Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teaching kids to ride horses

Oooh ... two blog posts in one day. This is what happen when I spend the day in bed. On a happy note, I still feel sick and fatigued and my glands are still swollen but the horrible pain in my throat is starting to go away after just two doses of antibiotic. Could be the placebo affect, you say? Well, I'll take it whatever it is! I'm just glad my throat doesn't hurt as much as it did this morning.

About a year ago I decided I really wanted to eventually train horses or teach riding lessons and was wondering how I could score a job as an apprentice to a trainer somewhere. I saw an ad for an assistant to a trainer up in Monroe and she didn't even seem to care that I was an intermediate rider at best and was considering hiring me as a working student. The problem was, we just couldn't work out the logistics of me working five days a week up in Monroe (which is an hour drive away on a good day without traffic). So, I turned that down and was very bitter. My friend, Lisa suggested take some courses with the CHA, getting certified and then teaching children. So, that's become my current goal.

The next course for certification is coming up next Spring so I'm hoping I can afford to take it (both finance and time wise) but meanwhile I'm trying to find ways to learn as much as I can on what it would take to teach young children riding. My instructor likes to start with kids minimum of 8 years old and that is the norm at most stables in our area. So, I'm looking at teaching kids 5-8 years old and then I could send them on to my instructor when they're eight. Part of that is because I like kids that age and part of it is that it is a completely different approach that I feel fits me more than teaching tweens, teens and adults. With kids that age it is all about getting a good seat, getting comfortable with horses and learning safety rules. In fact, from everything I've read, kids that age probably won't be using the reins for the first year they're riding, which is ok. Emma-June was on lead line rides for a couple years before she took her first lesson using the reins when she five. And she still has taken lessons with Ilana on the lunge line where she doesn't use the reins, it's all about improving her balance.

I had a bit of a catastrophic experience trying to teach a seven year old about riding with her on a lunge line last week. She had fun but was all over the horse and couldn't keep her legs in the right position without gouging the horse in the ribs. I realize now in retrospect that I didn't go into it with a plan and I was more worried about making the child happy than giving her a solid first experience of "this is how to ride". I also think she was more interested in having fun too and not so interested in having to listen to instruction which if I were to actually to give lessons I would need to ascertain that and have a plan to go with that level of interest.

Of course all of this is a moot point until I someday find myself in a situation where I actually own a pony or two who are mellow and nice enough to be used as lesson ponies, and a good safe place to teach lessons. But that will come in time. I'm not ready for that part yet. I just started reading
Teaching Children to Ride and the next think I need to do is start watching more beginner lessons. I need to be able to see proper form and posture and know when to correct improper form and how to correct it. So, that is my homework for the next couple months is to watch as many lessons as I can and watch as many professional dressage shows on video as I can until I can really see all the details of the right posture. And of course keep taking lessons myself so that I don't stall out at intermediate but keep improving my own riding.

1 comment:

  1. Thought about you when I saw the latest "Dirtiest Jobs." Mike learned to take blood, urine and poo samples at an Equine Nutrition Research program in Kentucky. Of course it is about thoroughbreds, but it is still awesome to see one pushing 25mph on a horse tread mill.

    I actually never did horses, but my sisters did (okay, I did once... when I was eight in Naches and screamed.. Prince the horse
    bucked me off and I was pulled out just before he stomped my head ---- The lesson being: don't be a stupid kid on a half ton horse).

    Especially my middle sister (I'm the oldest of three girls). My parents only bought her a horse after she helped friends at the stable for several months, then she got a fairly old Arapaho/quarter horse mix (unfortunately this meant she had to deal with a horsey death from old age, with the disposal issues, when she was still in middle school!).

    So she got another much younger, healthier horse. On this horse she learned dressage, and how to care for an animal who was much larger than herself.

    When my parents moved to Arizona (and I went to college in our native state, Washington!), she switched from English to Western style. Plus the ability to have a horse at home and not a stable (which only lasted until she went to college in Tucson, and stayed there... interests change... and so do husbands --- long story!).

    What you are doing is some very important life lessons. Horses are lovely big animals that need lots of care. Learning to ride takes lots of work (getting in rhythm takes on a whole new meaning in dressage!).

    Is this a good time to say that horses are complicated?