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

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  • Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post
    How do I help her realize these falls were flukes?
    Because they are not flukes. People who ride horses fall off of them. Not every time, but not never. You cannot ever guarantee that a horse will not buck, spook or stumble. It needs to be compelling enough to her to ride to want to take the risk.

    At 10 years old, she is starting to understand that there is danger in the world and has decided that when the stars aren't aligned (ie, a plane flies over while she's riding), it is not worth the risk (in her opinion). My daughter developed a fear of flying right around the same age -- she refused to get on a plane when we were leaving for a family vacation. At that time she had flown dozens of times with no incident. But she was old enough to think about the risks, the consequences and the benefits.

    What can you do? Be kind to her. This isn't rational and she can't be reasoned out of it. If she really wants to ride, try to help minimize the risk. Maybe put her on a lunge line or simply lead her until the planes have stopped flying. If that doesn't work, teach her how to lunge the pony or work in hand or ask if she'd like to take the pony and graze it on a lead line.

    Should she go to the show in a month? Maybe. I'd tell the parent that she's not ready to jump (if she isn't) and that everyone needs to accept the fact that the kid may bail at the last minute. If that's okay, play it by ear. If the kid chooses to ride, great. If she doesn't, put the pony back in the trailer and tell her that she's 10 and if she doesn't ride in this show, the world won't end. Truly it won't.

    Good luck.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by saddleup View Post
      AFter trying and failing to get my only daughter to love horses as much as I do, I realized that if they don't want to ride MORE THAN ANYTHING in their life, it's not going to stick and more than likely they'll get hurt or become too afraid to continue.

      I tell my friends with daughters who say they want to ride not to even go there until the kid will beg, plead, promise, and then prove how much they want it. It takes serious mental fortitude, especially once they fall off, to continue. And everyone falls off, usually sooner rather than later.

      So, no..going to a show should be a privilege earned by clear goals that are accomplished in lessons. No progress, no shows.
      I always wanted to ride, but I have also always had fear issues. There are other things that I have tried that I never feared. I had no interest in pursuing many of those things, even though I was unafraid of them. Fear isn't necessarily tied to the desire to ride, but I do think that it is important to know if she really wants to ride or not.
      I don't think that she ride at the show until she feels more confident. I am not arguing that or attempting to come up with a bunch of psycho-babble, but I do feel for her because I think that she may be experiencing paralyzing fear to the point that she can't think. If she had gotten mad or frustrated and screamed or cried, then I think a tougher approach would be appropriate. I don't think she should be punished for fear.
      That doesn't mean that I think that she should continue her lesson as normal when she is screaming. I don't think, though, that the lesson should be ended as punishment. Perhaps leading or lunging the horse when there are planes in the sky would give her a chance to observe the horse's reaction herself without making her freak out. I wouldn't look at it as her getting out of something she doesn't want to do so much as backing her down to where she is right now. With time, she can be encouraged to try more things, but right now I think she needs baby steps.
      I wouldn't tell her that the trainer or her mother wouldn't put her in an unsafe situation. The truth is that they wouldn't KNOWINGLY put her in an unsafe situation, but horses are unpredictable and she has fallen off and seen that. Yes, falling off is a part of learning to ride but not every child that wants to ride is as able to get back on and not be afraid. When I was growing up I always desperately wanted to be like the other kids in the group lesson who could fall and get back on and finish the lesson without another thought, but I was never that child. I wanted to be, and I wanted to ride, but I was scared of falling. The solution for me has been ongoing - I scare easily and always will.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by FatDinah View Post
        As a mother and a rider, I think this is not about riding and showing, there is some other dynamic going on with the child and parent with these hysterical outbursts. You need to excuse yourself and tell the mother you don't want to continue the lessons, wish them well if they continue with another instructor and hope you will stay friends.
        This is great advice. I didn't read every last word, but I've read enough to know I wouldn't want to deal with this child. Not to be mean on my part, but there is something waaaayyyyy deeper than falling off a horse. I say this because the other day, in a store, a mother was talking to her Jr. High daughter on the phone, while checking out, and by the end of their convo, I wanted to rip the phone out of the mother's hand and tell her to get a grip!! The coddling and 'calm down's' the kid got and the 'mommy can't get home right now, I'm in the store' and the 'take it easy's' were grating on my nerves! Even the checker was rolling her eyes.

        Then yesterday, I looked at an older horse and the owner's 10 year old daughter went out to the barn with me (granny was watching the kid, parents not home) and it was like talking to another young adult. This little girl had it together!!

        These examples were to show how differently kids will react to whomever is their caretaker. The first one, I wouldn't want the kid as a student, the second kid, you betcha.

        From my POV, the mother isn't doing this kid any favors, unless she thinks riding might help the kid be more independent. But, with the bed tucking at night, this kid is going to have problems breaking free in the future. Not my cuppa for instructing.
        GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!

        Comment


        • I've read this whole thread, and the thing that jumped out at me is something only one other person mentioned. This little girl is driving for an hour and a half to get to this lesson? That is exhausting. She must be wiped out by the time she gets to the barn, let alone on the pony.

          Not to mention, as the other poster said, what sort of unpleasant communication is going on between mother and daughter for that length of time.

          OP, I strongly suggest you resign from teaching this girl and help them find another instructor closer to where they live. Preferably where there are not fighter jets flying overhead.
          I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry

          Comment


          • Originally posted by saddleup View Post
            AFter trying and failing to get my only daughter to love horses as much as I do, I realized that if they don't want to ride MORE THAN ANYTHING in their life, it's not going to stick and more than likely they'll get hurt or become too afraid to continue.
            See, I find attitudes like this very unproductive and unrealistic. You don't have to want to ride to the point it's an obsessive psychosis to want to ride. I've had horses more than I haven't over my life, but if I don't push myself to a nervous breakdown and focus on them uber alles, I'm fine. It's entirely possible, especially when you're a kid, to just want to RIDE, not fixate on it, and to still want to ride despite being afraid. It probably means you are NOT going to be the need Reed Kessler, as that requires the ability to shut off hte part of the brain that knows you can die horribly doing this, more readily than in most activities, but that is perfectly fine. Horses CAN just be a hobby and kids who are highly anxious CAN overcome that, but not generally by being told to put on their big girl panties and accept that if you ride you MUST get critically injured, grow up already. If you don't mind the money, showing can be just a hobby, or a way once you realize even hard-working people usually don't win much to cure the urge to show. There's no reason to tell a kid "be monomaniacal or go home" because they're ten and scared. They're ten. Maybe they work through their fear and do turn into the obsessive. Maybe they decide they just want to bop around at home on a horse they're comfortable with. Maybe they decide they want to do 4-H and fun shows (we have a "family series" around here that's designed to be welcoming to all--not 'everyone gets a ribbon', just 'we're not kicking you out for rubber boots and a fat Krazy Kolor pony.')

            In this case, I'm not really sure, if she has horses at home she's NOT afraid of, why she needs this trainer. I get that sometimes you live places where you have to drive (my brother drives a nutty distance to me to get to an affordable barn) but that only works if you're going somewhere that's helpful.
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            • Why can't she ride one of her own horses in a walk-trot 4-H class? Why does it have to be some fancy h-j show?
              I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry

              Comment


              • Ah, poor kid. It is no fun to be scared. Even as an adult. Of course, just stopping riding is the avoidant response, and very reinforcing as the anxiety goes down. No aversive stimulus, no anxiety! AND then of course people learn that avoidance works! That doesn't mean that one has to jump right into the fire but, as others have mentioned, doing something - sitting on the pony (or another horse), letting her instructor lead her and then praising her when she does it, working at a walk on a lunge line - anything to build confidence so she learns she can do it! .

                The fighter jets, bees, whatever are all triggers. She probably hears fighter jets in other circumstances and her body tenses. We do that unconciously, until we learn to respond to triggers. I fell off a bunch as a kid, at one point at a friend's ranch (we were loping and the raincoat on the saddle of the girl in front of me fell off, horse went one way, and I didn't). Thank fully the ranch was awesome, After I rode the horse back to the ranch (terrified) they gave me a new horse that had to be 110, who took such good care of me, and I was a happy, confident rider again!

                As an adult, riding all my life, I got dumped a few years ago. After we got back from the ER (30 or so stitches over my eye) I tacked up and with my husband there, got back on....and panicked. Never happened before but when I felt my boy hump up, I was really scared. It took almost two years, my old faithful horse, and a new sweet good citizen horse ,a nd dragging "the bucker" around on pack trips, before I would ride him. It helped to have patient people, and to really feel that "I can do this". Kids, who have had traumas and accidents and so forth really need that, to both feel safe and that they do not need to avoid the bad thing (riding).

                Definitely getting mad at her is not going to help her feel better. She's TEN! If you are patient, back up and start where she wants to start, as others have suggested, walking, etc. she might respond. And the show is not the issue, its her overall sense of confidence that she and the pony can do it.

                I was scared of water as a kid and was lucky enough to have the most wonderful instructor who was very patient, and definitely built up my confidence.

                Comment


                • If this child is *really* having screaming hysteric fits during her lessons, she has no business being anywhere near a horse, let alone at a horse show.

                  Being scared is one thing, throwing a fit is a whole other cup-o-tea.

                  She sounds like she needs to take "several" steps back before she has anymore riding lessons, and can learn how to handle her emotions appropriately around horses. Doesn't matter if she's 5, 10, or 50.
                  Barn rat for life

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                  • I want to preface my post with: I am not a trainer. I don't have a background in teaching or know all theories with how people learn/deal with fear/etc. I'm just a regular ammy who has had to battle her own fear ever since starting to ride eons and eons ago

                    I would not let this girl show. At all. What I WOULD do is definitely take her along to the show and let her take in the whole showground experience. It can be chaotic and intimidating to first-timers, and I think she would really benefit from a hands on approach. She helps set things up, feeds/waters, shines boots in the ring, supports her fellow riders, etc. This would give her a great preparation and maybe additional motivation for overcoming her fear episodes in lessons.

                    I won't comment or advise on what to actually do in the lessons. But I do want to give one tip on how to gently and effectively snap her out a panic attack if comes on while she's riding. I was told to do this a long time ago (I think by a psychologist who specialized in physio responses to stimulation), but it works for me and for many others I have suggested it to.

                    If she's losing her mind and cannot process ANYTHING, have her take her hand and place it flat on her neck so she can feel her pulse with the tips of her fingers. Then ask her to focus on some breathing patterns and ask HER to slow HER heart rate down. Long inhale, two shorter exhales. Long inhale, two shorter exhales.

                    If she feels her own body responding to what she's doing, it gives her a sense of control that she may desperately need. She can focus on something as basic and necessary as breathing (no challenge or stress), and also there's something about the sense of touch that helps, too.
                    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars

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                    • Originally posted by newhorsemommy View Post
                      Here's what helps me. Singing. Singing is great because it takes you mind off the "what ifs" and helps with breathing.

                      ...

                      Really, any activity that makes her think, to get her mind off the fear, would likely help.
                      Yes! Newhorsemommy, this is exactly what has helped me. My horse is spooky and I've had to learn how to deal with it to help both of us. I've spent hours telling my horse stories while I'm riding and singing songs, both because it helps me calm down and because it makes him pay attention to the sound of my voice rather than the snow monster sliding off the roof to eat him or whatever. And thinking about it that way - that I have to help him - made a huge difference for my anxiety. Keeping busy can do the same thing, so both of your brains are thinking about riding, not about all the disasters that can happen.

                      Another thing that helped me was ending on a good note, even if that good note came 15 minutes after I got on, and being reminded that I have all the time in the world to become a better rider. There was no reason to rush and all of this was just a small part of a long life of riding.

                      I can't make guesses about this specific girl's situation, but there are a lot of great ways to handle fearful riders and what works for one rider may be completely useless for another.

                      If you do continue teaching her, ask her what would make her comfortable. She might have her own ideas or you can come up with things together.

                      Comment


                      • I must say, I had no idea that so many adults and children are participating in an activity that terrifies them.

                        I am nervous when riding in a speeding car. I don't take NASCAR lessons..

                        Yes, overcoming obstacles, etc.. life is short, for god's sake, do something you enjoy.

                        Of course ,if your idea of a good time is struggling to overcome your anxiety about riding a horse (which is supposed to be FUN) then knock yourself out. I just don't get it..
                        Last edited by skydy; Feb. 17, 2013, 08:00 AM.

                        Comment


                        • Can she ride in a group? If she's scared, she dismounts and sits on the mounting block while you hold the pony and continue the lesson. She can't leave the ring until the lesson is over.

                          She'll want to join in the fun eventually, even if it means she sits on pony while you hold it, or someone leads the pony with the rest of the group etc etc.

                          Baby step it up. Sometimes it's best not to acknowledge. Jets start up, walk over, take the pony, ask her to dismount and sit on the block.

                          Showing is out. Period.
                          Big Idea Eventing

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                          • I think she needs to be in a situation where she can ride consistently with other children who do not have the panic button that she has.

                            I was lucky enough to not gets scared falling off for a very long time. At some point, you start thinking about falling off, but for people who have been riding all of their lives, that usually doesn't happen until 16-18.

                            At a ripe 22, I actually don't like riding green OTTBs anymore or "bad" horses. I prefer my own horses who I know every move they have in their book. They may bolt or buck, but at least I know the warning signs and am prepared to hang on!
                            However, I am pretty banged up from many falls on my first pony...and I don't bounce anymore. Let me tell you, I try VERY hard not to fall off.


                            We had one little girl at an old barn who had mental breakdowns riding, and she didn't last long. Her younger sister surpassed her, and she finally quit.

                            It is hard for ME to think that it is normal for a 10 year old to worry about falling off. It might have started with her learning that she didn't have to get back on after her first fall. I grew up with the..."if you don't have to go to the hospital, you get back on" motto. Fortunately, the only fall that I suffered that required a trip to the plastic surgeon was at age 12 and it was not my horse's fault, he fell down with me in a lesson.

                            She has something else going on in her life...you need to have a sit down with her mother and figure it out. At 10, you bounce! Also, is she able to save any of her near falls? Is she not strong? Does she give up?

                            Comment


                            • It always cracks me up, people who get scared as they get older. There's so much less the world loses if an adult bites it. I can only assume most kids don't understand how much more you're losing if you die at 10 than 20, 30, 40+....of course kids are going to be scared if they realize dead is dead and they have no confidence the trainer will stop them before they do something dangerous (this is a big thing--my anxiety still ratchets up with a trainer because I pretty much do not trust they have any ability to judge what I SHOULD be doing as they're the ones who got me hurt in the first place as a kid. Alone, I'll jump, ride outside fences, whatever, because I can make all the decisions.)

                              And of course you're just more likely to fall as a kid. You aren't any good yet!

                              Group lessons are good WITH THE RIGHT KIDS IN THE GROUP. Just saying. If they're a bunch of hard-core crash-test dummies who are going to give her a hard time, they will cause more problems than they solve. If they can be quiet and supportive and are there for FUN, great influence.
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                              • Why is this kid riding? When I was a kid riding, no lessons, just an old clunker horse at a barn I boarded at, we'd go riding around the fields, just for fun, no shows. We'd jump downed trees and stuff, bareback. We'd fall off...and we'd get back on. Never, not once, NOT ONCE, did we get hysterical and scared and not want to get back on. We just.loved.riding. This kid doesnt love riding, Im not even sure why she is riding. She aint having no fun, thats for sure. And kids ride at that age because they LOOOOOVE it. She needs to find something else to do.

                                Comment


                                • Originally posted by danceronice View Post
                                  . . . There's so much less the world loses if an adult bites it. . .
                                  Try telling that to my DH. As the primary breadwinner (well, the steady paycheck anyway) he fusses about me riding. Riding alone, riding in bad weather, riding when it's too hot or cold, riding outside an arena. OK honey.

                                  I have plenty of fear riding, I just like it enough to keep doing it in spite of my fears. Plenty of people have issues like that, I hear actors get stage fright all the time.

                                  As far as this child, even as a parent I don't know this kid or how she behaves elsewhere, but I think I'd ditch the horses just on the basis of I don't have the time or the money to drive an hour and a half, pay for a lesson and then have her be so terrified she has hysterics. There's other stuff going on that needs to be worked out.
                                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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                                  • Originally posted by danceronice View Post
                                    There's so much less the world loses if an adult bites it.
                                    I don't give a %$@& what the world would lose if I died tomorrow. But I do care what my wife and daughter would lose.

                                    Evidently no one depends on you.

                                    Comment


                                    • I understand having a "bit of fear".
                                      I don't understand continuing to participate in an activity that leads to hysterical crying and "screaming".
                                      Last edited by skydy; Feb. 17, 2013, 05:23 PM.

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                                      • Originally posted by caballero View Post
                                        I don't give a %$@& what the world would lose if I died tomorrow. But I do care what my wife and daughter would lose.

                                        Evidently no one depends on you.
                                        A responsible adult has life insurance that will take care of any dependents who ultimately won't need them if they do things right anyway. Emotional dependence is biologically beside the point, and everyone loses those they depend on emotionally anyway, unless you happen to be immortal. Adult organisms die before their offspring, males usually before females. Children aren't supposed to die before their parents unless there is something PROFOUNDLY wrong with them.

                                        Otherwise, we ought to punish people who kill adults far more harshly than children, as those are clearly to some just dependents and easily replaceable. Obviously, we don't--in fact most people OVERreact to actions against children. Except, apparently, when expecting an emotionally-immature (not abnormally, just a kid) and physically-immature person to override every natural and normal self-preservative instinct when they're afraid because so what if they break their hip/skull/neck, they're a kid, kids bounce! They should learn to ignore fears by being bullied into putting on their big girl panties!

                                        I mean, great, if you enjoy watching a kid browbeaten rather than trying to let them overcome natural, normal, fear and anxiety, sure. Or you want to drive someone entirely away from horses because ONE set of circumstances they don't like, okay. The sport's such a huge growing trend, why worry about the ones who understand physical risk? The kid isn't scared of HORSES. She's reasonably scared of a pony who's dumped her spooking, and has a trainer who thinks being afraid after that is stupid. Add on the parents may be adding pressure, and expecting her to be stupidly risk-taking is the kind of thing that would make sensible people say quit--not because she's afraid, because apparently she's right, those around her don't, in fact, care if she gets hurt.
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                                        • Originally posted by danceronice View Post
                                          It always cracks me up, people who get scared as they get older. There's so much less the world loses if an adult bites it. .
                                          Pretty sure the adults are not scared because they are worrying about what the WORLD is going to lose. Usually it is more like "if I get hurt I won't be able to work, my house will get foreclosed and my family will be on the street". The consequences for kids are generally less severe for minor injuries.... Miss a week of school, perhaps, which hardly breaks their hearts....

                                          Jennifer
                                          Third Charm Event Team

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