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What to say to scared beginner

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  • What to say to scared beginner

    Today was my 9-yo daughter's third riding lesson ever, and the horse tripped and did a few steps of canter in regaining his balance. DD stayed on, but was scared and quickly got off awash in tears (it was the end of the lesson anyway).

    It apparently did not help that I yelled, "Woohoo! Good job, honey!" from the sidelines during The Canter. "It is NOT FUNNY!" yelled back DD.

    Anyway, her instructor is very nice and very patient, as is the poor bored-out-of-his-mind horse. No worries with either of them. But, what do I say to reassure a young beginner? I tried all the usual mom things about how everyone is scared in the beginning, and that's how we learn, and remember how learning other things was scary at the time too, and the horse probably felt very badly about it, and how a pony ran away with me when I was just learning and I got scared and even fell off, etc. And I do remember how scary it was when stupid Oreo ran away with me (I was six, and was carrying a cup of water for some gymkhana event, and he got scared when the water fell on him, which scared me, which scared him, and that was the end). However, that was more than 40 years ago. I don't remember what my mom said to me at the time to comfort me. Thus, I seek COTH wisdom.

  • #2
    I quit riding 2 times; when I first trotted, and when I first cantered. In hindsight some fortuitous trail riding in a Western rig helped me get used to a horse's motion and gave me confidence I could actually ride. So my suggestion is to take her trail riding on a packer in a Western saddle. She'll be much more comfortable loping around in a big rig. Then take her back to English and put he on the lunge.

    JMO of course.
    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd start with _not_ telling her about falling off and getting run away with.

      She was scared. From the reaction, she probably felt like you were laughing at her or otherwise thought it was funny.

      I'd say... nothing much.

      Let the patient instructor and the sainted school horse do what they do, and stay out of it.

      (I'd also ask her if she'd prefer you not to watch her lessons, then respect her wishes.)
      --
      Wendy
      ... and Patrick

      Comment


      • #4
        Since it was her 3rd lesson, I can understand her fear of accidentally going too fast...

        I too would suggest lunge lessons to build confidence, strength, and balance in the rider. A good trainer will gently ease her into learning how to troubleshoot unexpected changes in speed - both up and down.

        Good luck!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          She is on the longe line, and believe me, I would be happy not watching or watching from a distance, but she insists that I be front and center. The lessons are her idea, BTW; it would have been fine with me if she had not caught The Disease. :-)

          Comment


          • #6
            As a adult that had fear issues from a fall I can relate: first you need to gain the child's(or anyone's) trust. You need to tell her that she can trust you and that you would never ask her to do anything that you don't think that she isn't ready to do. If she needs lunge line lessons or you to lead the horse and a spotter on the side for a while - do it. Tell her if she is uncomfortable with something she can tell you and if she wants to stop she can - no belittling her for being scared or not wanting to do something. Know that gaining her trust is going to take time but once you have it she will trust your judgement and do as you ask without fear. If you lose your patience and try to push, you may make her do what you want that day but she may then not trust you at all and become even more scared. If today she only wants to walk - walk, tomorrow maybe she can trot 1 step then next 2, then canter one step etc. Let her know you will only go as fast as she wants. You'll know you've succeeded when she is asking you to do more and more. This is what I had to do and when I didn't trust my trainer the fear got worse and I thought that I was done jumping. Now I have a trainer that I completely trust I'm starting to jump courses again and happy doing it. -- This is just my experience - give it a try, if it doesn't work for this child, then try something else until you find something that does. No harm either way. Good luck!!!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by wsmoak View Post
              I'd say... nothing much.

              Let the patient instructor and the sainted school horse do what they do, and stay out of it.
              Agree.

              I had a similar experience when I first started to ride. I took a few lessons on saintly but [I]very[I] lazy Appy mare Penny. I was a tiny, tiny little kid and would have to kick with all my might to get her to walk. If we had even started trotting yet, it was in very small stints. On my 4th or 5th lesson, the instructor wanted me to ride a paint gelding, Slide. I was already in love with ugly, lazy Penny, but I begrudgingly agreed to ride Slide. I mounted and gave him my biggest kick and he took off cantering. I was bouncing on his back screaming as loud as I could (poor horse!). He got to the end of the arena and stopped. I was crying so hard and terrified. My instructor jogged over to us. Confirmed that I wasn't physically hurt, and put me right to work as if it hadn't even happened. That really was the best thing. Oh, and I refused to sit on a horse other than Penny for at least the next dozen rides

              Just like falling off, the best thing to do is make sure she's physically okay, and move on. Sounds like you're trying really hard to be a sweet, comforting mom. She's a lucky little girl.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by SharonA View Post
                I tried all the usual mom things about how everyone is scared in the beginning, and that's how we learn, and remember how learning other things was scary at the time too,
                Instead of pointing out how "scared" she was, I may instead point out how "brave" she was. Might take some convincing, but I would at least try and make the glass half full if you know what I mean. Instead of being embarrassed to tell Dad, she could be proud of herself for sticking through such a tough ride!

                And she should be proud! Seasoned riders fall off their horses when the horse trips.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by wsmoak View Post
                  I'd say... nothing much.

                  Let the patient instructor and the sainted school horse do what they do, and stay out of it.
                  I also agree with this. I've had this type of thing happen many times with beginners and it's *always* best if the parent stays quiet and lets me handle the issue.

                  I've also been on the other end, as a parent, and wish I had kept my big mouth shut.

                  Eileen
                  Mad Mare™ Studio
                  Custom Swarovski®, Czech glass and gemstone browbands in Circlet, Diadem and Tiara styles. Matching stock pins, bracelets and belts.
                  http://MadMare.com

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mad Mare View Post
                    I also agree with this. I've had this type of thing happen many times with beginners and it's *always* best if the parent stays quiet and lets me handle the issue.

                    I've also been on the other end, as a parent, and wish I had kept my big mouth shut.

                    Eileen
                    agree sometime when parents etc are about, it makes it worse for the child as sometimes not all the time they know what buttons to push and will cry just becuase they can and get more attention

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yep!

                      Originally posted by Twisted River View Post
                      Instead of pointing out how "scared" she was, I may instead point out how "brave" she was. Might take some convincing, but I would at least try and make the glass half full if you know what I mean. Instead of being embarrassed to tell Dad, she could be proud of herself for sticking through such a tough ride!

                      And she should be proud! Seasoned riders fall off their horses when the horse trips.
                      Agreed. Otherwise, I would let the school horse and instructor handle it. I know when I started back riding in my forties (older rider can have similar fears) at times if my instructor hadn't said, "You can do this," and pushed me at times I wouldn't have made any progress at all.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Twisted River View Post
                        Instead of pointing out how "scared" she was, I may instead point out how "brave" she was. Might take some convincing, but I would at least try and make the glass half full if you know what I mean. Instead of being embarrassed to tell Dad, she could be proud of herself for sticking through such a tough ride!

                        And she should be proud! Seasoned riders fall off their horses when the horse trips.

                        This, except I would replace "brave" with "amazing" simply because the word brave reinforces that it is a "scary" situation.
                        Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.
                        Bernard M. Baruch

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          When your daughter is having her lesson, go for a walk or somewhere else, where she can't see you. I was an extremely nervous beginner rider once upon a time. Having a parent there would have distracted me from the lesson. I would have been so worried about what the parent was thinking, let alone be embarrassed if the parent yelled out even encouragement when I was scared out of my wits. Just let your daughter have some space to work this through.
                          My Equestrian Art Photography page

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                          • #14
                            If I was the instructor, I think I would have put her right back to work and hopefully ended the lesson on a good note. That's how my lessons always went. If I got knocked off, it was no big deal and the lesson continued.
                            I always try my best to end on a positive, be it me or the horse.
                            Ending in tears let's too much time for someone (or horse even) to think about how scary/bad the lesson was. I want to them to think, "Yes, there was a scary bit, but then I was amazing!"
                            You are what you dare.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well at the end of the day, I bet it really doesn't matter what you say, short of "you're gonna DIE"!! She will get on again, be scared, then ride through it. Sure the instructor will handle it, but I loved my mom watching me. And I fell off plenty, both in the ring and out on the trail at a friend's ranch. Not much to do but brush me off, get me back up there, crying or not, and off I went.

                              Your daughter survived a scary event. She'll be scared again but the experience of riding htrough it will be the best thing! She's so so lucky to have a riding mom, who really does understand the whole riding experience and is making it possible for her!!!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I would consult with the instructor on this, of course.

                                But I am concerned your DD got off the horse "awash in tears" and hasn't ridden since? Sounds like it was more than a little fright. How is she talking about it now?

                                I would make sure she still wants to ride and isn't terrified of it. Liking horses and taking to riding are two different things. It's a dangerous sport, and you have to have some commitment to it. Are you sure she's still interested? There is just no way you can convince someone it's ok to do a scary thing if deep down they are truly not enjoying it. Lots of people like carnival rides, I am not one of them. They scare me. I am not going to go on a carnival ride. Others love the thrill of them.

                                I know that all us horse women are of the opinion that you should just get on and ride though the terror at times, and that's true if it's a temporary thing, but kids aren't always as interested as we are. You are the best judge of that. I just know that no matter how many times I fell off over the years, I wanted to get back on. Nothing anyone could say would make me not want to keep trying. Make sure your DD feels the same.

                                Just a quick, "that was a rough ride, honey, but you got through it," is probably enough if she's still got the passion.

                                I realize this will not be a popular post, but it is another perspective.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Less is more. If your daughter wants to talk about it, listen, and be encouraging, and then suggest she discuss her fears with the instructor. Otherwise, I wouldn't dwell on it or bring it up, that will only keep it in the forefront of her mind.

                                  As a mom, of course it's your job to worry, and to want to take away the fear...that's why her instructor will be the best person to talk to her about this, he/she will be a bit more removed from that role, and I'm sure has lots of experience.

                                  And Kwill also has a point...some kids think they want to ride, and then decide it's just not for them. I have a friend whose daughter started lessons, and spent time on Mom's horse. After a couple of falls, she just couldn't enjoy it anymore. She likes lots of other sports, and gets knocked around in those, but riding just wasn't her thing.

                                  Only time will tell.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    How much work has the instructor done to build your daughter's confidence that she can "handle" an unplanned dismount? Way back when I was in Pony Club, we practiced flying dismounts frequently, first at standstill, then at walk, and eventually while (slow) trotting. Although everyone knew even then (I was 12) that it wasn't the same thing as getting tossed or falling because of a stumble, it gave all of us more confidence that we could "think on the fly" so to speak and either land nicely or fall "right" (tuck and roll).

                                    Do they teach kids this stuff nowadays? I've no idea. I do know that those lessons have stayed with me for 35+ years now and were probably one of the most valuable things learned in Pony Club.
                                    I ride a mule. I paint dogs.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I began riding as an adult and remember my early experiences very well. (Someone recently suggested I write an article or short book about that.)

                                      While I wasn't particularly fearful -- luckily I didn't come off for many months, and when I did it was at the halt when deer ran in the woods and the horse jumped sideways -- I recall feeling less sense of control, such as the 'control' was, on the longe line than just trying to steer and go forward on my own.

                                      RI's have their own reasons for choosing whatever methods they do, but my thought from the 'new customer' side would be to hold off on the longe until a few lessons in when it becomes essential, such as learning to post.

                                      Agree with the posters who commented that having an audience is sometimes not at all helpful, though that may be more of an adult reaction to having people see someone looking really pitiful at doing something 'everyone' can do.

                                      Took me quite a while not to give a ^&$@ whether someone was watching me or not, although to this day before a lesson when my RI comes up to the ring while I'm warming up even when I don't at first notice, for some reason things invariably get out of whack for a minute or so.
                                      "Things should be as simple as possible,
                                      but no simpler." - Einstein

                                      “So what’s with the years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        You've gotten some really good advice here. I'll add my 2 cents to the mix: Back away from the child. Really.

                                        I know that you think you're doing the right thing by "talking her through it," "being supportive," "being a good listener", etc, etc, etc. I've had the best luck with timid kids when the parent just stays out of it. Don't do the play by play in the car. The more you apply your amateur sports psychology, the worse it gets. A vague, "that's great, honey" is really all you need to say. If you have an experienced, good instructor and a safe horse, just let them do their thing. In my experience, the more you talk about it, the bigger deal it becomes.

                                        Facing and overcoming a fear is a wonderful life lesson. Let her figure it out. Let it be her accomplishment.
                                        http://patchworkfarmga.com

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