Monday, December 6, 2010

Riding Lessons (10 year old girl)


I’m not sure where to begin. My daughter is 10 years old and just learning how to ride her horse in 4H western pleasure. A couple years ago I got a horse (Blue who is a 6 year old gelding), who was not broke to do anything but get on and ride. So with the 4H season upon us, I sent him to a trainer to work on cues and some behavior issues. The trainer can ride him and get quick responses, but when my daughter gets on, she cannot flex him, collect him, nor maintain control. He flips his head, pulls the reins out of her hands and basically goes where he wants (with or without a bit) - She is required to ride in an O-Ring Snaffle Bit with Split reins. I was told it may be the saddle, so invested in a new saddle. I was told she pulls to hard, so we’ve paid special attention to hand placement and mostly ride with just a halter and reins. She is getting really frustrated and I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t know why he keeps pulling the reins out of her hands. I’ve read that perhaps she needs to spend time out of the saddle, ground work, flexing etc., I agree, but have also read she needs to just play with him? If that’s true, what would she do, or any other suggestions you may have?

Hello Shaun,
I hope we can stay in touch so I can keep advising you if you like. is my regular e-mail.
First of all, a 6 year old without a lot of prior CORRECT schooling, is still a bit of a baby. Almost all of the things that he does incorrectly are because he does not understand and are trainer/rider induced. I am not blaming anyone...none of us is perfect.

You need to find an instructor with a SOLID background of training-instruction. There are many people out there who have learned "natural horsemanship" and maybe for only five years or need an advisor who has been there and done that and does everything in a calm, concise manner for horse and also your daughter.
She should not be getting frustrated, This is supposed to be a magical time and FUN! for your daughter. Also do not let the prospect of showing cause you to rush or push either your horse or your daughter too fast. There is plenty of time for that.
I think that she is riding some with halter or even a Bitless Bridle, although outdated show rules will not let her show without a bit.
The horse pulls, or "roots" because he is uncomfortable with contact. Never try to correct this by pulling back. Your daughter needs to be taught to keep a passive hand and use a big squeeze with her leg to correct this. The leg tells the horse not to pull, but to go forward.

Mitzi Summers

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