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The fearful young student- having hysterical fits- UPDATE post 163

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  • #61
    Don't give up on her! If the girl really wants to ride and isn't feeling pressure from her parents, let her ride!

    I was a young, timid rider. I had a few falls early on that weren't bad, but that scared me. I went from group lesson to group lesson never really improving. My parents would watch my lessons and end up frustrated with me for not trying harder.

    My breakthrough was a new coach and private lessons. She found an amazing horse. He was a great little chestnut who plodded around the ring and did whatever was asked of him. He also introduced me to jumping I really excelled on that horse. I know that no horse is bombproof, but some horses really are less likely to spook and are more appropriate for a nervous beginner. I really suggest that this girl switch mounts.

    OP, if you only have your pony and don't have a suitable horse for the girl to ride, maybe talk to her mom and see if she can find another horse/coach who can take the child on.

    I wanted to ride, but I remember being very nervous as a young rider and being thrown on horses that were probably a bit too much for me at the time.

    I know how frustrating it must be to teach this girl. I have very little patience for children. I've already decided that when my daughter is old enough to ride I will likely find someone else to teach her as I know she won't listen to mom.

    Good luck

    Comment


    • #62
      Can you find a more suitable mount for her?
      A pony that spooks and bucks upon hearing a jet even though he should be used to it does not seem like a confidence builder.
      "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."

      Comment


      • #63
        Would it help if, when she gets tense, you actually lead her around until she calms down? Pony would be under tighter control and you would be close to her to help calm her down. Apologies if this has already been suggested.

        And this might sound stupid, but I wonder if chewing gun would help to distract her from her fear? Or reciting the alphabet backward or singing? Sometimes one unthinkably silly thing like that can work wonders. (See Seinfeld episode when George eats an apple while asking a woman out on a date and it completely evaporates his nerves.)
        Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.

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        • Original Poster

          #64
          Just wanted to cut in and thank everyone for their suggetions. Asp AllisoninWunderland.

          Originally posted by Coanteen View Post
          OP clarified some of her post, but look at what she wrote in the actual OP:


          That doesn't sound understanding at all. The kid's behavior isn't "insane", OP's "humble" opinion notwithstanding. Falling to this particular kid is obviously not a "NBD" issue, I was not trying to say that her falling was not a big deal to her. However, I feel it is a bad idea to MAKE IT into a big deal. Everyone falls off, and you have to get back on. If you don't, you will be that much more afraid the next time, because you build it up in your mind. If you get back on before you have time to think about it, that is not AS MUCH of an issue, in my past experiences. The NBD comment was in reference to the fact that the jets were flying today. It is an almost every day thing. The only reason the pony spooked was because it was SO LOUD. I wish I could compare it to something, but there is literally nothing like it. It was surely the loudest thing pony had ever heard. Normal conversation is 40 decibles. Regular jet noise is 130 decibles. A jet as loud and close as this one was is 150 decibles. Eardrum rupture can occur at 160 decibles. http://www.chem.purdue.edu/chemsafet...n/dblevels.htm for anyone who cares. It only lasts a second at that intensity, but still. The pony is not the issue. He is 18, a kick ride. I would put my 76 year old grandmother on him any day of the week. I do put my 16 month old son on him. He is an angel. and really, "irritated beyond words" that the kid didn't get over what was a traumatic event for her only one lesson ago, when the triggering event (jets) happened again? yes, they were flying again, but I calmly explained that it was not going to happen again, that the jet that did it last time was off course. The kid had a meltdown last lesson, and become "incoherent" according to OP when faced with the trigger the following lesson; clearly to OP "working past it" means something along the lines of bouncing back as if it never happened, because exactly when in that timeframe did the kid have time to work past anything?

          To me, working past it means trusting that your mom and your teacher are not going to put you in a dangerous situations, and understanding that freak accidents can and do happen. I am not saying that she has no right to be afraid. I do understand fear. When I leaned to ride, the first time I cantered, I slid off. I was afraid to canter for YEARS. But I did it anyway, because if I laid off for a while, it was MUCH scarier to make the leap back into it. Working past her fears to me means walking around the ring a few times, next to your mom, to show her that nothing is going to happen. That was not enough to reassure her, so she wanted to get off. That is bailing out to me. So to me, that is where she had the chance to try to work through her fear, but she chose not to. Maybe she truly can't help it. I don't know. But when she acts like this, she gets out of doing the thing that she didn't want to do. She also refuses to pick out a horses back feet for fear of being kicked. She has never been kicked. She refuses to go into the pasture to catch the pony, by herself. Every time she refuses to do something, she is not forced to do it. If your horse learned that you won't make him go in the wash stall, he is not going to go in. You have to make him. Just an example of learned behavior.

          With a previous fall it took that kid months to get back to riding, and OP's "irritated beyond words" that kid is not back to being fine the very next lesson (and on a pony that kid probably trusted as safe after she fell off her own horse, so now she has to deal with the fear of the fall AND that the "safe" pony bucks when spooked).
          ]

          The two falls previously were off of her QH gelding. Once he bucked, once she slipped off bareback.
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          • #65
            You are not the right instructor for her. Trust me, she can sense your frustration with her. Kids are very intuitive. I would recommend that she ride closer to where she lives with someone who has a real steady eddy for her to ride. Where did the idea about showing come from? Did it come from you or her parents? Why would you have her jump at her first show? And to the poster who said the child would have to apologize for her emotions before she could ride again, what a crapping thing to say. The kid is afraid. She didn't do it to annoy you.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #66
              Originally posted by Canaqua View Post
              I haven't taught riding in over 20 years, so I won't offer anything from that perspective!

              I am a parent of a 10 year old child who suffers from anxiety.

              First, I agree with Texan, if Mom is there and active for every lesson (I think you said she calmed the child down?)...start by asking Mom to sit out the lesson in her car or in the barn. Kids this age most certainly do play things up for parents and, if Mom is the super coddling type, she'll only make it worse. Kids can often be braver and more inpependent if the person who usually bails them out isn't around. Myself, I do not go in for lessons or whatever where my son is having anxiety issues or is being at all uncooperative with the instructor. I watch only when things are going smoothly and remove myself when they are not...sticking around would cripple the instructor's ability to manage him, as he'd be constantly looking over his shoulder, hoping Mommy would help him out.

              Forget the horse show, the girl isn't in a good place for that right now. Don't ask their opinion, you are the trainer, you decide when your clients are ready to go to a show that you will be coaching them at. Just say "we're not ready right now".

              I think you need to back way up with this girl and work on her confidence and expanding her comfort zone, a bit at a time. Last year, I was working with a very anxious OTTB and the trainer I was working with set each lesson up carefully...we'd start with doing something the horse was confident about and then purposefully set up a situation that would just BARELY challenge his comfort level. The important part was that I was ready, physically, mentally and with a PLAN, before we pushed him to provoke just a bit of his anxiety...because I knew it was going to happen and had a plan, I could get him through it without a major incident. He'd come out of the ride being just a tiiiiny bit more confident. Next ride, we'd go just a bit further than the last...VERY slowly expanding the horse's comfort zone while never allowing things to get out of control or past his breaking point. Did not want to overface him, or we'd be back nearly to step 1.

              This would work for anyone, not just a horse . Back up and have her do just things she is totally confident about, if that's just flatwork for a while, so be it. YOU choose when she'll encounter something that might be a challenge for her, don't let it just happen. You and she have a plan and strategy ready for what to do if anything happens when she starts to creep just a bit outside what she's comfortable with. For now, you can have her halt and you hold the pony's head while the planes take off. When she's good with sitting on the pony for that, maybe she just stands near you, etc...

              And, when a kid is getting sucked into an out of control anxiety episode, reasoning with them won't work and scolding certainly won't. You can't get sucked in emotionally yourself...for good or for bad. With my son, when he's having an anxious meltdown, I don't sympathize, I empathize in a very matter of fact way. "I can see that you are worried about this" Period. Acknowledge the feeling the kid is having without expressing any emotion yourself or making sympathy gestures like patting and hugging and eye wiping or "poor youing"...trying to calm them down with sympathetic gestures just confirms that they were right to be upset or worried. Kind, matter of fact, unemotional...that's what works with my kid (and the dogs and the horse .
              Very helpful post, thank you! And thanks to everyone else!
              http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

              http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

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              • #67
                Originally posted by Windsor1 View Post
                Would it help if, when she gets tense, you actually lead her around until she calms down? Pony would be under tighter control and you would be close to her to help calm her down. Apologies if this has already been suggested.

                And this might sound stupid, but I wonder if chewing gun would help to distract her from her fear? Or reciting the alphabet backward or singing? Sometimes one unthinkably silly thing like that can work wonders. (See Seinfeld episode when George eats an apple while asking a woman out on a date and it completely evaporates his nerves.)
                Gum is a choking hazard. (And a gauche habit, anyway. Just because everyone does it doesn't mean it looks nice) ESPECIALLY if she's having a panic attack.

                I don't even think not going to a show is going to solve it. She could be fine at home for months and still come unglued at a show. But she shouldn't be JUMPING at the show, and she should have it made clear (even if you have to really drill it home to Mom) that if she gets there and starts to panic, *she can still get off*. Just showing up and getting ready to ride does not mean you HAVE to finish if you suddenly can't take it. Maybe "wanting to show" is contributing to the pressure, and both using it as a reward/punishment or getting there and MAKING her ride aren't going to help if it is. Is it a waste of money? If the goal is "go and get ribbons", maybe. If it's helping her learn to deal with stress and understanding how she responds to stressful riding situations, maybe not. Threats just add to the anxiety because now no matter how terrified you are, you feel you HAVE to perform, which is anxiety-inducing, which makes it harder....The most anxiety-inducing feeling is having no escape at all. It took me a really long time to learn to say I didn't want to do something, especially to riding trainers, even when on some level I KNEW it was going to go horribly wrong.
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                • Original Poster

                  #68
                  Originally posted by PonyPenny View Post
                  You are not the right instructor for her. Trust me, she can sense your frustration with her. Kids are very intuitive. I would recommend that she ride closer to where she lives with someone who has a real steady eddy for her to ride. She has two quiet QH geldings at home, which she rides regularly.Where did the idea about showing come from? I know some may not believe me, but she herself brought it up to me around Christmas. Asking if she could ride this pony, what classes could she do, etc... She was very excited about it and into prepping for it.Did it come from you or her parents? Truely, neither of us brought it up. We both encouraged her and said we would support her if she wanted to do it.Why would you have her jump at her first show? Because there is a beginner novice class where she can trot or canter 4 simple fences, and she asked if she could do it. The other classes we planned on were walk trot beginner equitation and walk trot beginner pleasure. And to the poster who said the child would have to apologize for her emotions before she could ride again, what a crapping thing to say. The kid is afraid. She didn't do it to annoy you.
                  .
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                  • #69
                    Let me start off with these caveats: 1) I'm not a trainer AT ALL, 2) I'm not a mom and 3) I don't even like kids. That said, I don't get this kid.

                    When I was little we kept our backyard, scruffy ponies and horses at my grandparents. I can never remember a time that I didn't live to go visit them so I could ride - and we rode bareback like little indians/hellions completely unsupervised all over my grand dad's place. My sisters and I were young and did stupid things. The horses weren't exactly trained and they would sometimes make it clear (buck/rear/whatever) that they didn't want to do something.

                    I can't remember about my older sisters but I can't remember every coming off and not getting back on right away. I took some doozy falls, too. We had one pony that would be running flat out and stop cold and throw her head down. Kind of hard to stick those bareback - ill mannered pony! I luffed her! LOL! I landed in cow patties a couple of times. Rode my big mare down the ridge between the pond and the fence. I don't remember what happened but I was suddenly rolling 20' down and ended up in the pond. Jumped up, found my horse, stuck her in the nearby creek and so I could stand on the creek bank and hop back on.

                    I'm not saying any of this because I was SO fearless or such a great rider (obviously not!). I'm saying I never thought of having a breakdown because I wanted desperately to ride as much as I could. To me it sounds like the OP's student doesn't want to "ride" as much as she wants to "show". Of course, I don't really get why she has a say in it at this point but kids are raised differently these days, I guess.
                    "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com

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                    • #70
                      Alabama...from my own personal perspective, I don't get it either. I'm not particularly anxious or fearful person and I've always gotten back on the horse (literally and figuratively), even when I was a kid. I'm also one of those people who avoids showing emotion in front of other people, at nearly all costs! A typical "stiff upper lip" type of person. My older son is like that too. I've probably been blessed with a very emotional child the second time around so that I could learn a thing or two . I don't have to "get it", I just have to handle it. I don't have to be able to feel his emotions or understand how he can wear them on his sleeve the way he does to be able to be empathetic....doesn't mean coddling, just means not getting angry or judgmental or frustrated about it. He's not the same type of person I am, nothing wrong with that. It's been a great learning experience for me and it's enabled me to be more patient with other folks who used to mystify and irritate me.

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                      • #71
                        The thing I don't get is why a pony that throws a buck into a spook is considered a saint.
                        All horses can spook, but throwing a buck into the mix says more than "I am scared of that", and makes me think he isn't the best bet for a child that has already shown she is traumatised by getting bucked off.

                        It's also easier to explain that "pony just got scared and was trying to scoot away" than "pony got scared and decided to launch you".

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #72
                          Originally posted by MoonoverMississippi View Post
                          The thing I don't get is why a pony that throws a buck into a spook is considered a saint.
                          All horses can spook, but throwing a buck into the mix says more than "I am scared of that", and makes me think he isn't the best bet for a child that has already shown she is traumatised by getting bucked off.

                          It's also easier to explain that "pony just got scared and was trying to scoot away" than "pony got scared and decided to launch you".
                          That is my fault. I misspoke. I'm pregnant and constantly exhauseted. It was not a true, head between the legs, arched back, buck, he hopped and kicked his back legs out. I called that a buck. Is there a name for that?
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                          • Original Poster

                            #73
                            Originally posted by MoonoverMississippi View Post
                            The thing I don't get is why a pony that throws a buck into a spook is considered a saint.
                            All horses can spook, but throwing a buck into the mix says more than "I am scared of that", and makes me think he isn't the best bet for a child that has already shown she is traumatised by getting bucked off.

                            It's also easier to explain that "pony just got scared and was trying to scoot away" than "pony got scared and decided to launch you".
                            That is my fault. I misspoke. I'm pregnant and constantly exhauseted. It was not a true, head between the legs, arched back, buck, he hopped and kicked his back legs out. I called that a buck. Is there a name for that?
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                            • #74
                              Crow hopping..

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                              • #75
                                Originally posted by skykingismybaby1 View Post
                                I had one very fearful student, but I was not sure what the trigger was. I would tell him at the beginning of a lesson that he HAD TO do three things that I listed. Then I told him he was allowed to tell me NO on one. Then he proceeded to do the two remaining things flawlessly. I am no psychologist here, but giving the student just a little bit of control worked in my situation.
                                red is mine.

                                I want you as my trainer.

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                                • #76
                                  I'm going to have to comment again.

                                  I think that those of you that grew up young and fearless and got tossed off on a regular basis have your own perspective based on your own behaviors and history.

                                  It's entirely possible to be afraid of jumping or of riding but to also want to ride or jump or show. Fear is a strange thing, it gets in the way of things we shouldn't rationally be afraid of, or of things that we want to do. It can be confusing, because while we want to show and have the desire to have fun while riding it can also involve being afraid of failure or of falling off.

                                  It is perfectly possible to WANT to ride and to WANT to show but to be afraid of both. For example, a few years ago I had entered in my first "big" deal event. I didn't sleep AT ALL the night before, was sick to my stomach, and pretty much felt like passing out or going home before cross country.

                                  I was mostly terrified the entire way around.

                                  But it was the best and most exciting thing I had ever done and I wanted to do it again. As soon as possible.
                                  http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

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                                  • #77
                                    Originally posted by Canaqua View Post
                                    Alabama...from my own personal perspective, I don't get it either. I'm not particularly anxious or fearful person and I've always gotten back on the horse (literally and figuratively), even when I was a kid. I'm also one of those people who avoids showing emotion in front of other people, at nearly all costs! A typical "stiff upper lip" type of person. My older son is like that too. I've probably been blessed with a very emotional child the second time around so that I could learn a thing or two . I don't have to "get it", I just have to handle it. I don't have to be able to feel his emotions or understand how he can wear them on his sleeve the way he does to be able to be empathetic....doesn't mean coddling, just means not getting angry or judgmental or frustrated about it. He's not the same type of person I am, nothing wrong with that. It's been a great learning experience for me and it's enabled me to be more patient with other folks who used to mystify and irritate me.
                                    I'm not the most "stoic" of people, though I am a more stoic adult than I was a kid. I am the baby of the family and my sisters picked on me relentlessly about anything and everything. However, even if I had even thought about having a fit about getting thrown (and if there had been anyone around to see), I knew those horses would be gone. Old timey, country grand parents would not tolerate hissy fits in anyway shape or form. Maybe one, MAYBE two but after that - no way.

                                    I didn't have fits, though, because I never got really hurt and I really, really wanted to ride no matter what. I'm not saying coddle the kid - I'm saying I don't understand complete breakdowns over something you really, really want to do. I don't have to understand it. That doesn't make my judgmental or angry. It makes me think that this is something she either doesn't want to do or she doesn't want to put in the work to do it. I'm not a therapist - in addition to not being a mom or a trainer. I would never try to teach a kid to ride. I know my limitations when it comes to tolerating kids.
                                    "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com

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                                    • #78
                                      I've been teaching mostly beginner kids and some adults fulltime for 14 years, many with emotional/fear issues.

                                      1. Do not take her to a horse show. She is not ready. There will be no benefit to anyone.

                                      2. If she continues lessons with you, Mom waits in the car. This level of meltdown in a 10/11 year old makes me suspicious (not certain, just suspicious) of learned dramatic behavior. If she will not ride with Mom in the car, she needs to take a break from lessons with you so that her family can decide whether or not she truly wants to continue lessons with you. And yes, you bring this up.

                                      3. I was going to say that it sounds like she doesn't really want to ride at all, until I saw that she has horses at home which she rides without problem (question: have you observed this firsthand, or been told so by her and/or her mom?). Is she only riding with you as a means of getting to a horse show, which she perhaps has fixed on as something she wants to do? If so, start again at point #1.

                                      4. Like all instructors, I have had to address fear issues, and those @#$% low flying jets ARE scary. In fact, my standard response to new student-parents asking me about how safe my horses are: "My horses are used to being ridden by children who do not yet know how to ride a horse. However, if a jet flies overhead and breaks the sound barrier and there's a sonic boom, I can't tell you that they won't react to that." (Living a few miles north of Mineral, VA, though, now my stock example is, "If there's a big earthquake,...").

                                      Back to basics, breathing, ground work, observation, interacting with other children who are not afraid, and so on are great recommendations. But, be open to the possibility that they may not work. There are people who are so scared that they are unable to be anything but reactive on a horse, and that is dangerous. I have brought up the subject to parents, after say 8 weeks of being led around at a walk and child is genuinely still trembling, clutching pommel and shallow breathing, that maybe best to take a break and see whether child still wants to ride. I had a wonderful adult student, always somewhat timid, suffer a couple of frightening falls, continued riding for a while, then eventually stopped. I had always assumed this was a timid, anxious type of person. Wrong! Once having made the decision to stop, would come hang out at the barn and was the most outgoing, confident, funloving, gregarious person. The actual riding part just wasn't their thing. Still a close friend whose bravery, in terms of self-knowledge and resisting barn-clique peer pressure, I absolutely admire.

                                      5. No horse is bombproof, period. Despite reducing as many risks as possible, riding is not "safe," period (jeeze, see Archie Cox's recent injury = at a walk and didn't even fall off!). Falling off many times, and sometimes getting hurt, is part of learning how to ride, period. Now you don't need to repeat any of this to your student, but certainly don't lie to her and tell her otherwise, either (not saying OP was considering doing that, rather that a couple of commenters suggested such).

                                      6. FWIW, I believe that you are able to maintain a positive attitude when interacting with the girl, even while using some probably hyperbolic language to vent your frustrations here. Just be careful when venting on COTH
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                                      • #79
                                        If I had this student, I would (1) not even think/say the word show at this point (2) go back to beginning even if the lesson is only a walk with changes of directions, around cones, whatever------gonna have to go really slow with this IMO. Been there/done that with a student. If after a few successful non traumatic rides, work into the trot. Trot the short side then back to walk, etc. If after 6 to 8 wks she has not become more confident again and the episodes have lessened/ceased, it might be time to talk to the child while she is walking on a line perhaps. Ask her if she really wants to ride right now or if she feels she needs a break from riding. Perhaps another young rider to ride with her during her lesson would be good. At about the same level. Lots of praise and ask throughout the lesson---you feeling ok? This may be boring for you to get through but I have had success with a couple of riders that have had the same experience. God luck. Keep me posted.

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                                        • #80
                                          Originally posted by c'est moi View Post
                                          Personally, I'm always happy to help a student deal with his/her anxiety and fear in a constructive way inside or outside a lesson, and it's ok if a kid is upset while riding, but there is a big difference between being upset and calmly discussing the problem, and being upset and throwing a temper tantrum.
                                          here is the thing. YOU don't get to decide if the fear level is acceptable. It is what it is. You also don't get to reassign the terminology from terrified to temper tantrum

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