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Western Pleasure lesson barns are the bane of my existence as a youth riders' instructor...

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  • Western Pleasure lesson barns are the bane of my existence as a youth riders' instructor...

    I have a small kid-oriented lesson program: Pony Club basics with the goals of caring for one's pony on one's own, and being able to ride the pony over varied terrain, while trying a bit of everything. We spend a lot of time outside on the trail and try to develop an independent seat that will serve them in whichever discipline they decide to specialize in when the time comes.

    Since I started the program, I've "inherited" a few kids from other local lesson barns. The roping/gaming kids usually adjust quickly to the Pony Club style (and they're fearless ) - Western pleasure kids on the other hand are the bane of my existence: I've inherited 3 who have been "riding" for 3+ years each and who can't quite deal with our ponies' "normal" gaits. These 3 kids all got here with a lot of attitude as in "we did local open shows and we know all about English as we've done "English pleasure" classes"... and they can't handle more than a jog.
    I've one "slower moving" pony that I've been putting them on but they all refuse to ride the Shetlands/Welsh/Arabian cross ponies (all size and level appropriate for where they're at) and they complain that it's the ponies' fault they can't sit the trot...
    They also all turn up their nose at riding the Shetlands - even though they're all elementary school age and under 5 foot. They claim they only want to ride "big horses" like the large QH geldings they rode at their previous place. I've tried saying that the Shetlands will help with their balance and encourage them to actually ride (rather than steer only since their legs aren't long enough for horses' saddle flaps). But fluffy sassy ponies apparently are beneath them...

    I have a phone call with one of the Moms tomorrow to talk about how to better help her kid transition from WP to our program. But I am a bit at my wits' end: if they want to learn and follow our program, they need to ride various ponies and be willing to do something more that steering a shuffling zombie (can you guess how I *really* feel about that discipline?).

    How do I encourage them to branch out? (particularly when all the local open shows and 4H programs in our area seem to promote - bad - WP/English pleasure. - I suppose there might be "good' WP, I still haven't encountered it)
    And how do I politely tell the Mom that her daughter (despite having been riding for 3 years and being convinced she's a star since she's won a ribbon at the local 4H show) is not quite as advanced as they seem to think?

  • #2
    Can you put on a mini schooling show for your students and let them and their parents see the range of skills in your program?

    Comment


    • #3
      YOU are the instructor, not the child. They ride the pony you pull out, or they can leave.
      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


      • #4
        Do the ex western pleasure riders ever ride with your other pupils? Sometimes seeing the fun that other children are having encourages them to have a go themselves.

        Can you teach then some mounted games races? That would certainly get them moving faster and teach them the joy of having a shorter pony when you need to vault on it. I would aim to have a fun day with games and then put each ex western pleasure rider with at least one adventurous, small pony loving rider. How big the teams would be would end up depending on how many pupils want to take part.

        A quadrille team would be a more sedate option. There's lots of fun to be had choosing music and costumes, learning the routine etc... and you would need all participants on similarly sized ponies so no-one could insist on riding a horse if everyone else was on a pony.

        Comment


        • #5
          This reminds me of something posted here (I think) about a group of contestants in some sort of reality show --all declared they knew how to ride. Horses were presented, all riders put on saddles, bridles, and mounted. The last did not. The organizer confronted the man and said, "You told us you were the foremost polo player in your country --why isn't your horse saddled?" The fellow replied that in his country, the groom saddled the horse.

          My point is that these students can ride --but not as you want them to. Your job is to teach them, not find fault with their previous experience. But that does mean they must want to learn. "I want a bigger horse," should be met with, "This is what I have ---good riders learn to ride a variety of horses. If you don't want to ride Tony the Pony, you will have to watch the others from the ground. All of you will eventually learn to ride all the horses, big and small." End of discussion. (You might show a pix of Karen O'Conner's pony Theodore).

          It is natural to fear change --especially when it involves a 1200 pound animal. That your gaming kids excel is commendable ---but I have found most (all except one) gaming student I had (teaching o/f to former or current gaming riders) lacked fundamental flat work. This could be the ones I had were unique, but they as a group were heavy handed, quick to go to whip and spur, and generally over-rode our jumping horses who knew their jobs well. In each case, we had to go back to flat work to get to over fence work and do it well.

          So you have to do the same. The WP kids are used to one style of riding. Pretend they know nothing --be very, very impressed when they perform anything well ----and encourage them. Good WP riders are incredibly strong through the core ---they can sit and appear still through movement of their horse --that takes effort to do well. Help these riders transition IF THAT IS WHAT THEY WANT TO DO! I had one daughter who rode flat saddle, one who rode jumpers and one who did 3-Day to a very high level (CIC**) --Imagine my surprise when my granddaughter (who lived with me) decided Showmanship was her thing --yes she could ride all the disciplines the others girls did, but dancing the Showmanship Dance was her joy -- we all learned about WP and Showmanship ---her horse was trained in what he could do --ranch riding, roping, WP, English Pleasure, and very low jumping. But the kid loved Showmanship. That's where she excelled.

          This was not "wrong," this was her joy in horses ---so you don't like WP ---ok ---accept that it is a different sport. Encourage your students to explore others. Personally, as a fox hunter from childhood --I saw no use for Dressage --until I tried it. Maybe YOU should expand your knowledge base and take a lesson in WP from your students to see what they do know ---might be more than you think.

          I fox hunt on weekends and ride my cutting/sorting horse on weekdays --FYI he's the same horse.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks everyone! The fun day/schooling show is a great idea!!
            And encouraging them to ride with others as well. So far they're all signed up for individual lessons because that's what we do with riders new to the program - assume they don't know much and start on the basicas again. So they indeed haven't seen the fun the other kids are having...

            Yes, ideally they *should* ride the pony assigned - but it's still a business (the lessons need to pay for the ponyies' hay) if they cry, stomp their feet, and don't want to get on the pony (and their parents don't make them), then they're not coming back. I don't want to "scare them away" - but I do want to find a way to encourage them to transition easily and embrace something new.

            Yes, change can be scary and some of you are hitting the nail on the head saying it has to be what *they* want to do. I think all of the 3 kids (tween girls) would have been perfectly happy staying with the WP trainer but all 3 were moved by their parents because of either safety concerns or the fact that the parent rode "English" as a child and wanted their kid to experience the same.
            The phone call I am having later on today is from a Mom who texted me "Help, my kid wants to go back to the other place" (the Mom doesn't want her to but we also don't want the kid to stop riding altogether).

            (and Foxglove - I also grew up foxhunting and doing pony club in Europe. I'm probably unphased by the gaming kids looking a little heavy because that's probably how we all grew up - scrappy kids doing mounted games and following the hunt bareback - from a distance - because we couldn't find a saddle to fit the roly-poly ponies. "Finesse" can come later - that's the point of lessons. I've also done polo, driving, endurance, vaulting, eventing, jumpers - and since moving to this country, I tried a bit of sorting and field roping. I am not hating on Western - many of my neighbours are very accomplished Western riders. I am just befuddled by WP - and HUS and other 'pleasure' disciplines as the basics of riding I grew up with - impulsion, straightness, riding the hindquarters are not what I see in Pleasure disciplines around here. Rather I see disconnected horses with their nose on the ground and spur stops. Good riding is good riding, no matter the tack - and as I said, there might be *good* WP, I just have yet to encounter it...).

            Comment


            • #7
              Unfortunately...the free market is a bear. And it is a hard sell to convince people to challenge themselves if they DO NOT WANT TO. At the end of the day, if you cannot persuade clients to go your way, then you must go their way. The most common method is to flood the space with YOUR ideas and leave no room for anything else. If you cannot do that, then you must flex to the clients desires. Some folks charm their way to a softer sell successfully. But there s a reason so many instructors and coaches are loud mouthed bullies. They find they have to dominate the space/conversation so there is no room for opposition
              "Friend" me !

              http://www.facebook.com/isabeau.solace

              Comment


              • #8
                You have to make some decisions about your program

                it is not possible for any business to be all things to all people. Nor is every business the right fit for each customer.

                You need to decide what you represent, the standards you were going to teach and uphold, and get those in writing and shared with all comers.

                It’s OK to not be the right fit for everyone. It’s OK for some of your customers to decide that your program is not right for them. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of your business.

                Realize that they chose western pleasure and thrived there because it suits them. Now they are taking up space is in your program that should go to other riders who will appreciate what you offer.

                They are not going to change at a fundamental level. And it is not your job to try to force them to change.

                If you try to force everybody to fit your model, and/or try to force your model to fit everybody, not only will you go crazy, these efforts will not be successful.

                Do what you do best. Let them do what they do best — somewhere else, that matches what they have already shown they really want to do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post
                  You have to make some decisions about your program

                  it is not possible for any business to be all things to all people. Nor is every business the right fit for each customer.

                  You need to decide what you represent, the standards you were going to teach and uphold, and get those in writing and shared with all comers.

                  It’s OK to not be the right fit for everyone. It’s OK for some of your customers to decide that your program is not right for them. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of your business.

                  Realize that they chose western pleasure and thrived there because it suits them. Now they are taking up space is in your program that should go to other riders who will appreciate what you offer.

                  They are not going to change at a fundamental level. And it is not your job to try to force them to change.

                  If you try to force everybody to fit your model, and/or try to force your model to fit everybody, not only will you go crazy, these efforts will not be successful.

                  Do what you do best. Let them do what they do best — somewhere else, that matches what they have already shown they really want to do.
                  OverandOnward said what I was thinking, but did it better than I would have, so I'm just going to say, "This."
                  "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                  that's even remotely true."

                  Homer Simpson

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think I'd back off on the sitting trot until the kids are a bit more accomplished. I actually had to do that with my own son, because I wanted him to enjoy riding and not feel like he was being drilled on hard things. We still did the sitting trot, but only very short bursts of it, like one 20 meter circle. It all turned out fine and he went on to achieve upper level Pony Club ratings several years later.

                    I like the idea of a fun games day, and also think once you get them in group lessons it would be good to have them all switch ponies mid-ride. That way they start out with the big horse they prefer, but end up riding the ponies anyway. Usually kids think it's fun to switch ponies, so they might even be happy about it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Having dealt with students from saddle seat and WP, I can well understand your frustration.

                      Those who learn to ride in those disciplines have great difficulty learning to sit a real trot. Show saddle seat horses have one gear, very controlled forward. They go with their backs up, so are sittable, while WP horse appear to be hobbled, and are therefore sittable. I personally hate to see them trot.

                      The children should at least understand rising trot, So play games with them, not PC games, but let's have fun games, so that they learn to relax, and use their bodies. Equitation can come later. And if the ponies cater, they can learn to sit, and stop their bodies, which they should already know from WP.

                      And smile, and laugh, with them, not growl and scowl.






                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've been in a similar situation. Lots of kids who have sat on WP quarter horses think they can ride because they didn't fall off at the wog or the dope-a-lope...because they've never been taught to ride, just be a passenger while a quiet horse packed them around. What I've found to work: Forbidden fruit. I told those kids they didn't ride well enough yet to handle a more "advanced" horse like the other kids, because they'd only been on beginner horses....and then I'd let them watch the other kids doing the fun stuff. They usually want what they can't have.
                        "Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them."
                        -Richard S. Bach

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by merrygoround View Post

                          And smile, and laugh, with them, not growl and scowl.
                          Totally - nothing but a happy, smiling Euro expat here (unless it's an oxymoron?)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Unfforgettable View Post
                            What I've found to work: Forbidden fruit. I told those kids they didn't ride well enough yet to handle a more "advanced" horse like the other kids, because they'd only been on beginner horses....and then I'd let them watch the other kids doing the fun stuff. They usually want what they can't have.
                            This is genius!! Thanks for sharing!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mango20 View Post
                              I think I'd back off on the sitting trot until the kids are a bit more accomplished.
                              Agreed. It's hard to sit a trot if you're not relaxed, so if they are already feeling anxious about the gaits compared to WP, sitting trot will be even harder. Maybe if working on diagonals, you can have them sit a couple of extra beats before switching if they are on the wrong one. So, instead of sit 2....maybe sit 4, and then eventually 6....and then think about sitting for a little longer.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Thanks S1969! I theoretically like this idea of sitting more beats (and will be using that with other students). The thing is none of them can post the trot (despite riding between 3 to 5 years). So if they stick around (which seems to be the parents' preference but not the kids'), we'll do loads of walking (which they'll claim to be bored with) and 2-point (which they aren't quite strong enough for yet - but "baby steps"...).
                                Thanks everyone for weighing in!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Kirikou, as an old Pony Clubber, I love that you're teaching those valuable basics and the importance of caring for the horse. So many kids just get on and go, but the experience is so much more important when kids learn how to read horses and care for them.

                                  I'm a therapeutic riding instructor and I've had a lot of success teaching young kids and youngsters with special needs to post using games. One of the favorites with the kids is an 'obstacle course' where I set up a grid of ground rails, boxes like those in Trail, and the kids have to follow clues. The ground rails are snakes they have to ride over with their up-downs at walk and trot and the boxes are 'ponds' or rivers they have to post in and out of. I have also used Beanie Babies on the rails and on jump stands where the kids have to find and collect them through an obstacle course at walk and trot. Just a thought but the kids are thinking and laughing and learning at the same time.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I like the forbidden fruit and games. I 'll add maybe they need to SEE real riding. My #1 educational equine pursuit with my kids was a tank of gas and a day trip to go see good riding - real horsemanship. They sat at Ann Kursinski, Denny Emerson jumping clinics, annual family weekends at Rolex every year, to reining and cutting futurities. Numerous times I had parents ask me how come their kids don't look like my kids when they ride. Guess what mental picture they walked away with from each of those experiences.
                                    The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      So we're upset for kids painting fat, fluffy shetlands with a broad brush when we're standing around painting an entire discipline with the same brush?

                                      I grew up riding hunters. From them, I learned how to keep my composure if things didn't go perfectly.
                                      I competed lightly in speed events in high school. From them, I learned self reliance and how to make quick decisions.
                                      I switched to jumpers. From them, I learned to appreciate brave, bold horses.
                                      I switch to the all around at a breed level and I've ridden with some of the best western pleasure riders and trainers in the country; from them, I've learned to appreciate truly broke horses and the subtle art of riding them well.

                                      You've gotten some good ideas here OP, good luck to you and your students who are broadening their education base.
                                      Veni vidi vici. With a paint pony, nonetheless.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        In another direction, but aiming at fun, do any kids get bareback lessons? We seemed to start bareback, walking, learning our balance, no stirrups to depend on. We gained confidence to control our ponies, not slip off (very often). We unknowingly did gymnastics, copying other kids. "Look, I can sit sideways". Or twirl around 360* while standing still, then walking. Of course they could learn this on a lunge line for more security, control of the pony. But there were LOTS of things to try, toe-touching, hands in the air, trying to post bareback, then doing 2-point with just knees, that we mastered while going around the ring slowly, then faster. I think it makes better riders, though they are not classicly perfect equitation. Practical, useful horsemanship, for when situations are not show ring perfect.

                                        My kids went to bareback things once they could control their animal in a saddle, thought it was great fun! Then they moved on to more formal lessons with the confidence of being in control of the animal for new skills. They continued to ride bareback off and on, maybe only had time for a quick ride, or at the Fair when not competing. They ALWAYS rode with bridles, helmets, no halter with a lead rope rein. I had seen too many accidents with halters not bridles. Mine can manage their horses in pretty much any setting. They are horsemen, not equitation dolls on push-button horses. They also did trail riding, cross country fences, just for enjoyment, both English and Western.

                                        Sounds like OP has a nice program to develop true riders, with skills! Not much of that around here anymore. Even Pony Club is pretty stilted, more ring riding and rule following, being perfect. I have not checked them since they let Western Pleasure into the program. Too disheartening. I was discouraged reading rule changes about bitting allowed, other changes since son was a member. As the Horsemanship person in the Club, I heard the new (then) mantra from National that "You cannot let the child fail." So locally anyway, it got ugly drilling and drilling kids over fences, gridwork, exhausting the equines, making quitters or run outs at fences. Both kids and equines were exhausted after a schooling session of 2t o 3 hours before a Rating Day. No one learning then! And kids often just considered the horse a machine to get them over jumps to move up. Horses went home lame, did not get better at home after all those jumps in a day. Lacked the concern and care of horses which was SUPPOSED to be a basic part of the program. Son was no longer having fun so we got out.

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