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Unmounted riding lessons: are they really well-accepted?

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  • #21
    We removed a tangent with some personal commentary apparently related to the original thread this one is referencing.


    • #22
      I agree that it would be unethical to try to pacify someone with unmounted lessons when they really wanted to be riding, especially using a school horse.

      For a genuine training situation with an established relationship between horse and trainer, kind of on the principle that "if things are going south at the walk, don't take it up to a faster gait," if a rider is having a major problem managing the horse mounted, I can see using groundwork as a way of addressing the issue without the rider also having to deal with her own fear of falling.

      Again, all of know horses who are miserable to deal with on the ground and fun to ride, or people who have weird relationships with quasi-ethical trainers who have them do so much groundwork, you wonder if they have any saddle time at all. But it certainly has its place.

      The only time I've done an mostly, unexpectedly all-groundwork lesson was when the pony I usually lesson on had apparently gotten traumatized the previous day when snow fell off the roof in a certain area of the indoor.

      Of course, when I was lessoning that day, there was wind, more falling snow, and she was being fearful and resistant and spooking at that corner even when I was leading her to the mounting block. Another horse in the arena was also having an issue, contributing to her fear. So we worked on just getting her calm for most of the lesson on the ground, then I got on, and rode her for a little bit at the end. I didn't mind, and if I owned the horse, then, of course, ya do what ya gotta do, even if you spend several weeks doing basic stuff. But since the horse isn't mine, if it had been a string of lessons like that, I might discuss changing mounts. Fortunately, it didn't become a regular issue. Horses are horses, and you have to cope with the horse you have on that day, and sometimes that requires some groundwork.
      Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!


      • #23
        I sometimes do unmounted lessons when the weather is bad or the rider is injured but still wants to be at the barn, etc. I try to make those fun and different and focus on what the rider wants to learn--tack, braiding, anatomy etc. With more experienced riders, we've done things like breaking down a dressage test or jump or trail course. We can talk about approach, transitions, course design...the older kids liked doing that, or sometimes watching videos of riders and asking what they see. All worked well when riding wasn't an option for the day for whatever reason.

        The basics are part of lessons at first. This serves two purposes. One, obviously, they need to learn how to catch a horse, safely tie it, groom it and take up for their lesson and then undo it all afterward. Once they can do this on their own, they come early and do it themselves, but at first it's part of the hour.

        The second thing I like about doing it that way is that a full hour in the saddle the first few rides is a LONG time. For young kids, it's not only hard on the body but totally exceeds their attention span. For older kids and adults, it's still hard on the body. They're using muscles they didn't know they had and in those first few lessons, doing the little things right is so important so they're committed to muscle memory. Even for an adult, all the things to remember is taxing on us. 20 minutes to half an hour in the saddle is plenty for those first couple of lessons, and as they get more experienced at catching and grooming, they naturally get a little longer each week, allowing the rider to build up gradually to more. It works well.


        • #24
          Weeks or months of unmounted lessons? That would not be accepted as a substitute for ridden instruction anywhere I have ever ridden. When I was a kid (dinosaurs were roaming the earth at the time) we certainly had opportunities to learn stable management and basic care. Those things were generally taught at camp or during the time we spent being barn rats, "helping out" around the facility in order to be allowed to be there during non lesson times.

          I *have* seen a few places that would substitute unmounted "lessons" during inclement weather where they did not have the facilities (indoor arena / lights) to offer lessons in bad weather. The parents might tolerate a few of these here and there - they were focused on things like grooming, bandaging, braiding and tack - but there was always grumbling from those who paid and they would never have tolerated those for weeks, let alone months on end.
          Last edited by Lucassb; Nov. 16, 2019, 12:03 AM.
          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


          • #25
            I started riding with lessons in 1971, and “horsemanship” was taught as part of the lesson in its entirety. You were taught to groom, tack, untack, etc., as well as riding. I will probably remember until the day I die that leather was to NEVER touch the ground. That was an offense that is totally unacceptable, with death as a possible consequence.

            During inclement weather, we rode in the bottom of a bank barn, with the stalls removed, at a walk, and practiced two point and posting at the walk. It was productive time, in addition to grooming and tacking.

            Should unmounted lessons go on for months at a time? Not in my opinion. It would beg two questions in my mind- 1) Is the student scared of horses and being mounted, or 2) Is the instructor scared of having the student mounted?
            "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


            • #26
              When we (family) started riding the adults began by learning how to catch a horse in the field and lead it safely to the tack up area and then how to correctly groom, saddle, and prepare the horse. While that was a bit frustrating (the first few lessons were a lot more afoot than astride) but the instructor told us WHY it was done this way. The kids started getting a horse at the mounting block but as they matured they, too, began to do more of their own basic work.

              The adults also learned to administer dewormer, give injections, bandage injuries, and do lots of the other things that a horsekeeper needs to do. We even got a chance to fix fences!!!

              Horsemanship is a very wide topic and has lots of aspects. If you just want to be a rider then that's what you'll do. But if you want to be a horseman/woman then you MUST learn these other aspects of the equestrian art.

              Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


              • #27
                A couple of lesson barns do this when the weather is bad and while I'm in favor of unmounted lessons/teaching, they have to be age and level appropriate. But the indoor lesson/bad weather thing for me is a mix bag too. I'm not risking an accident to drive to a lesson in an ice or snow storm - as one local barn expected clients to do and if they didn't show up no make up lesson.


                • #28
                  Think you can run into a pricing problem with unmounted lessons as well, particularly non owners/ leasers. Are you charging them the same...oh...let’s say $50 you charge for a lesson and school horse? To spend an hour trying to keep the attention of an 11 year old on how to take a bridle apart and clean it instead of ride?

                  We are talking about average kids here, not those obsessed with every detail. Every barn I’ve been in incorporated horsemanship into the lessons with the goal every kid would learn to groom, tack up and reverse the process after and their lesson rules clearly indicated being 30 minutes early and expecting to spend 15 min after.

                  A few times these barns did try the unmounted lesson approach at client request only to find clients wanted a deep discount on lesson fees, still tied up instructors time and, without fail, nobody showed up more then once. You also run into various learning and comprehension speeds in classroom settings. Really didn’t work. Even when Adult clients asked for unmounted lessons, they tended not to show up.

                  What does work is having camps. Might be just a Saturday in winter, a weekend during a school vacation or a week in summer. You get them from 8 or 9 am to 3 pm, they bring lunch. They do everything and ride at me at least once a day. You can reconfigure that for Adults as well, call it a boot camp. Happy hour after.

                  Afraid that running a lesson program year round requires a indoor and lights most places. If you don’t have that, you have to just build it into your operating costs and plan a vacation and/or vetwork for your schoolies.
                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                  • #29
                    Many years ago, pre-horse owning, I took lessons at a barn where you bought a 10 lesson package. One of those lessons were unmounted, usually done on the first rainy day.

                    The one I remember well was when we (all adult women) had to take bridles apart, clean and put back together again. Gosh, the poor deformed horses that the bridles were reassembled to fit!


                    • #30
                      With me, new students are required to book an hour lesson to start, half of which is spent mounted and the other half doing grooming/tacking/untacking. For more experienced riders, this is more of a “this is how we do things in this barn” sort of introduction, and then they are expected to do this on their own time, outside of their 30min or hour riding lesson. For beginners, this remains the lesson structure until they are capable of doing it by themselves (with occasional help as needed from barn staff).

                      Since it generally takes longer for kids to get the hang of this, we incorporate other lessons into the grooming and tacking routine- learning horse parts, horse colors, tack parts, etc. We might learn three new things each week while grooming, review them while untacking, then do a little quiz the next week. I’ve found that the kids generally love to learn things like bathing, as well, and it’s fun to incorporate these into the lessons. We always spend 30min mounted, and I’ve never had parents complain about the 50-50 split, but I also make an effort to keep things new and interesting, as opposed to just repeating the same routine week after week.

                      With the older kids and adults, I have found that they tend to take opportunities to learn as they are offered. This might not be in the sense of a formal lesson; maybe my student is ready to begin jumping, so we talk about leg protection for horses during a break in a mounted lesson, and the next week, student arrives 10min early so we can practice putting boots on properly. Or maybe Sassy the schoolie needs her mane pulled, so instead of doing it myself, I show older kid how to do it after her lesson and let her work on it. I am always happy for kids (at a reasonable age) and adults to hang out before and after their lessons, and most take this time to watch lessons or help out in the barn. Having a good staff, working students, or more experienced riders around to help guide things is great as well.

                      Valuable as well is having visiting professionals who like to educate. Our farriers show the working students how to use hoof testers and how to pull twisted shoes. Our vets are fantastic about explaining things and even helped some students dissect an enucleated eye. We are very fortunate, and work hard to cultivate an environment that facilitates and encourages constant learning


                      • #31
                        While we have an indoor, I took a vote two weeks ago and asked my group kid lessons if they wanted one set lesson day/mo from Nov-Feb to do an educational lesson in the heated classroom instead of a mounted lesson. They all, including parents, voted yes. We started last week and they really enjoyed it. The classroom lessons are 1.5 hours instead of 1 hour (I allow 1.5 hours for my group kiddos to help them catch/groom/tack in case anyone needs a hand) and those who are paying for a lesson horse during mounted lessons do not pay for the lesson horse.