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Setting family boundaries

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  • Setting family boundaries

    Those of you with horses and horse-crazy extended family, we need your advice!

    I have a horse. He's an OTTB, a perfect ride for me, but a sensitive, sometimes spooky, and opinionated ride. (I know, big surprise.)

    I also have a 6-year-old niece, whose parents weren't happy with the local plod-around lessons she took last year from a backyard pony place....and the only actual "lesson barn" with a good program, reliable horses, Pony Club, etc., is an hour south.

    Unfortunately, my in-laws think that our niece should just be able to a) ride my horse, or b) have us get and keep a pony for her to ride. They don't seem to believe us when we tell them it's about $5K per year for vet, farrier, feed, supplements/meds, and other care for our horse, and we have neither the money, time, nor the desire to buy and care for a horse that's too small for either of us to ride.

    We have been trying to accommodate all by offering our niece 30 minute lessons every other week -- figuring that we and my horse could tolerate anything for 30 minutes. Not quite. We have ascertained that six is too small to effectively work around a 15.3 TB for grooming and saddling (since he's good at standing for me, but antsy with a small person underfoot -- plus, too tall for her to reach anything without climbing up on a stool, not a good idea with aforementioned Mr. Antsy!). We have ascertained that even though she has a pretty decent set of hands for a beginner, they're still bouncy enough to make Mr. Sensitive toss his head incessantly, to the frustration of his rider and us, his handlers. We have most recently ascertained that he does NOT like teaching beginners to trot. Finally, when not taken on leadline (and our niece is starting to be able to steer well enough to navigate herself), Mr. OTTB is more apt to spook or think about rolling than to pay attention to tiny little legs or voice commands.

    It finally sank in to me that duh -- this is a horse I would never teach a small beginner on in any other setting. So why am I putting up with this with my niece?

    Probably, we have dug our hole this deep because of comments like my mother-in-law's response to trying to voice our concerns: "Well, we just figure you should be able to control your horse." Sure, any horse is just a horse, and my mind control and voice command abilities are so stellar that I can stop a spook from 20-40 meters away.

    Help! How do you horse-owners and barn-owners handle the inevitable "little Sally wants to ride," especially when you have riding instructor in your own credentials but are trying to set boundaries for safety and sanity? (I was a certified NARHA instructor and barn manager before we bought our own place, but I have no desire to teach at the moment -- we both work full-time and are also full-time students, and are enjoying the privacy of having our own barn without dealing with commercial lessons or boarding.)

    Do I just put on my big girl underpants and say NO? Maybe I should try to spin it as my mother-in-law sees it: "I'm sorry, but I'm not a riding instructor. I just can't control my horse enough to ensure her safety."

    We are looking into the barn an hour south, but that would likely involve footing the bill for the lessons and the transportation -- and continue to incur the incredulity of our in-laws who don't see why we can't just put our niece on our horse.

    Any tips in boundary setting and smoothing ruffled feathers would be helpful. We're trying to work this out now....since 6-year old niece has two younger siblings in tow!

  • #2
    I got this a lot with my oh-so-senstive Arabian mare. She actually was pretty good for pony rides, but I never would trust her enough with beginners. My mom- however seemed to have a nasty habit of offering people to ride her for free. Always irritated me- it's not like she offered my brothers boat to anyone who wanted a boat ride, but for some reason she thought any stranger that liked horses should be able to ride my horse.

    I finally explained to her that having a novice rider ride my horse was like teaching a 16 year old to drive on a BMW racing car. It isn't good for the car, and it's dangerous for the driver. I think non-horse people have this perception that if you are a good rider that your horse should be good enough for anyone to ride- like you train it so well that a total beginner should be able to ride it. People so often don't grasp that riding takes a great deal of athleticism, muscle memory and coordination that takes years to learn. They think "you just sit there and the horse does all the work." For your MIL think of something that she is good at- and draw an analogy that would make sense to her.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd tell thelm that Little Sally needs a size and level appropriate mount. And that if they value Little Sally's life and ability to be safe that driving an hour is not much in the scope of things.
      Last edited by Couture TB; Mar. 23, 2011, 05:09 PM. Reason: cripes typed so fast it the end result looked like I was drunk!

      Comment


      • #4
        I'd find them a barn that gives lessons and direct them there. Smile and say, "Hey, when my son gets older, can he practice driving in your car?"
        "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"

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        • #5
          Not speaking from experence but if they paid board/costs (snort) would you keep and give her lessons on a good lesson pony? Or do you just want out of the whole thing?

          Its perfectly ok to tell MIL and neice "no this horse is just not good for what you want to do". I wouldnt hammer in a nail with a high heeled shoe tho it could be done.
          “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Couture TB View Post
            I tell thelm that Little Sally needs a size and level appropriate mount. And that if they value Little Sally's life and ability to be safe that driving and hour is not much in the scope of things.

            THIS. And point out to them that child safe mounts are highly valued and take years of training/riding to get to that point ON TOP OF being saints to begin with....that they occasionally come on the market but most often are bought by word of mouth as there is always a good market for them. They are also some of the best insurance they can get for a kid...a babysitter horse won't scare the kid away from horses and give them a good foundation. Suggest that you'd be happy to help them find the right horse for her...and let them figure out costs on their own.
            Colored Cowhorse Ranch
            www.coloredcowhorseranch.com
            Northern NV

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            • #7
              Ugh...that's annoying. Tell mother-in-law if she's so concerned that little Sally ride that SHE can foot the bills for little Sally's pony.

              My family is in the business and a few years ago, my 9 yr old cousin decided she wanted to ride.

              We made a pony available to them & obviously gave them a break....but they were still required to pay at least SOMETHING & to help out a bit around the farm since they were getting a deal. My mother is the BO and I still pay board - why should anyone have to foot the bill for my hobby?

              The hard part is when you have a horse crazy kid in the family & her guardians just refuse to take on any expense - you really WANT to do something for the kid but you also don't want to be taken advantage of.
              \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River

              Comment


              • #8
                Try this:

                "When Sally turns 15 and is old enough to start learning to drive, would you feel safe putting her into a Formula race car? It's still a car, but it wouldn't be safe for a beginner to learn in it.
                You want her to learn in a small, safe and slow reliable car. Probably a slightly older model in case of dents or dings.
                And when you want her to learn in an older, smaller and safer car, will you ask other family members to purchase that car and pay for all insurance, upkeep and fuel?
                Basically this is what you;re asking us to do. We can't keep putting Sally in danger in my horse because I don't want her to get hurt. This horse is fully trained, but he's trained for a different level rider that has a lot more experience. A beginner rider just isn't safe on him. He's a race car.
                And we'd love to see Sally still enjoying horses, but she needs a lesson-type pony and we simply can't afford to purchase or upkeep one for her."
                You jump in the saddle,
                Hold onto the bridle!
                Jump in the line!
                ...Belefonte

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Trakehner View Post
                  I'd find them a barn that gives lessons and direct them there. Smile and say, "Hey, when my son gets older, can he practice driving in your car?"
                  This. I know you don't like it, but you have to stand up for yourself and actually your niece's safety. Because if something happens, guess who the bad guy is going to be. Good luck.
                  www.Somermistfarm.com
                  Quality Hunter Ponies

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PortPonies View Post
                    Do I just put on my big girl underpants and say NO?
                    This!! And, you don't owe them an explanation, but if you feel better giving them one, just tell them that your TB is not a safe horse for the girl and that having a beginner ride him is not good for the horse either. You gave it a try (which is more generous than I would have been!), it's not working out, sorry.

                    Honestly, if they want their daughter to ride badly enough and don't like the instruction or horses at barn 1, they should make the hour drive south to barn 2. An hour drive really isn't that big of a deal if something is important to you. I've had daily commutes longer than that.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Czar View Post
                      Ugh...that's annoying. Tell mother-in-law if she's so concerned that little Sally ride that SHE can foot the bills for little Sally's pony.
                      THIS. tell MIL to get lost or foot the bills herself. When she is paying, then she can have an opinion. Where are the child's parents in all of this?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by PortPonies View Post
                        Do I just put on my big girl underpants and say NO?
                        Yes.
                        We are looking into the barn an hour south, but that would likely involve footing the bill for the lessons and the transportation --
                        WHY?!

                        Why on earth should you be financially responsible for riding lessons and transportation to said riding lessons for your niece? This is not your responsibility, so please don't feel guilted into doing it. The time to set boundaries is now. Put your foot down, explain that your horse is not suitable, and that you do not have the time or desire to teach your niece to ride anymore. Perhaps find a fluffier way to say this, but say it. Repeat as necessary. You are being taken advantage of and emotionally blackmailed into putting your niece into an unsafe situation and yourself into an uncomfortable situation.

                        And yes, I was a horse-crazy little kid would have given an appendage just to pet a horse at 6 years old... but that didn't make it anyone's responsibility to provide that for me.


                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Couture TB View Post
                          I tell thelm that Little Sally needs a size and level appropriate mount. And that if they value Little Sally's life and ability to be safe that driving and hour is not much in the scope of things.
                          This. And dont cave in, ever.
                          "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                          ---
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MistyBlue View Post
                            Try this:

                            "When Sally turns 15 and is old enough to start learning to drive, would you feel safe putting her into a Formula race car? It's still a car, but it wouldn't be safe for a beginner to learn in it.
                            You want her to learn in a small, safe and slow reliable car. Probably a slightly older model in case of dents or dings.
                            And when you want her to learn in an older, smaller and safer car, will you ask other family members to purchase that car and pay for all insurance, upkeep and fuel?
                            Basically this is what you;re asking us to do. We can't keep putting Sally in danger in my horse because I don't want her to get hurt. This horse is fully trained, but he's trained for a different level rider that has a lot more experience. A beginner rider just isn't safe on him. He's a race car.
                            And we'd love to see Sally still enjoying horses, but she needs a lesson-type pony and we simply can't afford to purchase or upkeep one for her."
                            This. Repeat when necessary.


                            Comment


                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=PortPonies;5502854]Do I just put on my big girl underpants and say NO? Maybe I should try to spin it as my mother-in-law sees it: "I'm sorry, but I'm not a riding instructor. I just can't control my horse enough to ensure her safety."

                              We are looking into the barn an hour south, but that would likely involve footing the bill for the lessons and the transportation -- and continue to incur the incredulity of our in-laws who don't see why we can't just put our niece on our horse.QUOTE]

                              The first part of what I quoted is yes, you pull those undies on and smile and say NO. And the spin would be "I'm sorry I'm not a riding instructor, but I can get you some phone numbers." No need at all to say you can't control your horse.

                              As to the second part--excuse me? How is it your responsibility to truck their child to lessons that you are also paying for? You have some screwy family dynamics going on here, and if this is neice #1, I would strongly suggest you set the boundaries in stone now, or you're going to end up resenting them for a long long time!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I feel your pain. I have a large family and a field full of ponies. They are all very cute ponies, but as a breeder most of those ponies are two young for anyone to learn on and since most of them are going to be show ponies, I don't really want young riders on them before they are ready.

                                I am very firm with my relatives that my ponies aren't suitable for teaching. I always make sure to mention safety concerns over and over again. My dad did purchase a nice safe pony for my three young neices to learn to ride on that lives with my guys, but he foots her bill and says it's is right as a grandpa do such things. When other family members start wanting their kids to ride his granddaughters' pony, he is very quick to pull out the bills that he pays on said pony.
                                www.facebook.com/SunsetPonies

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Misty Blue nailed it. You really need to TELL them that your Thoroughbred is essentially a Formula One race car. Do they really feel safe puting her on a horse than will spook at his own fart and can it upwards of FOURTY MILES AN HOUR in a few seconds? Make they feel like bad parents for wanting to put their kid in such a dangerous position. Well broke pony = Volvo Sedan. Your TB =race car. What you going to let your kid drive?

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    wow, I feel for you. First you got suckered into doing this, and now you are made to feel like you should be the one to find an alternative.

                                    I would not offer anything out. They are not a good match, you are worried about both of their safety, and the lessons at your place cannot continue.

                                    They already know about the place an hour away, so let them figure it out.

                                    If she is still a beginner, why are the plod-along places unsuitable? Sounds like they are just her level.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by PortPonies View Post

                                      We are looking into the barn an hour south, but that would likely involve footing the bill for the lessons and the transportation -- and continue to incur the incredulity of our in-laws who don't see why we can't just put our niece on our horse.
                                      Huh? Why are you responsible for her lessons? Please explain, I'm dying to know what sort of twisted logic your in-laws are pressuring you with. It's completely beyond my realm of comprehension.

                                      And as an aside I'm guessing you may be relatively recently married as you mention you and your husband are both in school. If you don't start standing up to the in-laws now, they are going to continue to manipulate you and make your lives, and possibly your marriage, miserable.
                                      "Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple” – Barry Switzer

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by mswillie View Post
                                        If you don't start standing up to the in-laws now, they are going to continue to manipulate you and make your lives, and possibly your marriage, miserable.

                                        Your husband needs to stand up to his parents, as well. This cannot all be on YOU to handle.


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