew that did incident reports was a therapeutic riding center and it was required for their accreditation.


                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by darcilyna View Post
                                        She is 11 years old and in 6th grade. I love the barn and horse experience for her it really is a perfect fit.

                                        She has no interest in stopping riding in facts wants to go to her team (IEA-) practice tonight and all lessons while healing to "watch and learn".

                                        She does however never want to ride that particular horse again...which is understandable.
                                        An 11 year old that has just started cantering this summer is a very green beginner, even if she has been doing lessons on and off for 2 years.

                                        Kids usually have some naturally good balance, but if they get scared and tense up, then they tend to bounce off the horse more easily. Since your daughter is a beginner, she will not have a lot of technique to rely on and get her past trouble spots.

                                        Some otherwise very reliable older lesson horses will get a dirty stop because they are tire, sore, or just fed up with children bouncing around on them, so this horse might not be entirely unsuitable, just getting a bit sour.

                                        That said, falls do happen in riding. I actually never fell off as a kid, though I did some painful emergency dismounts when my pony bolted towards the highway (free range kid). I have come off several times as an adult returning rider and it is *much more painful* compared to the kids who get up and continue on.

                                        Kids with gymnastic experience sometimes know how to fall better, kids with more riding experience won't come off in the same dirty stop or spook that unseats a beginner kid.

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