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Need ideas for teaching a 12 year girl about proper horse care/training

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  • Need ideas for teaching a 12 year girl about proper horse care/training

    Well I am absolutely thrilled that my niece, who is 12, is finally able to come to train with me. Long story short she has been trail riding for a couple of years but has never learned much other than to get on and go. Much to our horror her father, my sister's ex-husband, bought her a totally unsuitable horse last year. A very hot and tempermental arab. He kept the horse alone at his house all year and my poor niece is getting nothing but bad advice for riding and training her horse. We have tried repeatedly to intervene but he insists we leave this to him and his cowboy brothers and my niece has been getting such bad advice it's devastating for us to watch. Well, her once hot but still fairly safe horse has now began bucking her off and is getting hard to handle. Her uncles recommended lunging him, chasing him until he bucks then rewarding him for "getting the bucks out". Oy. Needless to say it made him start bucking more. They then suggested she tie his hind leg to his halter, chase him until he gives up and lays down and then he'll see her as alpha and stop bucking. Double oy. Needless to say we had NO idea he had started being a serious problem and she finally told her mom what was going on and that she was scared and confused. One infuriated call from my sister finally convinced her father that he was in over his head and needed my help. Hooray!! So, the horse comes to me Monday for a full evaluation. I suspect poorly fitted tack and pain. I'll rule that out first and treat him accordingly. Then we begin lots and lots of groundwork to get him relaxed and respectful again. Then, when all is well I'll begin riding and see if this is ever going to be a safe horse for her or if we need to sell him and get a nice trail gelding for her. My main thing in this is FINALLY getting the chance to give her the horse education she so desperately needs and has been denied. I want to make sure she understands the proper way to handle a horse, why we want relaxation, why tack fit is important...everything. I have a lot to undo and I need all the help I can get to give her a fun and informative education. Any advice from you guys as to topics to cover, fun games to play, kid friendly books, etc would be much appreciated!! She rides Western and I don't know alot about that but I'm assuming at her level basic dressage in a western saddle will work fine? I'm just so excited to finally have the opportunity to share my horse love and knowledge with my niece and I'd love all the suggestions I can get to get her to become the wonderful horseperson I know she will be! Just thankful she finally said "This isn't right" and went to her mom for help. I'm just happy she hasn't been hurt in this mess. Thanks everyone!! Wish me luck...I've got a scared, hurt horse to help and a confused niece to guide!
    Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

  • #2
    If you have good local 4-H clubs, have her sign up for 4-H. Horses are a social activity. Kids seem to learn best with around kids. It also will reenforce the lessons you teach.

    Good luck and have fun with your niece!
    Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule
    http://www.ironwood-farm.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Agree with IF. If it is just you giving the instruction in the midst of all this other misinformation she's already been exposed to, your instruction might not hold as much weight with her. If she's in a club or organization where everyone is at least trying to use good horsemanship it will be better for her. Also don't discount Pony Club because they have either started or are piloting a western track for their clubs.
      Do you have a horse she can safely ride while you deal with hers?
      One of the best things you can do is talk a lot. As you are grooming, just talk about what you're doing and why. Talk to her about what tack you are using, and why. At first she might be a little overwhelmed so don't expect her to "get it" right away. I feel like she's in a spot where taking things slow might be best, keeping things simple, safe, and very relaxed. She is probably very scared at this point, and confused.
      I'm not sure about the "basic dressage" you're talking about with the western saddle. Basic riding with any saddle is fine, but does she WANT to ride dressage? Or is she set on Western right now? Be careful you are helping her get to where she wants to be (safely)... not where you would like her to be.

      Comment


      • #4
        just a caution about the politics of the divorce situation and your niece being caught in the middle:
        Even though Dad & Brothers sound like yahoos, please don't criticize them to her, or make it seem like they were idiots for doing it their way. As much as possible, I'd frame it as there are lots of different training approaches, here's one that works well for a lot of people. Let the RESULTS of this new training style teach her that the old way was wrong. Rather than you telling her it was.

        Comment


        • #5
          Honestly? I'd try to get as far out of this as possible. Not because you're not competent but because of the potential BS you're going to get into. ESPECIALLY if you end up deeming this horse unsuitable.

          I'd really try to find another trainer friend to take this on.

          Since i doubt that will happen, my next thoughts are to encourage this young lady to spend time with you as you work with other horses. Get her involved in working with some critters who are safe or at least watching how you're doing things.

          Also, is she's into Western and wants to read about some basics, there's a guy named Mike Kevil who has a book called "starting colts" that is pretty good. Cherry Hill also has a lot of good books about horse husbandry, basic training, and later some excellent books with schooling type exercises that explain the WHY behind the exercises. The Kevil site is: http://www.startingcolts.com/
          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

          Might be a reason, never an excuse...

          Comment


          • #6
            I'd recommend finding your local pony club and seeing if she'd be interested in joining. For all of my bitterness towards pony club and its terrible strictness and sometimes over-the-top/stupid policies in the name of safety (they REALLY take that safety thing to an extreme), it does do a great job of systematically teaching basics to young riders. And of course it's also an outlet for your niece to find and meet other horse-crazy girls like your herself.

            I wouldn't trade my years in 4H for the world, but be forewarned that (at least in my state), it was very dependent upon the individual clubs to teach riders horse skills. My club had a meeting once before the county show and once before the state show, and that was it. There was essentially no education, other than someone unsuccessfully trying to explain the danish system (my 12 year old self thought they gave pastries to riders).

            In the meantime, while not relying on an organization to do it for you, you could yourself follow some of the pony club hierarchy of learning. Their levels do a pretty good job of developing horse care and riding skills at the same time. Be friendly and helpful, but try not to make it too overwhelming! Be open to explaining everything you're doing as well as making your niece feel comfortable about asking you questions or telling you when she's had enough learning for the day.

            I also agree with oldpony's suggestion for a quiet horse for her to ride in the meantime. In addition to being a green rider in need of basics, she probably also needs to regain her confidence and remember why riding is fun.

            Comment


            • #7
              Find a Pony Club; http://racinecountyponyclub.org/about/
              Check out the resources tab for some ideas.
              ... _. ._ .._. .._

              Comment


              • #8
                When I was a kid I read as many horse books as I could get my hands on, from Saddle Club, to Thoroughbred, to basic horse care. If she's a reader, go on a shopping/out to lunch trip, and hit up the bookstore when you're done with lunch to pick out some books.

                If she's not a reader, books won't help.

                When I was working with a younger girl one of my (and hers!) favorite "game" was naming the parts of the horse while we were grooming. I'd ask, she'd point, she'd ask, I'd point, repeat, that way she would learn them from me, but would also get to "test" me on parts I hadn't taught her and she looked up in a book or online. I found having her write a goal list helped immensely, too. We discussed her goals, and how we could achieve them step by step. For example, one of her goals was to learn to jump. She had only been riding Western, so under Jump we wrote Ride English, Know how to put on English saddle. Obviously I didn't throw her on the saddle and point her towards a crossrail, but you get the idea.

                I learned soooo much from observing my trainer and having her explain things to me like I was an adult, not some silly child. Don't talk down to her, and if she's confused ask her why, but don't push for an answer. 12 is a hard age, or it was for me and most of my friends. Relating horse safety and basics (not using other people's tack or horses, picking things up, etc) to everyday life was good, too. Nowadays you could say "Well, just going into the tackroom and using John's saddle would kinda be like walking up to him and taking his cell phone and using it without asking first. Ha! Can you imagine how YOU would act if you were on your phone and someone just took it?!" Keep her entertained, laughing, and having fun. It may sound silly when you put things like that, but it really does help it sink in.

                Good luck! I really hope I'm able to do this with my nieces and nephews some day!
                runnjump86 Instagram

                Horse Junkies United guest blogger

                Comment


                • #9
                  One little suggestion based on some of what you described. If you can get her to put herself in the horse's place when possible so she can understand that some handling techniques are not appropriate for teaching a horse anything. Linda Tellington-Jones uses the golden rule when teaching her methods. "Treat your horse the way you would like to be treated."

                  Works for me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Another resource that Pony Club has is all the requirements for ratings are available online. I have often used them to build a systematic teaching program for non-PC lessons, on and off the horse.

                    http://www.ponyclub.org/?page=LocalLevelTesting has links to the D-1 through C-2 standards, or you can go to the Pony Club manuals as well.
                    Leap, and the net will appear

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There is a program called "Junior Master Horseman" that you can get through their website, http://juniormasterhorseman.com/. The program is not geared towards any specific breed, and it might be a good way to start. There is a charge for the workbooks, around $14, but these might be a way to get her engaged outside of the barn as well.
                      My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
                      ReRiders Clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HungarianHippo View Post
                        just a caution about the politics of the divorce situation and your niece being caught in the middle:
                        Even though Dad & Brothers sound like yahoos, please don't criticize them to her, or make it seem like they were idiots for doing it their way. As much as possible, I'd frame it as there are lots of different training approaches, here's one that works well for a lot of people. Let the RESULTS of this new training style teach her that the old way was wrong. Rather than you telling her it was.
                        This! and lead by example, quietly. It's amazing how much kids pick up when you don't think they're paying attention. Model the behavior you want her to use.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Another vote for Pony Club. It's MUCH better than trying to do it yourself.

                          My daughter went through it and it was invaluable. And we lived on the farm.

                          She learned so much in so many ways.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks everyone! Unfortunately there is no pony club within hours if where we live. I would otherwise love to get her involved! We did talk about 4H and drill team and she's really interested in that. She LOVES to read so thanks for the book suggestions! We are always VERY careful not to get her in the middle of the divorce or make her feel bad about her father. My sister works very hard to keep the peace and they even go out for a "family" dinner regularly. For some reason he was really possessive about the horse thing and didn't want is involved. But, he's very happy now for the help and he and my niece know a sale might happen and they are both open to it. We just want her safe and to have fun. She definitely likes Western and my question was more "can I use my dressage kid basics" to get her started more than trying to switch her to dressage. I'm assuming learning a balanced seat, timing, good hands, etc can transfer over quickly. Her best friend boards at the barn I'm at and she's a great kid so I think she'll love having a friend to do this with! Thanks again for the suggestions!
                            Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              the Cherry Hill books will be good for her, a very easy to read style with good information and she is a western rider

                              a good seat and good hands and timing can be taught just fine in a western saddle as long as it fits both her and the horse, good riding and horsemanship does not matter on the saddle

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                                Honestly? I'd try to get as far out of this as possible. Not because you're not competent but because of the potential BS you're going to get into. ESPECIALLY if you end up deeming this horse unsuitable.

                                I'd really try to find another trainer friend to take this on.
                                This was my thought, also. Don't get in the middle of someone else's divorce, no matter how far on the sidelines you think you're staying. Trust me - you will get pulled into the fray, you will get blamed for anything that goes wrong with the horse, and it will damage your relationship with your family.

                                Since i doubt that will happen, my next thoughts are to encourage this young lady to spend time with you as you work with other horses. Get her involved in working with some critters who are safe or at least watching how you're doing things.

                                Also, is she's into Western and wants to read about some basics, there's a guy named Mike Kevil who has a book called "starting colts" that is pretty good. Cherry Hill also has a lot of good books about horse husbandry, basic training, and later some excellent books with schooling type exercises that explain the WHY behind the exercises. The Kevil site is: http://www.startingcolts.com/
                                ^^This, and get her into 4-H.

                                Also, there's a wonderful little book called "Happy Horsemanship" by Dorothy Henderson Pinch. I got it when I was ten, and read it so many times I can still remember parts of it, many decades later. Full of good information, presented in a way that a newbie can understand. May be a teensy bit "young" for your niece, but better that than something that will bore the pants off her.

                                http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Horseman.../dp/0684852152
                                In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
                                A life lived by example, done too soon.
                                www.caringbridge.org/page/laurajahnke/

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Happy Horsemanship is a fun book

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    "She definitely likes Western and my question was more "can I use my dressage kid basics" to get her started more than trying to switch her to dressage. I'm assuming learning a balanced seat, timing, good hands, etc can transfer over quickly."

                                    If you look at someone riding western in a truly correct seat (think western horsemanship), the position should be identical to someone riding dressage. She will probably have an advantage of being more balanced and have a better feel.
                                    My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
                                    ReRiders Clique

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with what others have said. Find a local Pony Club or 4H group for her to join, and maybe get her a good book or two, also. I suggest Horse Care for Kids by Cherry Hill, Riding for Kids by Judy Richter, Horse Showing for Kids by Cheryl Kimball, and Jumping for Kids by Lesley Ward, all of which are published by Storey Publishing, LLC.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I know you said no pony club is nearby, but for books go ahead and get her the USPC D manual. It's great and very useful for anyone, not just pony clubbers: http://www.amazon.com/United-States-.../dp/0876059523

                                        The Happy Horsemanship book can be enjoyable, too, although if I was only getting one book for a beginner (child or adult, pony club or non-pony club), I'd get them the D manual. http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Horseman...ref=pd_sim_b_8

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