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

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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.
    well gee danceronice. I kinda think I still have something to offer the world.

    I'm 56, and I worry a lot about falling off

    Says she who spent 4 hours in surgery, a week in the hospital and 3 months off work after her last unscheduled dismount.


    • My younger daughter was timid as well as temperamental as a child. She insisted she wanted to event but then would get partway around a course, begin sobbing and be unable to jump a certain jump because it was colored red or had something else that made it scary. She developed coping strategies such as singing her way around each jumping course. She also began doing a lot of dressage and polo crosse, which she considered to be low stress and lots of fun.

      You might consider teaching the kids pony mounted games or polocrosse or vaulting, so they improve their skills, don't fall off so easily, and consider riding to be more fun. Jumping and showing can wait until it isn't stressful.


      • Well, do we know what this kid is afraid of? The pony? Falling off? Getting hurt? Meeting parental expectations? Is this a child that worries so much she makes herself sick

        I was a heck of a chicken when I was a kid and clumsy too. Always picked last, couldn't catch or throw, shaky balance, too scared to jump off the high dive, and when I got my arm broke by a horse that spooked for no apparent reason and left me in the dirt I rode ponies for a year (nice short ponies that didn't spook, ever) and then got a horse of my own, who was so tall and big and strange that the first time I rode her with the regular gang I was singing about how scared I was, pretty close to having hysterics I guess, and one of my friends took pity on me and traded me her pony for my horse for the rest of the day. After a week everything was fine and pretty soon those ponies couldn't go far enough fast enough to keep up with us.

        I'll tell you what though, I had no options beyond get off and walk home (OMG the humiliation!) leading the horse or take the trade. Nobody in the gang was over 13, there was no trainer and Mommy was miles away.

        Granted this kid is 10 vs 13, three years is a long time at that age, I still think there is more going on than just the kid is afraid of getting hurt. As I said before the whole scenario of driving for hours to take a lesson that ends up in a meltdown just would not be something I as a parent would be supporting - this kid needs to spend the summer at horse camp and learn about hanging on to tails in the swimming hole, goofing off and either riding everywhere or walking and getting blisters.
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
        Incredible Invisible


        • Originally posted by threedogpack View Post
          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
          Let me clarify, most of the temper tantrums I've seen around horses have been undoubtedly triggered or motivated by fear. And as I stated in my first post, I have no interest in scolding or punishing a child for feeling afraid, or for any other emotion for that matter. What I care about is how they express that emotion.

          I do not allow anyone to go on an emotional rampage around me or my horses (thankfully, these sorts of incidents very rarely happen). First: it is not safe, second: society deems emotional fits to be unacceptable public behavior, and I am with society on this one. I have had plenty of students come to talk to me about their fears and/or anxieties over the years. THAT IS FINE, in fact I encourage an open dialogue for this reason because, as their teacher, I want to help them with whatever issue(s) are troubling them, and I will take whatever steps necessary to help them overcome their personal hurdle(s).

          You teach people how to treat you, and I've noticed that the students who behave poorly around their parents really pull it together when I'm in the picture. For the record, I'm not judging all of the parents out there--I realize teaching hourly lessons is nothing to being a full-time parent, and all kids eventually act out, but I think it is a good thing that children have someone in their lives who will not tolerate tantrums or outbursts--it holds kids to a higher standard. And in my lessons, if a kid acts out, they are welcome back after apologizing for expressing their feelings in a non-constructive manner. I'm not a martinet.

          In light of that sentiment, I want to note that have never spoken a harsh word to a student who has come to discuss their fear/anxiety/whatever else is on their mind. I also never force any student to do anything they are not comfortable and capable of doing on a horse. However, regardless of the circumstances, when I see a kid dissolve into a tantrum, I tell them they need to leave and come back when the are capable of having a calm discussion--I am not going to try to talk them down over incessant wails, and I fear for the child, horse, and anyone else in the vicinity when the kid really loses it. As I stated earlier, if a student is not capable of experiencing negative emotions without dissolving into a temper tantrum, than that child is not capable of taking riding lessons at a non-therapeutic riding facility (and even then, there would be some questions).

          For students with real psychological issues, my standards may not be attainable--that's fine, I don't work at a therapeutic riding center. For everyone else, I think my behavioral expectations are very reasonable.


          • Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post

            IMHO, this is totally insane behavior. Pull your big girl panties up and ride the pony!!!! I remind myself that she is 10 and is truly afraid, but it still irritated me beyond words that she does not seem to try to work past it. If she did, she would realize that it is NBD.

            What am I going to do when she pulls this crap at a show because there are flies, or planes, or too many horses, or the wind blew funny, etc...???

            Am I not being understanding enough, or not tough enough??

            ETA:: Please note that I have never expressed this frustration to or in front of the student!!
            Kids are pretty smart and intuitive. You may not have verbalised this frustration but from what you say here, I'll bet that, whether you think it or not, your frustration was obvious to the kid. Nothing you have said makes me think you were being understanding.

            The kid is 10. Sounds like she's a bit nervous anyway and has been dumped. Why should she believe that angel pony isn't going to dump her? - it did the last time and as you said yourself that was unusual. Why should she believe this time would be any different?

            She shouldn't be going to the show, not her decision, she's 10. Perhaps say to her that it's something that you need to work towards, but this time you will all be going to watch, or take pony and just work in the warm up arena.

            Now, have some empathy with her. She's 10, she's terrified. Very possibly her mother is terrified too, but like many adults thinks that her behaviour and fears are not projected onto their kids.


            • Originally posted by skydy View Post
              I was "tucked into bed" as a child. It was nice.

              However, at 10 yrs old, getting "very upset" if that doesn't happen is indicative of being an indulged ,spoiled child (parenting issue), or of having another sort of problem(psychological issue), neither of which is likely to be solved by a riding instructor..
              The problem is that we have no idea why this kid needs tucked up in bed. It certainly may not be a parenting issue, but as you point out she may have some special needs that require this.

              We should all (and you have) be cognizant that unless you know any kid intimately and know that there is no reason other than poor behaviour, don't ever judge a child's behaviour or a parent's reaction. You have no idea what is going on in that kid's head.


              • Originally posted by caballero View Post
                What is not normal is the reaction described by the OP if this girl doesn't get her tucky-tucky at night.

                I have a 10 yo daughter, so I do have a little bit of a clue.
                Everyone's "normal" is different. There may be some issues going on, but none of us know. Please don't assume that it's just an over-indulged child just because she needs tucked up for some reason. My daughter (nearly 7) has to have the exact same things said to her when she is in bed, in the same order, or she is out of sorts. Is it "normal"? It is for us, likely not for others. Are we over-indulgent parents - no, but our daughter's norm is just not the same norm as other kids.


                • 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.
                  That actually depends on the adult. The world loses more if a usefully contributing adult "bites it", than if a child who is non-contributing and whose contribution lies only in future potential which may or may not be fulfilled.
                  Now, if the adult is past their useful contribution stage (or has never usefully contributed), then more is lost when the kid bites it. At least with the kid there's that future potential.
                  Proud Member Of The Lady Mafia


                  • Originally posted by Kate66 View Post
                    The problem is that we have no idea why this kid needs tucked up in bed. It certainly may not be a parenting issue, but as you point out she may have some special needs that require this.

                    We should all (and you have) be cognizant that unless you know any kid intimately and know that there is no reason other than poor behaviour, don't ever judge a child's behaviour or a parent's reaction. You have no idea what is going on in that kid's head.
                    I was being "tucked" into bed when i was 10 yrs old. Only because that is what my parents did. Almost always it was my father, and he would say "you're a good egg" and then ask "a story or a poem?" he then would recite some verse or read a bit of Kipling's Just So stories.

                    It wasn't my idea,I didn't NEED to be "tucked in", it was just the routine.

                    It was comforting and , now that I look back on it ,rather sweet. However, if for any reason that routine would have been interrupted, a tantrum would not have taken place and certainly would not have been tolerated.

                    The OP's situation is a tough one, but she is a riding instructor, not a child psychiatrist. I agree that this child's hysterical reaction is not the norm, so OP, if you WANT to be a theraputic riding instructor ,then you will need education in that field.

                    If not, I would pass this one on to someone who has the background to teach children with "special needs"..


                    • From the OP, post #64...

                      "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."

                      110% agree.

                      Also, hasn't anyone else noticed that this girl is REFUSING to listen to OP or her mother, and is also REFUSING to do certain things like pick hind feet or catch her own pony. She also gets very upset with Mommy doesn't tuck her in, which, sorry, isn't normal. To me she sounds spoiled. Does she have a legitimate fear? Probably. But SCREAMING and throwing a hysterical fit, while ON a pony, is completely unacceptable. This has happened multiple times, and from what OP is saying, Student is never forced to do anything she doesn't want to do (pick hind feet, catch pony, etc) so is creating her own fear.

                      I don't remember who or what post, but I think someone nailed it...she wants to show the fancy H/J pony, but doesn't want to RIDE and work for it. If she can happily plod along at home on her two QH geldings without a screaming tantrum, then she damn well should be expected to behave at a lesson barn. Period. Does her fear need to be addressed? Yes. But so does her behavior.

                      I vote Mommy drops DD off for her lesson then hits up a Starbucks. I imagine DD's behavior will be quite different.
                      runnjump86 Instagram

                      Horse Junkies United guest blogger


                      • I'm not going to quote the whole post, because this is terribly long already, but Equisis had some great points on page 5. I'll add just a few comments.

                        First--the kid clearly has anxiety issues. That doesn't mean she doesn't want to ride. I've always been a nervous rider and even when I was TERRIFIED I still wanted it really badly and was willing to work on it. In fact, if she does want to ride and show, this could be a really great opportunity for her to learn to overcome anxiety. Because the thing with anxiety is, the world either gets bigger or gets smaller. Kid needs to learn NOW how to expand her own comfort zone, because avoidance is not a sustainable solution.

                        BTW--I don't expect this to make a bit of sense to anyone who has not suffered anxiety. Why do something that scares you out of your mind? Because it's worth it. Because when the fear goes away, the riding is just as fun as for people who aren't scared. Because being afraid of something and wanting to do it are not mutually exclusive. Personally, I'm scared of falling from heights, but that doesn't make me want to take up skydiving just on general principle. I'm not scared of water, but that doesn't make me want to spend hours in the pool trying to be the next Michael Phelps.

                        Equisis has some great suggestions about planning for the anxious moments, and for picking activities that will stretch the comfort zone. Yes, it's bad for her to have a screaming anxiety attack when she's scared, because it's unsafe and not really socially acceptable, but she needs to practice alternate strategies. This is the other thing about anxiety--the phrase "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" is horribly true. Uncontrollable panic is a terrible feeling and a downward spiral even without being combined with a potentially dangerous activity. Student needs to learn to recognize her triggers and be able to head them off. If it were as easy as saying, "Don't worry, there's nothing to be scared of," she'd already be doing it.

                        Another thing--there has been question that this child is overmounted or lacking in basics. I don't know that the pony is too much for her in general, but she's been bucked off twice now? Once on her own horse and once on the pony? Are these a little scoot and hop, or did the horse "buck" multiple times and/or continue moving until she got jostled loose? If she's jumping at all, she should be able to handle a little crowhop. How is her base of support? Is she generally athletic, or not so much? If she's not athletic or comfortable in her own body, she needs to work twice as hard on secure position, core strength, and body awareness--particularly when she is anxious and likely to revert to bad habits or fetal position. She could even have "homework" to do on her own horses.

                        Also, can she articulate what exactly scares her? Is it the loss of control? Fear of being hurt falling? Embarrassment at making a mistake? Most kids are not able to pinpoint the actual thing they're afraid of, but it helps to work on the source of the fear. One thing that helped me was to be on the longe line, on a dead broke horse, working on changes of speed or direction. It helped me realize that even if I'm not in control, I can still follow the horse's movements. In the spinoff thread about practicing falling, someone mentioned going to a martial arts school or vaulting barn and getting lessons JUST to practice falling. This is such a good idea, I might try it myself, because I detest the feeling of falling!

                        One more thing, related to she goal of showing--sometimes kids have trouble setting realistic goals. Particularly if it's something she feels she "should" be able to do, she might be pressuring herself. You may see that anyone scared of riding in the home arena shouldn't be at a show with unpredictable situations, but she may feel that, oh, I can jump X height when I'm not afraid, so I should be able to show at X height and if I don't, I'm a wimp/coward/failure. Realistically, performance generally decreases at a show due to a variety of factors, but mentally it's "when I'm not anxious I CAN jump X height, and there is no reason to be afraid, therefore I SHOULD jump X height," which is not realistic. Think of confidence like a muscle; it has to be conditioned for good performance. It wouldn't make any sense to say, "when I'm very fit I can do XYZ, so I should be able to do XYZ now even though I'm unfit, and not doing it is cowardly." Anxiety, like fitness, has a real effect on performance, and improving it takes work.

                        I feel for this girl, because it sounds like she does want to ride but is having a hard time, and because being timid in general just sucks.

                        Originally posted by Equisis View Post
                        One key point I think is VERY important: she DOES have a legitimate reason to be fearful. OP, even though you say that you and her mother have explained to her that you wouldn't put her in harm's way, in her mind, you have already put her in harm's way by putting her on a "safe" pony that she then fell off of

                        Some tips for you:

                        - Devise a plan for what to do when she gets afraid- help her to focus on something else other than the fear and avoid the panicked reaction that I gather is what folks are referring to as a tantrum (extreme fear and tantrums are very different, but that is a lesson for another day).

                        - Sit down with her and make a "red-yellow-green" list. Make your lessons consist of mostly green-list activities with a few yellows of her choice scattered in. Ask her which yellow activities she wants to try and celebrate her successes. Allow her to try reds after she has mastered the corresponding yellows and WANTS to try them. The more control she has, the more confidence she will gain.

                        Good luck, OP. I have taught several very fearful students, both children and adults, and I have found that while the "put on your big girl panties and DO IT" approach works with the more naturally confident and controlled riders, it does not work with the fearful/anxious ones- it tends to make matters worse. Just because she's fearful does not mean she doesn't want to ride. Help her realize that she can build up her own confidence and I think you will see some real progress.
                        The hooves of the horses! Oh witching and sweet is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet. Will Ogilvie


                        • Forgive me if I missed a comment on this, but I didn't see anyone mention that they family moved 1 1/2 hours away. I don't know how recent the move is but that means it's not just a 10 year old dealing with falling, its those falls on top of a new home, a new school, making news friends, etc. That's a lot for any child to handle.

                          Given the whole life stress load and lack of control over all of those changes, my suggestion would be to sit down with her before the next lesson and make a plan together about what she'll do when she's scared. Talk about how her screaming could upset the pony and make a plan for staying calm. That might mean she gets off and leads the pony 2 laps around the ring or it could be 5 minutes brushing the pony. Let her feel that she's made the plan. If she starts to get nervous, ask her if she'd like to follow her plan and help her execute. Recognize any effort she makes to follow her plan instead of melting down. If that works, the next week have her make a new plan. Give her a sense that she has some control of the situation and I think some of the panic will go away.

                          Also, talk to her mom about the very long drive. That's a long time to sit in the car and think about what could go wrong in her lesson. She might be getting to the barn primed for a melt down.


                          • Something I have seen work well for a couple of overly anxious young riders is move from a private lesson to a semi private. With another young rider similar in age (or younger), but not scared.
                            Anxious rider will see that Suzy is fine riding while the jets fly over head, etc.

                            Originally posted by Appsolute View Post
                            Perhaps teaching her HOW to fall, and practicing emergency dismounts would empower her?
                            I think this is a great idea too.

                            Originally posted by Alex and Bodie's Mom View Post
                            1.) Is this kid capable of sticking with this pony? I'm guessing not, which makes me think she's missing quite a bit of foundation work (lunging w/o stirrups, riding bareback, etc.). If she's missing that, she has no business jumping. Or showing.
                            Some people will never have the natural balance and athletic ability to stick with a pony who is spooking.
                            It does not mean all of us uncoordinated types should never be off the lunge line at the walk.


                            • i dont think its right to be angry about a kid, this is why ur a TRAINER, she may want to do it, but the fear of being on the same horse in same spot it happend is expected from a kid, i know from experiance when a horse is spooked, ive expected it to happen again, maybe try working with her around her fears like maybe hand leading her around a different paddock and then slowly as she builds confidence back up hand lead her around where the plane flew over, she needs to know shes safe, as they say ur safer on a motor bike then a horse, maybe abit of encouragement from u and her parents is what she needs


                              • as a trainer u need to know different kids need different things from falls/fears to learning skills, its like ur expectations are getting in the way. like u maybe able to get bk on a horse after it spooks, and u expect everyone else to aswel, put urself in her shoes for abit,remember where u started from


                                • Please don't use "text-speak" phonetic abbreviations here. I mean this in a kind way. An awful lot of us appreicate readable English with proper capitalization, punctuation, and pronouns.



                                  • OP - I wonder how the young lady is doing this week?


                                    • Originally posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
                                      Please don't use "text-speak" phonetic abbreviations here. I mean this in a kind way. An awful lot of us appreicate readable English with proper capitalization, punctuation, and pronouns.

                                      And spelling!
                                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                                      • Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                                        And spelling!
                                        Y'right! Sumimasen . . .

                                        Oops, I'm being ironic . . .


                                        • Originally posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
                                          Y'right! Sumimasen . . .

                                          Oops, I'm being ironic . . .
                                          問題ない I recognize a typo when I see one.
                                          "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller