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Help! A Delicate Situation

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  • Help! A Delicate Situation

    I was recently contacted by a mother looking for lessons for her 11 year old beginner daughter. Daughter is scheduled for her first lesson tomorrow evening.

    While I was in the middle of teaching today, a white van full of people pull up at the barn. They drive down across the grass to the ring and ask for me. I'm a bit annoyed because clearly I'm working with a student and whoever these people are don't have an appointment, not to mention driving off the driveway?? But I digress.

    Aunty, who was driving tells me they just wanted to see where the barn was and thought they would come by and let Daughter see the horsies so she "wouldn't be so giddy tomorrow" and before I can say anything, she tells daughter to get out of the van and go see the horsie (the one my student is riding in the middle of her lesson).

    Here is the delicate part and I am in no way trying to be mean or shameful. The daughter comes around the van and she is maybe 5 ft tall and every bit of 300 pounds. She is a sweet girl and very exited to see the horses. I let her pet the horse and talked with the aunt for a few moments but quickly excused myself because my client is paying for my time.

    I was caught off guard as to what to say plus I had my other client there who I was trying to finish up with and I didn't want to say anything in front of my client. Quite frankly, at that moment, I didn't know -what- to say. But... the fact of the matter is, I don't have a horse that can carry this girl. Well, I have one, but she's a 16hh tank of an Appendix who is not at all beginner suitable. Not to be mean, but I don't think this girl could get up on the Appendix even if she was suitable.

    And it's not just the girl. The entire family is morbidly obese (hence driving down to the ring; they can't walk that far). Very nice people!!! But, how do I break it to them that I can't teach their daughter because I don't have a horse that can carry her? And I don't know of any other barns that have a horse who can...

    Help?

  • #2
    could you do a lunge line lessons on the appendix mare? if the girl stays interested than talk to the family from a fitness standpoint?

    Comment


    • #3
      In the future, you can have new clients fill out a brief info sheet that has basic info. A barn I teach at uses one. It asks name, age, height, weight, experience, emergency contact and some other basic stuff. It makes it easier to match the rider to a horse the first time—the peanut who is 4’5” and 70lbs can ride the ancient pony, a heavier or taller adult will need to ride one of the horses.

      I think there’s no way for you to avoid an awkward conversation in this instance. Can you talk to the girl’s mom without her there (perhaps call her back) to explain that you don’t have a beginner appropriate mount that can accommodate her weight. Hopefully someone else here can give you better language than that!

      Comment


      • #4
        You call Mom & advise her that unfortunately, you do not have a suitable horse for her daughter.
        As politely as you can phrase it, tell her horses can only carry a % of their weight including tack & rider.
        Apologize for neglecting to ask her child's weight when you agreed to teach, your omission, not hers.

        If there is any way on Earth you could do a leadline type of lesson using your tank of a horse, it would be a kindness.
        But you need to explain why nothing further is possible for you at this time.
        Suggest she include information on daughter's weight when she looks for a different barn.
        *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
        Steppin' Out 1988-2004
        Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
        Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

        Comment


        • #5
          Call the mother ASAP and tell her you will have to cancel, and why. Explain gently that you had not anticipated an 11 yo being that size and that you don't have an appropriately sized horse in your program.
          COTH's official mini-donk enabler

          "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl

          Comment


          • #6
            Agree that you need to ask height-weight systematically, but also understand why it would not have jumped to mind with an 11 year old. We have run into enough issues that we ask everyone in the initial phone call, "Not to pry, but to make sure we have a suitable sized horse, can you give me approximate height and weight of the rider?" We resolved the issue somewhat by acquiring some draft crosses because it was becoming a recurring problem. Is it possible you could call back and introduce the concept of doing a ground work type lesson on grooming, tacking, leading, etc., but may not have the right sized horse to ride? That way she gets the excitement of some horse time. We also used to have a barrel stand on which you could girth a saddle, and have riders practice getting on and off the barrel. I'm not saying that you would want to do a bunch of lessons like this, but maybe one that she got some horse time and practiced some skills, just as a kindness, as others have mentioned...

            Comment


            • #7
              After your chat with mom, what about offering her to have a “ground” lesson? Teach her to groom, pick feet, show her how to tack, explain the tack, explain colors, different disciplines, ponies vs horses etc?

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by sherian View Post
                could you do a lunge line lessons on the appendix mare? if the girl stays interested than talk to the family from a fitness standpoint?
                No, unfortunately, this mare is not at all tolerant of anything but a balanced rider. And, I'm not sure this girl could physically get up on this mare; I know the mare wouldn't tolerate the struggle were I to let her even try. She would start flinging her head and wiggling back and forth. She does it with my experienced riders if they take too long getting into the saddle.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Bending Line View Post
                  Agree that you need to ask height-weight systematically, but also understand why it would not have jumped to mind with an 11 year old.
                  This.

                  I routinely ask when it comes to older teens and adults. And the vast majority (95%) of my lesson inquiries come through my website which asks age and height and other pertinent questions on the inquiry form. Grandma emailed me directly, though, bypassing my website, and her initial email was a barrage of questions that I focused on answering first...

                  Please call asap I have an 11 year old granddaughter who is interested in lessons. She is a beginner. She is joining 4-H after a child turns 12 may they continue with lessons? Do you have any spots available? We live in xxxxxx she gets out of school at 3:50. Do you have an indoor ring? Do you have lessons in the winter? Our phone number is 000-xxx-xxxx. Grandma's name is K---- and Mom's name is B---. Do you board horses? Could you please send us as much information about your facility as possible. We are very interested. Thank you.


                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Start with ground and in hand work. Make it fun for her (plenty of praise), and maybe discuss how important it is to get in shape before getting on a horse. Do lots of walking and if she can, in-hand trotting. Set up obstacles and do courses. If you have a suitable horse, take them out on trail and teach her all about horses and discuss what she's going to be doing once she gets in shape to ride.

                    If she sticks with it, teach her how to lunge, long line, train, etc...

                    This is an opportunity to not only to make a difference in this girl's life, but to teach her all about horses and take the time to really prepare her for riding.

                    In fact, if you have other clients who might like to join her (family members?) you might even be able to develop a horse facilitated group exercise program for others who would like to work out with horses.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kande04 View Post
                      Start with ground and in hand work. Make it fun for her (plenty of praise), and maybe discuss how important it is to get in shape before getting on a horse. Do lots of walking and if she can, in-hand trotting. Set up obstacles and do courses. If you have a suitable horse, take them out on trail and teach her all about horses and discuss what she's going to be doing once she gets in shape to ride.

                      If she sticks with it, teach her how to lunge, long line, train, etc...

                      This is an opportunity to not only to make a difference in this girl's life, but to teach her all about horses and take the time to really prepare her for riding.

                      In fact, if you have other clients who might like to join her (family members?) you might even be able to develop a horse facilitated group exercise program for others who would like to work out with horses.
                      I really like kande04's advice. This could make a huge positive impact in this girls life. If done correctly and the mom doesn't get offended with the discussion (do it delicately!), this could be what this little girl needs to motivate her.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Do you know anyone locally that has a horse that would be able to carry her? Maybe if the conversation went more like " I don't have an appropriate horse for her but xyz farm does" it would soften the blow a bit? If not, maybe offer horsemanship ground lessons until they find some place else?
                        As a fat person (who is once again busting my butt not to be), I KNOW I'm fat but as I horse person I have no issue with someone saying you are too big for my horse. But a kid with a non-horse family-That is a rock and hard place for sure and I don't envy you the position at all. If you can at all find a way to not extinguish that want to do the horse thing while still protecting your horses' best interest, that would be awesome. Life is really, really rough for overweight kids- believe me I know
                        Wouldst thou like the taste of butter and pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alliteration View Post
                          I was recently contacted by a mother looking for lessons for her 11 year old beginner daughter. Daughter is scheduled for her first lesson tomorrow evening.

                          While I was in the middle of teaching today, a white van full of people pull up at the barn. They drive down across the grass to the ring and ask for me. I'm a bit annoyed because clearly I'm working with a student and whoever these people are don't have an appointment, not to mention driving off the driveway?? But I digress.

                          Aunty, who was driving tells me they just wanted to see where the barn was and thought they would come by and let Daughter see the horsies so she "wouldn't be so giddy tomorrow" and before I can say anything, she tells daughter to get out of the van and go see the horsie (the one my student is riding in the middle of her lesson).

                          Here is the delicate part and I am in no way trying to be mean or shameful. The daughter comes around the van and she is maybe 5 ft tall and every bit of 300 pounds. She is a sweet girl and very exited to see the horses. I let her pet the horse and talked with the aunt for a few moments but quickly excused myself because my client is paying for my time.

                          I was caught off guard as to what to say plus I had my other client there who I was trying to finish up with and I didn't want to say anything in front of my client. Quite frankly, at that moment, I didn't know -what- to say. But... the fact of the matter is, I don't have a horse that can carry this girl. Well, I have one, but she's a 16hh tank of an Appendix who is not at all beginner suitable. Not to be mean, but I don't think this girl could get up on the Appendix even if she was suitable.

                          And it's not just the girl. The entire family is morbidly obese (hence driving down to the ring; they can't walk that far). Very nice people!!! But, how do I break it to them that I can't teach their daughter because I don't have a horse that can carry her? And I don't know of any other barns that have a horse who can...

                          Help?
                          I have to say I am really dubious that your weight estimate is accurate, unless you got her on a scale or guess weights as a carnival profession. 300 pounds would be really, really extraordinarily overweight for a five foot person. To put things in perspective, an average NFL linebacker is 190, and William (“The Refrigerator”) Perry was considered to be an exceptionally large one at 350. They are quite an bit taller than five feet, but hardly “read” as slim and willowy carrying that weight on a six foot of so frame. Maybe you’re right and this child really is carrying 100 pounds more than a typical linebacker on her foot-shorter frame, but many people tend to overestimate just how big people they perceive as obese (whether that perception is accurate or not) are.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            If you want to be a decent human being, go ahead with the lessons and keep the kid on the ground, like kande04 suggested. If, after a couple of weeks, the kid is still excited and enthusiastic about horses and you're still convinced that she can't safely ride any of your horses, then talk to the Mom and explain that riding is going to be out of the question because you don't have a suitable mount and either end the lessons if you really don't want to continue doing ground work or offer to continue with strictly in-hand work.

                            Bonus decent human being points if, at that point, you are able to direct the family to a lesson program that can offer the kid an opportunity to ride if they want to explore that option.

                            As kande04 and WildLittleWren point out, this may be an opportunity to have a big impact on this girl's life, if you care to get involved.
                            "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                            that's even remotely true."

                            Homer Simpson

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I think the worst thing you could do is cancel tomorrow's lesson, which the kid is clearly excited for. I agree with others that you can turn it into a horsemanship lesson and then talk to the mom about not having a suitable horse.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by WildLittleWren View Post

                                If done correctly and the mom doesn't get offended with the discussion (do it delicately!), this could be what this little girl needs to motivate her.
                                I wouldn't even mention weight, just fitness, because as they get fitter the extra weight may take care of itself. If they're willing to work hard enough to get fit enough I suspect that someone may be able to find a suitable horse--at least for short stints (rewards) as the fitness project progresses.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  While I do completely understand your situation and I agree that is an issue, I think you're being a tiny bit over the top about it.

                                  As someone who worked for years at a lesson barn, riding isn't usually the immediate concern for new clients. They first have horsemanship and ground lessons, which can be done at any size. That usually weeds out the people who do not want to put in any effort or do not realize how much work goes into horses and also allows people who cannot safely ride learn about horses. We have had overweight, elderly, and debilitated people come for lessons in horsemanship and ground handling (lunging/long lining/leading/in hand showing).

                                  One thing that you comment on several times is "how is she even going to get on?". Do you not have mounting blocks? I have oftentimes helped kids that weigh more than I do get on their lesson horse. We usually get them on the mounting block, then give a leg up from there if they still cannot make it on their own.

                                  Yes, I understand that you do not have a horse for someone heavy, but there are things that you can offer besides riding that will allow the girl to feel connected to horses and possibly help her to achieve her goal of riding by getting in shape, if that is something she decides that she wants to do. Yes, it does require a tough discussion, but don't just close the door. Explain the issue with weight and what horses can safely carry, then say, but I can offer you this until such time that either I have a suitable mount or I find someone who has a suitable mount where you can go to ride. If they bring up the girl wanting to get into shape, then discuss how that can help her be able to ride quicker. Because the girl is young, I wouldn't bring it up on my own, but if it's something they put out there, then I would be comfortable bringing it into the conversation.

                                  We had a few Haflinger, QH, and random grade ponies that I swear were part draft and they easily carried larger child riders. Maybe you know someone with a similar mount who wouldn't mind helping you out? I just hate to turn away a kid who wants to do something active.
                                  Rhode Islands are red;
                                  North Hollands are blue.
                                  Sorry my thoroughbreds
                                  Stomped on your roo. Originally Posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' :

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by NoSuchPerson View Post
                                    If you want to be a decent human being, go ahead with the lessons and keep the kid on the ground, like kande04 suggested. If, after a couple of weeks, the kid is still excited and enthusiastic about horses and you're still convinced that she can't safely ride any of your horses, then talk to the Mom and explain that riding is going to be out of the question because you don't have a suitable mount and either end the lessons if you really don't want to continue doing ground work or offer to continue with strictly in-hand work.

                                    Bonus decent human being points if, at that point, you are able to direct the family to a lesson program that can offer the kid an opportunity to ride if they want to explore that option.

                                    As kande04 and WildLittleWren point out, this may be an opportunity to have a big impact on this girl's life, if you care to get involved.
                                    Please don't cancel on her first lesson tonight! Tell her that it's important for everyone (so she won't feel singled out) to learn safety and basic horsemanship skills before starting to ride. Try to give her at least a couple of lessons on the ground, then maybe a couple of lead-line lessons.

                                    It's quite possible that the girl's weight is much closer to 250lbs than 300lbs, given her height, as the poster above mentioned. Do you have a horse that could carry a rider that weighs 250 at the walk for a half-hour lead-line lesson? Have the mom fill out the info the poster above recommended giving height and weight stats as well as emergency contact, and see if any of your horses could manage 30 minutes once a week. If your usual lessons run an hour, then be sure to have plenty of activities and learning that can be done from the ground (learning horse anatomy, how to tack, how to wrap, braiding manes and tails, etc.) to fill the rest of the lesson.

                                    There's plenty that a rider can learn on the ground and at the walk (balance, riding with eyes closed) or even at a standstill (check posture in mirror to line up ears/hips/heels, drop stirrups and stretch down/replace toes in stirrups, etc.), she doesn't have to start off learning to trot.

                                    I realize that most riding instructors are focused on in-saddle instruction, but really, there's plenty that a kid -- particularly one who's motivated and clearly has a supportive family -- can learn without needing to spend the entire lesson in the saddle. There are tons of threads here on COTH giving ideas for camps, rainy day lessons, and fun activities for encouraging kid to get interested in horses. This girl has the interest, and maybe taking lessons will help her improve her fitness so one day she can learn to trot poles or jump. Since she's taking private lessons with you, you can tailor the lessons to her current ability level.

                                    Please let us know how it goes tonight!
                                    Proofreading is your friend.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      I am not going to cancel tonight's lesson. My plan was to introduce her to grooming and being around horses since my "introductory lessons" are all about doing just that... getting new kids comfortable around horses.

                                      I was looking more into the future because I know riding is ultimately what she wants to do. And that's where my problem is. Obviously, I want to help and encourage her, which is why I'm here asking for help in not crushing her dreams or hurting her feelings. But my resources are limited. I have two ponies who can't carry her, an older gelding whose weight limit is 150 and my Appendix, who can carry a larger rider, but isn't beginner friendly. When my old gelding retires, I will be looking for a replacement who can carry weight. For now, this is what I have.

                                      RacetrackReject , yes I have a 2 step mounting block. It will still be a struggle for this girl to get on a horse no matter what. And the only one I have that could carry her will NOT tolerate someone struggling to mount.

                                      Toblersmom , I am over 200 lbs myself due to an injury that left me unable to do any real exercise for over a year (and God is it hard to get this weight off!), and she is much larger than I am.
                                      Last edited by Alliteration; Nov. 14, 2019, 02:07 PM.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Sounds like you are the problem really. You don’t have proper horses for this child to ride, that is on you.
                                        As someone pointed out above I really doubt this child is 300lbs. Shame on you for projecting that.

                                        Comment

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