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Helping 11 year old regain confidence

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  • Helping 11 year old regain confidence

    My 11 year old who has been riding for 4 years has just recently taken her first tumble. Her first FOUR actually. She takes private 1 on 1 lessons and at one of these lessons the barn horse she was riding got too close to a gate, my daughters spur got caught in the gate and it caused the horse to spook. After that things went downhill fast. My daughter said because the horse started bucking she started squeezing and her spurs dug in, after a few good bucks my daughter went flying. After crying she got back up but didn’t want to get back on, she finished the lesson off with ground work. Fast forward to the next week, next lesson. We took her horse who she as recently as two weeks before rode daily for a week at fair, no hiccups, walk/trot/canter. She was riding at a lesson with her horse and he wasn’t listening so her trainer told her to kick him to get him moving he too went to bucking and there she went again. She’s fallen off two more times since then, twice just riding in the pasture, these weren’t bucking situations she turned the horse and she just kind of fell off for no reason. She’s fallen off four times in a month. Her confidence is shattered, she’s saying she no longer has no interest in riding anymore because she knows she is either going to get bucked or fall off. She doesn’t even want to go back to lessons because she is worried about her trainer being disappointed in her for falling off so much and now being scared.

    I’m not sure how to handle this situation as I’m not a rider myself, my husband is and he keeps telling her that if she isn’t going to ride he’s going to sell her horse. I’m not a fan of this approach but I don’t know where to start to get even a little bit of confidence back.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • #2
    My first thought is take those spurs off. If she's lost her nerve and is gripping with her leg when she panics she will make the horses bucks.

    I don't think pulling the horse out because she is scared is fair or good long term.

    You need to find a coach that will go back to basics and set her up for success.

    No riding bareback or alone. Have someone handwalk her and lead her through exercises to relax and learn to trust the horse again.

    Kids can have wonderful balance while they are relaxed without actually having very developed skills. But if you tense up and start trying to stay on by squeezing or leaning forward you are just going to bounce right off the horse.

    Sounds like kid has been pushed past her skill level and needs a return to basics, maybe a quieter horse, and definitely difference adults to help her through this.

    Comment


    • #3
      Take off the spurs and cancel the riding lessons. Tell Dad to shut up about selling the horse and if he can't be a constructive part of the solution, then just shut up about the whole thing. No mocking, no snide comments, no demands that she ride.

      Tell your daughter that she doesn't have to ride, but she does have to take care of her horse. Grooming, hand walking, and ground work on the same schedule you've been following for riding and horse care.

      Just let that percolate for a while. No pressure to ride, but she has to take care of her horse.

      After a while, offer to lead her around on her horse inside a round pen. Don't force her, just offer and see how she reacts.

      If, after maybe 4-6 months (you'll have to use your judgment based on her behavior), she still isn't interested in riding her horse, you might consider another horse - preferably something small, old, and slow.

      But, ultimately, you can give a kid a horse, but you can't make her ride. If, after all that, she still says she doesn't want to ride, you should just let her move on to other activities.

      I was a timid, but horse-crazy child. My first pony bucked me off pretty much every time I rode him. It made me not want to ride him, but had absolutely no effect on my overall level of horse craziness and desire to ride. My next horse was the horse I should have started with, an ancient former plow horse and a real saint. I'm not sure he could have bucked even if he wanted to.

      As far as the two falls your daughter had riding in the pasture, I suspect those were not true falls but rather that she panicked and bailed out.
      "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
      that's even remotely true."

      Homer Simpson

      Comment


      • #4
        She isn’t experienced enough to be wearing spurs, I’d dump any trainer that didn’t know that.
        Id probably let the horse go, a real honest schoolmaster for a nervous young rider should be able to tolerate pretty much anything they do without launching into a bucking fit.
        I know some people will become better riders when they have challenging horses but there are way more that just lose confidence and quit forever.
        Shes 11, it’s supposed to be fun and it’s not

        Comment


        • #5
          Have you spoken to the coach yet? You should. See how they react. They may have a good plan to help her or at least help her feel at ease being back at the barn.

          I am struggling to understand how her spur got caught. Freak incident, or unsafe setting?

          If your coach doesn't have an ability to help her through her fears, then consider a new coach OR consider talking to a sports psychologist.

          This could be a good time for her to work on her showmanship (showing in halter) skills if she wants to take a break. Showmanship requires a lot of practice and control, and handling her horse in that way may really help her confidence under saddle.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm sorry this happened to your daughter. I'm glad she wasn't injured.

            OK, that said ...

            Get rid of the spurs. A child has no business wearing spurs.

            The trainer should have people skills as well as horse skills and should have been able to make certain your daughter was not injured and to calm her down enough to get her back on the horse. Even if she just sat in the saddle while the horse stood still or the trainer led the horse in a circle, she should have gotten right back on as long as she wasn't injured. Even if on a different, bombproof horse.

            Your husband obviously knows nothing about horses or young girls. I'm sorry he's acting and talking in such a way. Not helpful at all.

            "Kick the horse" because he wasn't listening to his rider? ??? You need a new trainer. A good one.

            Rack on!

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by CHT View Post
              Have you spoken to the coach yet? You should. See how they react. They may have a good plan to help her or at least help her feel at ease being back at the barn.

              I am struggling to understand how her spur got caught. Freak incident, or unsafe setting?

              If your coach doesn't have an ability to help her through her fears, then consider a new coach OR consider talking to a sports psychologist.

              This could be a good time for her to work on her showmanship (showing in halter) skills if she wants to take a break. Showmanship requires a lot of practice and control, and handling her horse in that way may really help her confidence under saddle.
              We haven’t spoken to her trainer yet because she is currently on vacation. My daughter has had a few weeks off. I told my husband that I think sitting down and making a plan with her is the best idea. I like the plan of working from the ground up and focusing on showmanship for a while.

              I’m not sure if it got stuck or just changed against the gate I’m just going on why she told me after the fact. She hasn’t worn spurs on the lesson horse or her horse since. It’s all out of the blue too, she’s been riding comfortably on her horse for two years now and they’ve never had any issues like this. He’s mostly quiet and a little lazy so I also can’t help but wonder if something is going on with him. I told my husband we need to get a vet out and check teeth and for pain etc.

              Comment


              • #8
                Morganpaint a vet is a great idea. It is also possible that his flight response was triggered by the spur thing, and now, just like your daughter, he has anxiety. Working him in hand might help with this, alternatively having a trainer work on his confidence/whoa response might help too.

                A book that can help a young rider understand basic horse training is "Horses Hate Surprise Parties". It is hard to find in North America, but it is a great book for kids or adults. Often horses can be nervous just because they are confused, and this book steps you through how to re-establish training responses in a very simple and straight forward way. might be worth look into.
                Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Find a quieter horse for her to ride. One of my mares is a steady eddie type. She never puts a foot out of place and has always been a "think first" rather than react type of horse. We got tangled in vines one time on a trail ride - her reaction was to freeze and back up. Everything she does is very deliberate and thought out. She is a Saint Bernard of horses. If her horse is flighty- time to find a nice quiet horse for her to ride until she feels more confident. Even if it means just walking in the arena for a while.

                  The key is to make sure she doesn't take any more falls for a while and is on safe, calm horse that won't scare her further.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My first reaction was, why the devil is that trainer having a young kid wear spurs unless the kid is a VERY skilled rider. With roughly two years experience under her belt, DD likely is not there yet.

                    Consider too that DD may be going thorough a growth spurt. Many girls start doing that around your daughter's age and it makes them "top heavy" and throws their balance off without them even realizing it. My DD suddenly started taking more falls in those pre-teen years. In talking with her 4-H leader, a long time experienced teacher, she said so many of her female students in that age group were on the ground regularly for a year or two. Most got over it and found a new sense of balance.

                    Maybe have a talk with your DD about this and give her some time to interact with horses in a way she feels safer. Ground work/showmanship is a good place to start. Let her decide when/if she is ready to get back on a horse. Then with the help of a really good and understanding teacher, maybe she would do well to try some game type exercises while teacher holds the horse --- things like around the world, airplanes, touching right hand to left toe without taking butt off the saddle. There are lots of these types of exercises and they can help with balance, flexibility, and overall body awareness that will help keep DD in the saddle when a horse behaves less then perfectly.

                    You posted in the western forum, so I assume that is DD's discipline area. As a teen riding English, we were all taught an emergency dismount. That may help build confidence that she has that option to "dismount" safely when things go south. Not sure it would work as well (or at all) in a western saddle though.

                    And that dad of hers sure needs to change his tune or shut up. His comments are so counterproductive. Doesn't sound like he is much of a horseman if he doesn't understand DD fear.

                    Comment

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